Thursday, August 31, 2006

"I want to beat them 4-0" says COCO

Hi there, it's been incredibly busy for me during the last couple of weeks. I hope you are still visiting and standing by.

Our friendly against Brazil is around the corner now. COCO is in England and so are a lot of the players he has called up to begin his second era as Argentina manager.

For me it'll be a special occasion because when Argentina and Brazil will be playing at the Emirates Stadium in London, I'll be on "enemy's territory"!!! Yes, because of job-related issues, I'll be watching the match somewhere in the city of Rio de Janeiro!

It'll be quite an experience and I'll try to survive if we manage to win! haha!

Will let you know how it goes and will hopefully upload some pictures.

A lot is going on these days, so here are some brief news about football and basketball:


Poor old COCO BASILE will have some problems to field his favourite eleven, even from those players he chose for this special occasion.

Maxi RODRIGUEZ won't make the trip to London. He got injured and he is being treated by Atletico de Madrid's staff.

Juan Roman RIQUELME is also having some troubles. He sprained his ankle during training with Villarreal and he is a major doubt.

Cesar DELGADO, who plays for Cruz Azul, also missed the trip to London because of a minor injury.

That added to a complicated week Carlos TEVEZ and Javier MASCHERANO are living, it could lead to up to 4 World Cup stars out for Sunday.
However, the ex Corinthians duo are believed to have signed a contract with West Ham United and if everthing goes right they could be performing against Brazil.


Moments before departing from Buenos Aires on his way to London, Alfio BASILE said: "I want to score 4 on them and I want to keep a clean sheet".

"It's not much you can do with such a little time to work with the players", he added. "We'll focus on the dead ball situation and I'll talk to the players about where I want them to be positioned. Not much else. But my main goal is for our team to pass the ball around".

Being asked about having many short players he replied: "I like players who know how to play. And they play brilliant football that's why I like them".



PONZIO or ZABALETA (at right back)
Gabriel MILITO and Walter SAMUEL (as central defenders, with a chance for Fabricio FUENTES and Fabricio COLOCCINI there)
Clemente RODRIGUEZ (at left back)

Javier MASCHERANO (if he plays) or Leandro SOMOZA (at central midfield)
Lucho GONZALEZ and Federico INSUA (right and left midfield)
Juan Roman RIQUELME (playmaker behind the striking partnership). If RIQUELME sits out of the game, then INSUA will become the playmaker and Daniel BILOS will play on the left hand side of the midfield.

Lionel MESSI
Carlos TEVEZ (if he doesn't play, it'll be KUN AGÜERO's or Javier SAVIOLA's place)


Apart from the mentioned TEVEZ and MASCHERANO's move to West Ham United, there are other Argentina stars changing teams.
Leandro CUFRE has joined AC Monaco from AC Roma.

Juan Pablo SORIN will play in Germany (his sixth league in different countries). He'll have the chance to show Coco BASILE what he can give to Argentina by playing for Hamburg in both, the Bundesliga and the Champions League.

Fabricio FUENTES. One of the central defenders that will surely make his debut for Argentina on Sunday against Brazil has secured a move to Villarreal from Atlas, Mexico. He becomes the seventh argentine playing for the Yellow Submarine.

Javier SAVIOLA will finally stay at FC Barcelona. He decided that he will fight for a place in the team, despite starting out behind Eto'o, Messi, Ronaldinho, Gudjohnsen, Giuly and Esquerro in the pecking order.

Roberto AYALA is determined to leave Valencia and he could move to Real Madrid or Villarreal. That is yet to be decided.


Tomorrow morning (according to the Argentine timezone), the Olympic Champions will take on the impressive Spain for a place in the basketball world championships finals in Japan.

OK, history is on their side. We have a record of 2 wins and 16 defeats against in our overall head-to-head encounters. And we have defeated them for the last time 12 years ago!

Both teams are undefeated (7-0) and they know each other very well. The key for Argentina will be to impossed the rythm of the game and use the experience gained over the last four years with a second place in Indianapolis 2002 and the Olympic Gold.

Spain could fall into their typical disappointment (like they do over and over again in football) and never lived up to the expectations created. And Argentina could again raise to the occasion (like when we defeated Team USA at the Worlds and Olympic tournaments) against all odds.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

BASILE names squad to face Brazil

After a lot of speculation and minutes after his Boca Juniors team defeated Independiente 1-0, Alfio BASILE has finally delivered his first list of players for Argentina's next Saturday's friendly match against Brazil in London.


Gabriel MILITO
Fabricio FUENTES

Leandro SOMOZA
Federico INSÚA
Daniel BILOS

Carlos TEVEZ
Lionel MESSI

Very few surprises, some comebacks and only one player competing in Argentina (Hugo IBARRA).

Javier ZANETTI is ignored once again and his future with the Albiceleste looks complicated (to say the least). COCO preferred to take IBARRA to play right back (he is an impressive player, I must say) and with this sign I can't see ZANETTI coming back to our national team if IBARRA does well.

One ray of hope for Javier would be the fact that there is only one player competing in Italy on this list (Walter SAMUEL) and fitness is a worry for COCO because the Italian league is far from the starting point.

Juan Pablo SORIN is another of those historic players being ignored by COCO. In his case, the fact that he is yet to find a club to play for this season might have an influence on BASILE's decision. Same thing happens with SAVIOLA. I'm sure both players could be on COCO's plans in the future if they get a good first team run anywhere.

Walter SAMUEL makes a surprising return after being ignored by PEKERMAN before and during the World Cup.

Another couple of comeback kids are Clemente RODRIGUEZ (used to play with BIELSA) and Federico INSUA (has a couple of caps in the past).

Juan Roman RIQUELME gets the call and he will again become the play-maker. I don't think, however, that he is going to be untouchable as he was for PEKERMAN.

Surprise, Surprise!

Fabricio FUENTES used to play for Velez Sarsfield and now he does it for Atlas, Mexico. He is a tough central defender with good heading skills and leadership. He only played one friendly when BIELSA was Argentina's manager.

Knowing BASILE this next player is hardly a surprise. He had him last couple of seasons with Boca and was one of his key players. Now he plays for Saint Ettiene in France and will join Argentina only because he refused to play for Croatia before the last World Cup when he was tempted by their manager because he holds a Croatian passport. We are talking about Daniel BILOS. A former very tall centre forward who now plays in midfield. Is good on the ball and very fast.

Dream debut

If he sees some action, it'll represent his absolute international debut. We are talking about Leandro SOMOZA (25 years old). Recent signing for Villarreal, he is a fighting midfielder who plays with a lot of heart and commitment. He runs behind MASCHERANO and GAGO in the fight for the center midfielder role, but apparentely and judging by the looks of this list, he is before Martin DEMICHELIS in the pecking order.

The future is bright!

And the future is here! Lionel MESSI, Carlos TEVEZ and Sergio AGÜERO will be the main attractions in Argentina for years to come. BASILE has decided to used them from the start and that's the reason why I think this national team can be a joy to watch.

There are also votes of confidence for Javier MASCHERANO

A good core to surround the stars

And in some cases, these core players can also be called stars.

Having Maxi RODRIGUEZ is a luxury for any team in the World. Lucho GONZALEZ and Gabriel MILITO are also very important footballers and it is a good thing to see them staying put with a change of manager.

Starting eleven?

Provided they are all travelling to London with their respective clubs permissions, I think the most probable starting eleven is the following:


Hugo IBARRA (right back)
Gabriel MILITO (central defender)
Walter SAMUEL (central defender)
Clemente RODRIGUEZ (left back)

Javier MASCHERANO (central midfielder
Maxi RODRIGUEZ (right hand side midfielder)
Federico INSUA (left hand side midfielder)
Juan Román RIQUELME (just behind the 2 strikers as a play-maker)

Lionel MESSI
Carlos TEVEZ

Let's discuss about this list and see what happens in the week before that exciting friendly against Brazil.

Argentina 80 - France 70

A solid team effort with moments of brilliance and some struggle during the third period, Argentina started off their World Championships campaign with a 80-70 win against a Tony PARKER-less France.

Manu GINOBILI, the top scorer with 25, was clinical from the start and helped out a lot also on defense.

Great game by Ruben WOLKOWYSKI and Andres NOCIONI (18 pts).

Next opponent will be the Lebanon who defeated Venezuela 82-75.

In the first major surprise of the tournament, Nigeria defeated Serbia and Montenegro 82-75 (same result as Lebanon vs. Venezuela). This result make Argentina the heavy favourite to win Group A and if Team USA does the same thing in their group, both teams can only meet in the final game (provided they both get there).

Other scores (at the time of writing):

USA 111 - 100 Puerto Rico
Brazil 77 - 83 Australia
Germany 81 - 70 Japan
Angola 83 - 70 Panama
Spain 86 - 70 New Zealand
Greece 84 - 64 Qatar
Slovenia 96- 79 Senegal

Friday, August 18, 2006

The other World Cup

The basketball World Championships in Japan are a reality now!

There will be plenty of action in the first day with the following fixtures:

Germany vs. Japan
Venezuela vs. Lebanon
Brazil vs. Australia
USA vs. Puerto Rico
Serbia and Montenegro vs. Nigeria
Angola vs. Panama
Greece vs. Qatar
Slovenia vs. Senegal
Spain vs. New Zealand
China vs. Italy
Turkey vs. Lithuania

But the main course for us is the very early encounter between Argentina and France (7 AM on Saturday -Buenos Aires time-).

The expectation is huge in Argentina. Just like it was 4 years ago when the football team was tragically eliminated from the World Cup and the sports fans in this country started to watch the basketball World Championships in Indianapolis and that heroic silver medal after defeating Team USA for the first time in history since they compete with a team formed by NBA stars.

The biggest piece of news before this game is Tony PARKER's injury and absence from the tournament. He broke a finger and was ruled out just hours before the match.

Manu GINOBILI knows the French point guard very well as they have won 2 NBA rings together with San Antonio Spurs and the Argentine star said it's is a tragic loss for the tournament and also a problem for Argentina because "we've been preparing a lot to play against Tony and now we've got to change our plans".

I'm sure France are the team who will have to adjust more after losing their best player.

Argentina is at full strenght and the players have a great belief in themselves. They want to leave the horrible defeats against Spain and Serbia in the past as they were part of the preparation. They know that when the business is serious and victory matters they will make themselves hear.

Just like I did a few months ago with MESSI, TEVEZ and RIQUELME instead of Manu GINOBILI, NOCIONI and SCOLA, I want to shout a big VAMOS ARGENTINA!

See you all here, commenting during and after the match.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

BASILE making some long distance calls

With less than 2 weeks for his debut against Brazil, Alfio BASILE is one of the busiest men in the World of Football right now.

He has a crucial game against Independiente on Saturday (his Boca Juniors side and Independiente are both leading the league with 6 points after the first two weeks of the season) and hours before that match, he has to name the full list of players he will call up for an attractive international friendly against DUNGA's Brazil.

He is not publicly speaking about it, but sources from both sides (the AFA and the players) are spreading rumours that help us to make an initial approach on the names that will be on that list. It is a known fact that, not being a FIFA date, teams from South America and Mexico are not forced to let their international players to join Argentina.

In this particular scenario, Carlos TEVEZ and Javier MASCHERANO could both miss this friendly as they are vital for Corinthians, Brazil in their fight against relegation. Both of these players are in BASILE's mind.

Speedy winger Cesar DELGADO is in the same situation but his club -Cruz Azul, Mexico- could let him make the trip to London.

COCO is also taking note of the amount of minutes the top Argentine stars have in their legs. Spain and Italy are yet to kick-off their leagues, while England will do it this coming weekend. That's another obstacle for him to define his list.

So far, this is the probable starting eleven (according to different sources and rumours):

Roberto ABBONDANZIERI (Getafe) on goal. BASILE knows him very well when they both were at Boca.

It's a known fact that BASILE likes to play with 4 at the back, with two traditional full-backs and two central defenders. So the return of one of the most capped players in the history of Argentina is a huge possibility: Javier ZANETTI (Internazionale) will fight for a place at right back with up and coming star Pablo ZABALETA (Espanyol).

Leandro PONZIO (Zaragoza) is running a little bit behind these two, but Hugo IBARRA (Boca Juniors) is COCO's favourite and looks like he is going to be our future regular right back.

Gabriel MILITO (Zaragoza) will play in central defense with one from Gonzalo RODRIGUEZ (Villarreal) or Nicolas BURDISSO (Internazionale).

Gabriel HEINZE and Roberto AYALA will remain on the manager’s mind but he will pass on them for this one because he thinks they need more time to get fit (HEINZE is coming back from a World Cup played before reaching a 100% level of fitness and his season with Manchester United will be just started at the time of the match against Brazil. AYALA is fighting a long fight against the Valencia’s staff and his future is uncertain). Gabriel PALETTA could be a surprising call for COCO.

PEKERMAN’s skipper, Juan Pablo SORIN, is still waiting for his mobile phone to ring. But BASILE is very unlikely to dial his number. He is another player with his future on hold (unwanted by Villarreal and yet to secure a move elsewhere) and COCO is not a fan of him. The left-back position will be covered by Clemente RODRIGUEZ (Spartak Moscow).

If MASCHERANO is not allowed by Corinthians to play on this game, then we’ll see the full international debut for Leandro SOMOZA (Villarreal). The former Velez Sarsfield player will step up and play in a central midfielder position. However, for the big picture in the future, MASCHERANO and Fernando GAGO (Boca Juniors) will be the two men fighting for that position.

And now is when things get really interesting:

Maxi RODRIGUEZ (Atletico Madrid) will give the team his usual 90-minutes-non-stop-running and will be helping the team on defense and offense. I like the idea of Maxi becoming a key player for Argentina.

Juan Roman RIQUELME (Villarreal) will again be our playmaker. Up until this point there are no major surprises, but the thing I welcome with joy is the fact that Federico INSUA (Borussia Moenchengladbach) will also feature in the starting eleven. That means we’ll have 2 playmakers instead of just one. INSUA is faster and helps out a little bit more on defense and I think they will play well together. For those who never saw INSUA playing, I can tell you he has an incredible touch with his left foot and he is a player of great finesse. This midfield looks impressive!

Up front?

Lionel MESSI will start!!!! FINALLY! The FC Barcelona star is one of BASILE’s favourite and there are no doubts he will become our icon from now on!

But the Atomic Flea needs a partner. Who will he be this time?

Carlos TEVEZ! He is another of BASILE’s soft spots and just the thought of having Carlitos and Messi together looks like a dream for him. BUT, if Corinthians want TEVEZ to stay, we’ll use one of our luxuries: a substitute like Sergio ‘KUN’ AGÜERO!

The Atletico Madrid’s star is on fire this pre-season and will become another vital player in our quest to become the next World Champions.

I think BASILE is sending out a message. He will ‘gamble’ with the little fellows. Forget about having a player like Julio CRUZ only because he is tall. I don’t have anything against CRUZ, I’m just giving an example. I don’t want to listen to a manager that gives height more importance than technique or first touch. If there is a tall player with flair, then I’ll welcome him. If not, then give me a ‘midget’ with magic feet and I’ll be a happy man.

And just to point out, I’ve used the word ‘gamble’ when referring to the use of the likes of MESSI, TEVEZ and AGÜERO. I apologise for using that word. With players like those, it’s not called ‘gamble’ it’s simply called ‘strategy’.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Another defeat, another victory

The warm up friendlies before the basketball World Championships in Japan are about to get to an end for Argentina.

Our trip to Singapore gave us a scare when we lost 83-64 against Serbia & Montenegro (one of our rivals in the group stage). The Europeans are competing with only one of their NBA players (Darko MILICIC) and I was surprised to see them winning so easily over HERNANDEZ's men.

Blame it on the jet-lag. Blame it on being a little bit out of form in a process in which the enphasis is on the physical tune-up. The truth is that losing so badly against the Serbs, after being clearly defeated by Spain a few days earlier, was not a good sign.

But this Saturday, Argentina pulled their act together defeating Slovenia 94-72.

Luis SCOLA (21) and Andrés NOCIONI (17) were our top scorer and tomorrow we'll have a chance to redeem ourselves in another match against Spain, a team who defeated Serbia with a score of 80-65.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Argentina stars find it difficult at club level

With the season already started in several countries and about to start in Germany, England, Spain and Italy, there are still a lot of Argentine footballers, who represented their country at the last World Cup, struggling to secure a place in the starting lineup at club level.

Different reasons. Various clubs. Unique situations. But there is one thing in common: they don't know if they will play regularely this season and so their future as international footballers look not so bright anymore.

Let´s take a look at some of them:

Javier SAVIOLA: The 'Little Rabbitt' is still uncertain about his next moves. After a great World Cup and a summer of endless rumours and 'interested clubs' (PSV, Bolton, Newcastle, Arsenal, Panathinaikos, Sevilla, Mallorca, Villarreal and so on) he joined FC Barcelona's pre-season tour of Mexico and USA and the latest news is that he scored in the last friendly against America (4-4 draw). If he stays, he will face a hard competition for places in a very crowded Blaugrana attack but at the moment he is presenting his credentials. Will Rijkaard use him? Will he stay despite not featuring in the starting 11? Will some of those clubs finally put the money where their mouth is and take him for good?

Roberto AYALA: Crisis. His excellent World Cup performances are a distant memory now. At least for people in Valencia. They are accussing him of 'money-seeker' (like no other footballer, right?) and he was rumoured to be leaving for Villarreal. The Valencia board is not happy with him wanting to leave and yesterday one of the possibilities for AYALA was to sit down for a whole season waiting for his contract to run out and then leave the club with his fate in his own hands. But he re-joined Valencia for their training camp and there are question marks all over the place. It'll be hard to keep AYALA at Valencia with clubs the like of Torino (newly promoted to Serie A) and Tottenham Hotspurs desperately wanting to sign him up for this season.

Juan Pablo SORIN: Sam ALLARDYCE wanted the Argentina skipper to join his Bolton side for the season. They got in contact with Villarreal and both clubs agreed a fee for 'Juampi'. The Yellow Submarine have signed Robert PIRES and the Frenchman will play in SORIN's position. So the Argentine went to Bolton to talk with ALLARDYCE and they failed to agree on a weekly fee. Bolton offered 25.000 British pounds per week, SORIN wanted 35.000.
Bottomline? He is back at Villarreal and now faces a difficult destiny being relegated to a back-up role. Will he be happy? Will another club come after him after all the money he is asking?

Lionel SCALONI: Virtually at war against Deportivo La Coruña's board and manager. He said this week: 'If the manager doesn't want me, that's fine by me. But they have to pay me up to the last penny they owe me'. SCALONI played 6 month on loan at West Ham but when he was to re-join Deportivo, the manager Joaquín CAPARROS decided he doesn't want him. Now it remains to be seen what will happen to him.

All these cases led me to a question I can't answer: Just how important is for a player to perform at a high level in a World Cup?

In SAVIOLA and AYALA's cases, it doesn't seem to be crucial. They played at a very high level, even scoring important goals, but they are still struggling to find a spot in a European club.

SORIN had a decent World Cup but he didn't shine. He is, however, a great option. A player with experience in many leagues and with a lot to give. He can play in defense and midfield and he can also have a presence in both areas.

SCALONI is a different kind of animal. I'm not surprise he is not taken into consideration by many big clubs, but still, he should find a job somewhere.

It's sad to see these things happening as I think it affects the general status of Argentine football and in consequence, our national team. I don't see the same with players from the Brazilian, Italian, French or German national teams.

On the other hand we've got high-profile players and new arrivals to Europe and they provide us with a good balance and hopes for a bright future. Will we have 22 or 23 of them in four years time?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wednesday's NewsWrap


After Alfio BASILE's debut friendly match against Brazil in Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in London (Sept. 3rd) there is more information regarding the future friendlies for the remainder of this year. And it is with great enthusiasm that I have to let you know that Argentina will be playing a friendly match against both, China and Japan! Argentina will visit Asia and will play on October 7th and 11th. Venues and other details are yet to be confirmed.


It is known that BASILE has a lot of favourite players still competing in our local league (Fernando GAGO, Sebastián BATTAGLIA, Hugo IBARRA and Rodrigo PALACIO to name a few), but for the friendly against Brazil in London, he will call up a team formed exclusively by footballers playing outside Argentina, mostly in Europe, of course. There is another little thing to that, BASILE will not only pay attention to La Liga and Serie A. He’ll concentrate in other leagues because he wants to have players with a little bit more activity. Of course there’ll be exceptions to this and I hope to see MESSI and AGÜERO, to name just two. With this scenario, the names dancing in COCO’s head are:

Clemente RODRIGUEZ (left back) and Fernando CAVENAGHI (centre forward) –both playing for Spartak Moscow-

Daniel BILOS (midfielder-forward, playing for Saint Ettiene in France);

Federico INSUA (playmaker, playing for Borussia Moengengladbach in Germany) and Martin DEMICHELIS (midfielder, Bayern Munich, Germany);

Gabriel HEINZE (defender, Manchester United, England) and Gabriel PALETTA (defender, Liverpool, England).

And finally the Corinthians duo Carlos TEVEZ and Javier MASCHERANO.

These look like certainties, but nothing is confirmed yet. We’ll have to wait and see. And of course, due to the contract signed by AFA with the Russian company (RENOVA), BASILE will have to call up 8 players from the World Cup squad plus: Germán LUX, Gonzalo RODRIGUEZ, Leandro SOMOZA, Hernan PELLERANO, Fernando GAGO, Federico INSUA and Fernando BELLUSCHI.

BASKETBALL: Argentina to play in Singapore


The next and final step in Argentina's warm up period before the World Championships in Japan will take place in Singapore. After a series of friendlies in Argentina and a friendly tournament in Spain (beating Lithuania and losing to Spain in the final), Manu GINOBILI and his team-mates will visit Singapore and will face Serbia & Montenegro this Friday in the start of the Merlion Cup. The game is scheduled for 6:15 PM local time (7:15 AM Buenos Aires).

Slovenia and Spain are the other two teams taking part of this four-team tournament.

In other news, in a poll conducted by FIBA in their official website (, 54% of the 13.000 voters said that France have no chance of beating Argentina in both teams' debut in the World Championships. 41% said France will win it narrowly while the remaining 5% said they will win it easily.


With Michael JORDAN's approval, the Charlotte Bobcats will announce sometime during the World Championships in Japan, the signing of small forward Walter HERRMANN for one season. He will have to fight for a place with rookie sensation Adam MORRISON and with Bernard ROBINSON and he will be lucky if he plays some quality time this season.

He joins Manu GINOBILI and Fabricio OBERTO (San Antonio Spurs); Andres NOCIONI (Chicago Bulls) and Carlos DELFINO (Detroit Pistons). But I feel particularly happy for Walter after all his personal tragedies in the past (his mother, his sister and his girlfriend die in a car accident on their way to watching him play in a match. That terrible tragedy happened just one year after his dad's death). Despite these horrible things, he kept fighting in every game. He shone in Spain's ACB and now he has his reward in joining the best league in the World. He is a true warrior (like his nickname in Spanish suggests: EL GUERRERO). So I'm sure he will keep it up!

VAMOS WALTER! Congratulations!

Under 20 begin their preparation tonight

After PEKERMAN's resignation there were changes in the AFA staff but some names remain the same. Hugo TOCALLI, PEKERMAN's assistant manager during the last World Cup takes control of the Under 20 National Team and he will have his debut tonight in a friendly match against Australia.

The 5-time Youth World Cup winning team (Japan '79 with MARADONA, Qatar '95, Malaysia '97, Argentina 2001 and Holland 2005) are preparing for the South American tournament (to be played in January 2007 in Paraguay). That competition will also serve as a qualifying tournament for the Under 20 World Cup in Canada.

But tonight, the brightest names won't be present for Argentina. Players like Lionel MESSI or Sergio AGÜERO will not be part of the team and it is a big doubt they will join TOCALLI's army in the near future.

MESSI has already won a Youth World Cup and he has a World Cup under his belt. It is very unlikely that he will go back to a youth level competition.

On the other hand, KUN will be granted the space and the freedom he needs to face his first season in La Liga, playing for Atletico Madrid. Besides, his situation could change if Alfio BASILE decides to call him up for the 'big boys'.

In any case, MESSI and KUN are very high profile names and it was pretty obvious for them not to play tonight in a game with nothing at stake. There are, however, a lot of well known players also ignored for tonight's match.

In fact, the game for tonight will be formed by virtually unknown players or young talents with no experience in the first division.

This is the probable starting eleven:

Julián FAZIO
Gonzalo GARCIA
Midfield (with a lot to be confirmed)
Sebastián BATTAGLIA (not the one playing in Boca Juniors for several years. He has the same name and surname!)

Kick-off will be tonight at 9:30 PM (Buenos Aires) (1:30 AM London, 8:30 PM New York).

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Apertura - 1st Week

The first week of the season is over and with it we can see a little bit more of the same.

Boca and River have won their respective matches and will fight for the title like every six months.

In Argentina there are 5 clubs considered big powers. Historically these teams are the ones with more titles, more supporters and of course, more media coverage.

This weekend, all of them have won.

On Friday, Racing played horribly but managed to beat Nueva Chicago 2-0.

Saturday saw their bitter rivals, Independiente (the club where Kun AGÜERO used to play) beating Colon de Santa Fé. Independiente came from one goal behind to win 4-1 and send a message to all the other clubs.

Early on Sunday, San Lorenzo de Almagro (managed by Oscar RUGGERI) travelled to the north of our country to face the newly promoted Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy and they won 1-0 in a tricky venue.

Later on, Boca Juniors played to a goal-less first half against Banfield but Martin PALERMO (2) and Sebastián BATTAGLIA provided the fire for BASILE's team to win 3-0, with another fine performance by Fernando GAGO in the centre of midfield.

And to finish the weekend for the "5 Grandes", River Plate won away against Lanus. Ariel ORTEGA made a comeback for his former team but it was Gonzalo HIGUAIN who sent a cross for an own goal by VELAZQUEZ and then scored himself to put River 2-0 up.

In other news, Juan Sebastian VERON made his second coming for Estudiantes de La Plata and was active in the creative process for his team's one and only goal in their defeat of Quilmes.

Cristian 'KILY' GONZALEZ is another ex-Inter playing again in Argentina. But he had another kind of luck. His team, Rosario Central, lost against Belgrano de Córdoba and KILY saw the red card in his first match in Argentina after his European experience.

Newell's Old Boys shocked everyone by easily defeating Velez Sarsfield 3-0.

Argentinos Juniors (Diego MARADONA's first club) won 1-0 against new boys Godoy Cruz de Mendoza, while on Saturday, Arsenal (not the one from Highbury, of course!) defeated Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata 3-1.

Did you get to see any of the action?

What do you think of the start of this season in Argentina?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Football is back!

I just came back from the stadium after watching my team Racing Club defeat the newly promoted Nueva Chicago in the start of the Apertura tournament in Argentina.

Great atmosphere, great expectation but a horrible game of football.

We won 2-0 thanks to two penalties, very well taken by former Fulham striker, Facundo SAVA (pictured below). But that was it. Nueva Chicago was the better team in the first half and they deserved a little bit more.

The best thing of the night????

I saw my childhood friend Juan Manuel passing besides me and as I recognised him we couldn't believe it!

I watched the whole match with him talking about life and everything that happened to us since the last time we saw each other.

This is like the 4th time I lost touch with him only to see him again in the stadium 2 or 3 years later!

I'm way much happier about this encounter than with the result!

I'll publish some pictures and hopefully some videos too (as soon as I have the time).

Hopefully, the pics and the videos will help you to see just a little glimpse of how we live football in this part of the World.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


WOW!!! I know this is not very professional but hey! Listen to this:

Argentina will face Brazil at the brand new Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in London. The game will mark the debut for Alfio BASILE at the helm of Argentina. DUNGA, his Brazilian colleague will debut against Norway on August 16th and he already left RONALDO, RONALDINHO, ROBERTO CARLOS and CAFU out of the list for that match.

The friendly match is scheduled for September 2nd and I'll do everything to try and attend that match but it looks like mission impossible at the moment!

This is the kind of 'friendlies' (because it's never a friendly against Brazil) I like to play!

It remains to be seen what will happen with BASILE and his Boca Juniors compromises as he has to stay at the club until the Recopa against Sao Paulo (there is a clear clash with some of the dates: Argentina vs. Brazil is schedule for September 2nd while Boca has to play the following day for the first leg and the 14th for the second leg.)

More news to follow but you can't ask for a bigger piece of information!

The Others

They are less famous.

They are clearly taller.

On average, they earn less money.

And based on the latest results they’ve been getting, they are more successful.

But still, as the main character himself said it, “We, the basketball national team, will never be as popular as those who represent Argentina in football”.

Manu GINOBILI might be just about right in that concept. Basketball will never be as popular as football in Argentina, but this team is really pushing the limits and, based on talent, sacrifice and an incredible team spirit, they are slowly becoming sporting legends in this country.

When Hugo SCONOCHINI drove to the hoop with the clock ticking down the very last seconds of the Indianapolis 2002 World Championships, he was clearly fouled. It was a pretty evident foul. For everyone, except for the Greek referee who was standing in front of the action. We turned out to be on the losing side that time and it was unfair after everything that team managed to achieve.

Argentina played superbly all along that tournament and for further proof, the USA Dream Team can really say something about it. They suffered their first notorious defeat against us. Losing on home soil was to add injury to that for them and to magnify the feat for Argentina.

Fabricio OBERTO and Manu GINOBILI, both now playing for San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, said that if it wasn’t for that defeat in Indianapolis against Serbia & Montenegro in the final match, Argentina wouldn’t have had the right motivation to become Olympic Champions two years later in Athens.

That amazing campaign ranks amongst the most glorious achievement in the history of sports in Argentina. Everybody knows it’s not an easy thing to win a gold medal if you are Argentinean and doing it in basketball, when everybody will step against you knowing that they have to play their best game to beat you…that is really something.

Now the task is even more complicated. There are plenty of very strong teams going to Japan and the USA appear to have taking offense after a number of pathetic outings at the international stage. Now they are bringing the best they have and they seem to be really focused on winning again. And on the other hand, Argentina will play as the defending Olympic Champions. A tag nobody will ignore. A tag that could be very heavy to have on our shoulders.

In Argentina’s preparation for the World Championships, there have been a few friendly contests and Sergio HERNANDEZ’ men have won them all. Two against Venezuela and another one against Brazil.

Today, the manager was forced to make the decision and hand out the final roster. So far, 15 players were working with him and he needed to pick just 12.

The unlucky ones were Paolo QUINTEROS, Juan GUTIERREZ and Hernan JASEN.

Paolo QUINTEROS is a great scorer. A natural-born shooter.

Juan GUTIERREZ is a big man but he is still very young. He could be one great player in the future.

Hernan JASEN has experience in Europe but the quality of the rest of the squad really pushed him out of the World Championships.

So the 12 men who will represent Argentina starting on August 19th against France are:

Point Guards:
Juan 'Pepe' SÁNCHEZ (Unicaja, Spain)
Pablo PRIGIONI (Tau Cerámica, Spain)
Daniel FARABELLO (Varese, Italy)

Shooting Guards:
Emanuel GINÓBILI (San Antonio Spurs, USA)
Carlos DELFINO (Detroit Pistons, USA)

Small Forwards:
Andrés NOCIONI (Chicago Bulls, USA)
Walter HERRMANN (Unicaja, Spain).

Power Forwards:
Luis SCOLA (Tau Cerámica, Spain)
Leonardo GUTIÉRREZ (Ben Hur, Argentina)
Gabriel FERNÁNDEZ (Varese, Italy).

Fabricio OBERTO (San Antonio Spurs, USA)
Rubén WOLKOWYSKI (Khimky, Russia).

It is believed that the starting lineup to face France will be:

Juan SANCHEZ, Manu GINOBILI, Andrés NOCIONI, Luis SCOLA and Fabricio OBERTO.

Our rivals in the first stage of the tournament will be:

France (19/8)
Lebanon (20/8)
Venezuela (21/8)
Nigeria (23/8)
Serbia & Montenegro (24/8)

All these matches will be played in the city of Sendai.