Saturday, October 28, 2006

A friendly against the Emirates?

Apparentely, from what I've read in the news, there'll be a friendly match against United Emirates in Abu Dhabi. The match will be played on November 15th. and it'll be the last of 2006 for Argentina if it is confirmed.

In other news, Gabriel BATISTUTA said that he would love to become manager of Argentina in the future and Diego MARADONA has been tempted to manage Honduras. An official offer by the Central American country is yet to be placed but Diego has shown some interest in at least taking part of a conversation.

I'm on my way to Puerto Madryn in the East Coast of the Patagonia and I'll hopefully get to see and touch the whales from a boat!

I'll be travelling the whole day on Sunday so I won't be around this blog but I'll read all your comments as soon as I have the chance.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A comeback for Juan Sebastián VERON?

Reporting from Mendoza now. Land of sunshine and wine (especially for you John!).

Just a quick post to talk about a possible comeback for Juan Sebastián VERON.

After being villified and blamed almost exclusively for Argentina's terrible 2002 WC campaign, Juan Sebastián VERON is playing at a very high level pulling the strings for an impressive Estudiantes de La Plata side which is having a saying in the fight for the title in Argentina (managed by Diego SIMEONE).

Now there are talks about the list of players based in Argentina that Alfio BASILE wants to call up to train with him twice a week in Buenos Aires.

And his name is one of the heaviest in that list. Will he get a call up? Does he deserve it? Does he deserve all the punishment the public is giving him after 2002?

Here's the list of players that would be on COCO's mind:

Oscar USTARI (Independiente)
Sebastián SAJA (San Lorenzo)
Gustavo CAMPAGNUOLO (Racing Club).

Hugo IBARRA (Boca Juniors)
Daniel DIAZ (Boca Juniors)
Juan KRUPOVIESA (Boca Juniors)
Hernán PELLERANO (Vélez)
Paulo FERRARI (River Plate)
Gustavo CABRAL (Racing Club)
Cristian VILLAGRA (Rosario Central)
Mauricio ROMERO (Lanús)
Germán RE (Newell’s).

Fernando GAGO (Boca Juniors)
Fernando BELLUSCHI (River Plate)
Juan Sebastián VERON (Estudiantes)
Nicolás CABRERA (Gimnasia)
Cristian PELLERANO (Nueva Chicago)
Juan Manuel TORRES (Racing Club)
Hernán ENCINA (Rosario Central)
Lucas CASTROMAN (Vélez)
Rodrigo ARCHUBI (Lanús)
Marcos AGUIRRE (Lanús)

Rodrigo PALACIO (Boca Juniors)
Martín PALERMO (Boca Juniors)
Mariano PAVONE (Estudiantes)
Daniel MONTENEGRO (Independiente)
Ernesto FARIAS (River Plate)
Gonzalo HIGUAIN (River Plate)
Ezequiel LAVEZZI (San Lorenzo)
Mauro ZARATE (Vélez).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

From ORTEGA's home-town

Hi there, I'm writing this from Jujuy, the province where Ariel ORTEGA was born. I'm not exactly in his home-town of Ledesma, but I'm pretty close to that in a beautiful town called Tilcara.

I just wanted to let you know that I'm so gutted with violence in football. The latest news is that the big clash between Racing Club and Boca Juniors, scheduled for tomorrow (Sunday, 22th.) has been cancelled because of violence-related issues.

You see...Boca Juniors' barra-brava (hooligans) were to be denied of a ticket at Racing's and a national judge (yes, those who are paid by the people to dictate justice!) is not allowing Racing to excercise the right of admission into its stadium. In other words, the judge is working in favour of the violent members of Boca's barrabrava and against football in general.

As a consecuence, the government said they won't send the security forces to take care of people for that particular match and so there are no guarantees for the spectators and public safe.

Hence? Violence have won and the best fixture of this weekend had to be cancelled. I hate it.

8 people (the identified members of that violent group) are again in the way of thousands who wanted to go to the stadium and millions who wanted to watch it on TV or listen on the radio.

I think it is appalling and I can't see a way out of this for football in Argentina until those who have a job to do, do it seriously and with responsibility.

Not like this national judge who has admitted he is a season ticket holder for Boca! Enough said...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

FIFA Ranking: Argentina down to 4th place

OK, I think this ranking is rubbish. That's the first thing I want to make perfectly clear.

BUT. Here's where I've got a mixed feeling about it.

For years, we've been in the Top 3 of that list. WC Qualy and probably Copa America and Confederations Cup helped us scored points in that questionable rank.

Call it inaccurate, biased or commercial, it was the FIFA Ranking who allowed us to be one of the seeded teams in the last World Cup and based on the way FIFA select the head of each group after every 4 years I think we should give this ranking the importance FIFA want us to give it.

Because they calculate the final position of every team in the last 3 World Cups plus the FIFA Ranking points to determine if a team is seeded or not and if it wasn't for our position in that table we would have been unseeded. Despite that priviledge we had, we still ended up playing two European teams (Holland + Serbia & Montenegro) and the strongest of the African representatives (Ivory Coast) but in order to avoid another unpleasant surprise in the draw for South Africa 2010 we need to keep our status high and stay as close as the Top 3 as we possibly can.

Now we've slipped to the 4th position in a rank still owned by Brazil who are followed by World Champions Italy and runners-up France.

Here are the Top 10 nations in the latest FIFA Rankings:

1. Brazil 1560
2. Italy 1540
3. France 1483
4. Argentina 1446
5. England 1370
6. Germany 1339
7. Netherlands 1313
8. Czech Republic 1253
9. Portugal 1224
10. Spain 1198

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What is the way forward for Argentina?

As you know, I'm on the road these days so I don't have much time online, but the interaction I've seen in our blog after my previous postings, really motivated me to stop by and start another discussion.

Another glory-less World Cup has come and go and Argentina are now 13 years without a major trophy in football (Copa America 93 in Ecuador).

We've enjoyed a few promising campaigns such as the USA 94 World Cup (before the Diego-gate) and the qualifying tournament for Korea/Japan 2002 with BIELSA when we were arguably one of the 2 or 3 best teams in the World.

But for one reason or another, we seem to be missing the killer instinct any team need to go all the way.

PEKERMAN is gone. BASILE is back at the helm and his fresh start couldn't have started worse.

The truth is he virtually had no time to work with the team (only 4 training sessions combined before losing to Brazil and Spain).

But is also true that most of the players he selected worked together in the build up for the World Cup and they know each other very well.

In several occassions BASILE said that he wants to form a group of players still competing in Argentina and train with them on a regular basis during the Apertura or Clausura tournaments. He said that we have to wait for him to be able to pick the local league's stars for us to see his real Argentina.

Now there is a public debate in Argentina because historically, our best players are bought by European teams and that kind of gives them a different status. Like if they belong to another category, while those who remain (for being too young to emigrate or for not being suitable for the European market) are looked with other eyes, like if they were not good enough to be picked for Argentina.

So the big question is: Are the Argentine playing in Europe better than those who still compete in our local league?

Wouldn't the local stars eventually emigrate to Europe lured by millionaire contracts and the prospect of securing a better life for them and their families?

Which side of the debate are you?

Do you prefer to see the big guns from Europe getting together for a couple of days before a friendly or a WC Qualifier? Or would you like to see a less experienced group working weekly and very closely with BASILE?

The answer to these questions will surely represent our chances of success or failure in the next few years. I hope COCO gets it right this time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Water everywhere!

Argentina lost their second friendly match in a row today against Spain. After being thrashed by Brazil (3-0), it was Spain who got the best from BASILE's men and left the Nueva Condomina Stadium victorious thanks to XAVI and David VILLA's strikes. Daniel BILOS, in for injured Maxi RODRIGUEZ, had equalised for Argentina.

On a curious note, I haven't seen the match which was played on a very wet surface because I was in front of the Devil's Throat (La Garganta del Diablo), the gigantic leap of water which graces with its presence the magnificient Iguazu Falls in the Argentine province of Misiones.

I will be travelling Argentina for the next couple of weeks and therefore I will only stop by to write a few things every now and then. In the meantime, I would love to read your comments on this match (i've seen a few in the other post) and your messages regarding anything else you'd like to say.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

River Plate claims victory in "El Superclasico"

Another edition of the famous Superclasico as every clash between River Plate and Boca Juniors is billed as in Argentina.

It is indeed the biggest and most popular fixture in this part of the World.

I left my grandma’s house after I watched on the television my beloved Racing defeat Colon 2-1 to earn our third straight win and I felt alone in this World! Nobody on the streets. Nobody in the buses or trains around the city. It was the fastest, easiest trip back home from Avellaneda and there was a reason: River was playing against Boca.

It wasn’t just quite when Argentina plays a World Cup match because that’s even bigger. But I felt something similar today.

River won 3-1 (Gonzalo HIGUAIN –pictured here- scoring twice and Ernesto FARIAS adding the third, while World Cup player Rodrigo PALACIO had equalise for Boca in the first half) and now the Torneo Apertura is open again with Boca leading River by one point and a host of other teams (Racing amongst them) chasing the two big guns.

Now I would like to ask you:
Where do you think El Superclasico ranks amongst the biggest derby matches in the World?

I’m sure there are plenty of other choices in the menu with Real Madrid-Barcelona, Inter-Juventus or Inter-Milan, Celtic-Rangers or Manchester United-Liverpool receiving votes. But where do you rank El Superclasico?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The owner of this blog SUPPORTS

Racing Club (Argentina) and Queens Park Rangers (England).

The first one is the team my father (RIP) and my grandfather supported since they were born and I kept the tradition of supporting them through thin and thin! (yes, because we've never been too good after 1967 -ten years before I was born-).

Racing Club has the same colours of Argentina (Albiceleste) and it hails from the city of Avellaneda, just outside Buenos Aires city limits to the south.

It was founded on March 25th, 1903 and it's nicknamed "La Academia" (The Academy) because back in the days before football became a professional sport in Argentina, Racing won 9 leagues (7 consecutive) and was the best team around.

It was also the first team to win 3 league titles in a row (1949-1950-1951) and the first Intercontinental (European-South American Cup) champion from Argentina, beating the famous Lisbon Lions team of Glasgow Celtic in the final in 1967.

After that, we spent 35 years without winning the title with 60 managers (yes! 60 managers!) trying to and failing to win the damn thing all those years.

We were relegated in 1983 and came back to the first division in 1985. We've won the first edition of the Supercopa in 1988 (a tournament played between all the Copa Libertadores champions) and finally in 2001 we stopped that bloody curse and we won the league with players like Diego MILITO amongst our stars (even though he was mostly a substitute back then).

The biggest pride during all those dark years in which the league title was so elusive with us was to have the most loyal set of fans. The "hinchada" of Racing overcame everything and kept the club alive (with the help of some politicians to be fair) when the economic crisis and a lot of corrupt members of the board threatened to end with Racing Club as we know it .

Mariano GONZALEZ (now at Inter), Diego MILITO (Zaragoza) and Lisandro LOPEZ (Porto FC) are amongst the players who started their careers at Racing in the recent years.

In history, Alfio BASILE, Roberto PERFUMO, Quique WOLFF (all of them playing for Argentina. PERFUMO (1966 and 1974) and WOLFF (1974) playing in World Cups, Orestes Omar CORBATTA and Ubaldo Matildo FILLOL are amongst the key figures and the main icons of Racing Club.

Here's a pic of the World’s biggest flag and this is the link to the Racing Club's official website (very nice and worth visiting):

As for QPR (Queens Park Rangers), I started supporting them after playing a couple of seasons of a Championship-Manager-like game. I was attracted by the name and the shirt and I was hooked forever. It was back in 1997 and I soon started looking for results, news and club’s history on the internet.

I became a regular poster in a QPR-related messageboard and the people there couldn’t believed that an Argentinean was so fanatic about a rather small London club.

Thanks to QPR and its wonderful fans, I’ve got to live what was (and still is) one of the highlights of my life.

After we secured promotion back to the Championship (England’s second tier) with a win 3-1 away win against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, a QPR Irish fan came up with the idea for all the regulars in that messageboard to gather some money to fly me over the London and get to watch QPR for the first time in my life. After 7 years of loyal support from across the ocean, they did it and they made me the World’s happiest man!

So September 11th, 2004 was the long-awaited date. QPR were playing against Plymouth Argyle at Loftus Road in what turned out to be my first live, on-site QPR experience. We won 3-2 after a run of terrible results and we started a series of 7 wins in a row after that! But the brightest of my memories from that day was to be introduced at halftime on the pitch!

I’ve got to play a little competition called round the pole. You had to go ten times round the pole and when you were all dizzy you had to take a penalty kick and try to score (avoiding falling on your back side, of course). I scored a great goal (top-right corner) and all the crowd was celebrating. Even the Plymouth fans!

After the match, I’ve got to meet the players and fellow Argentine Gino PADULA gave me the shirt he used just minutes before, while Big Danny SHITTU (now playing in the Premiership for Watford) gave me an honest praise after he saw me scoring from the penalty spot!

I even got to meet QPR legend Stanley BOWLES and I got an autographed copy of his biography at the club shop and I was interviewed by BBC London before the match!

The other magical thing about that whole experience was that thanks to that wonderful initiative by my fellow QPR supporters, I’ve got to meet again with my mum and my two brothers. And most importantly, I’ve got to meet my newly-born niece in Spain where my brother Martin was living at that time (with the help of my mum paying for the tickets from England to Spain). I was set to miss her birth and follow all those moments from afar, but QPR (its fans) made it possible for me to be there with my brother and live a wonderful couple of days with him and his lovely baby.

Some idiots (the minority) started calling me names in that messageboard and it really affected me. Some were saying I was not a true QPR fan and that I just wanted to get into England as an illegal immigrant! So it stopped me from posting so often because no matter what I wrote in there, I was being abused anyway. That was the only downside of my life as a QPR fan. That and being knocked out of the cup by Vauxhall Motors a few seasons ago! Haha!

But my love for QPR remains intact and I’ll always support them!

Amongst QPR highlights are the League Cup title in 1967 coming back from a 2-goal deficit against West Bromwich Albion at Wembley (while Racing were beating Celtic) and finishing second being pipped to the league title by Liverpool in the 1975-1976 season. Oh...we were so close! Will we be back? Honestly, I don't care!