Monday, April 27, 2009
Knowing only a win would guarantee their ticket to Nigeria, Argentina opened the scoring after just 11 minutes through Sergio ARAUJO. They had to wait until injury time for the clincher with striker Daniel VILLALVA sealing victory.
Well at least we can take some comfort from these boys on their success as the Under-17 World Cup is the only FIFA tournament that we can look forward too this year.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
At the start of the season, everyone in Houston was talking about their version of the big three (T-Mac, Ron & YAO). For all the hype surrounding those three, it was their No.4 that continues to stand tall for them. And again, the young Blazers are still trying figure out just how they could stop the Rockets.
Every time their big man goes to surround YAO, they seem to forget about SCOLA; leaving him open with nothing but just to make jump shots. Let’s face it; we all know Luis is incredible in doing just that. Tonight he had 17 points to go along with those 8 rebounds, 1 assist & 2 steals.
The series will now return for Game 5 in Portland. No one is expecting for an easy ride there and the Rockets will know not to take things for granted.
In Spain, Kun AGUERO scored for Atletico Madrid in their 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon. Jose Leonardo TALAMONTI was the hero for Atalanta scoring the only goal in their 1-0 win over Lazio. In the French Ligue 1, Toulouse captain Mauro CETTO save his side a point in their 1-1 draw with Lorient, scoring in the 89th minute.
While in Portugal, Lisandro LOPEZ scored twice for FC Porto as they defeat Vitoria Setubal 2-0 to maintain their position at the top of the Portuguese Liga. In Russia, Hector BRACAMONTE was the scorer for FC Moscow in their 2-0 win over FK Tom’ Tomsk.
The Greek Super League has plenty of Albiceleste goals to offer. Javier CAMPORA was the toast for Aris Salonika against Panthrakikos. Aris were 2-0 down at half time among which the first goal was scored by Sergio PONCE but manage to pull one back in the 62nd minute. CAMPORA then went to equalize in the 89th minute and then completed the comeback in injury time.
Asteras Tripoli went down at home 3-4 against Panionios with Mauro MILANO scoring twice for them. Luciano GALETTI scored from the spot for Olympiakos in their 2-0 win over Thrasivoulos.
Finally the last goal scorer is the one that caught my attention this weekend. Of course he may not be the high profile scorer but for many of us (the Albiceleste supporters here in Malaysia), he holds a special place in our heart. After all he was the hero and scored the winning goal for our Under-20 in the final of the 1997 World Youth held here in Malaysia.
The name is Diego QUINTANA. My goodness, where have you’ve been? It’s been a long time since we’ve heard any news about him as these days in his is playing his club football for FC Xanthi of Greece.
On Sunday he was amongst the goal scorer in their 4-0 win over Iraklis. I was thrilled and happy to know that he is still kicking alive today. Judging from the video, it seems he hasn’t really changed that much (still keeping the mop hairstyle which he was famous for back them).
On Saturday, league leaders Barcelona took on Valencia in a match that could of shaken Spain altogether. A Barcelona win and a Real Madrid loss would of meant that Barcelona could of clinched La Liga next week at the Bernabeu at the El Classico. But, the key words in that sentence are "could of". At the 24 minute mark Lionel MESSI linked with Andres INIESTA to score the opening goal of the game. With 2 minutes to go in the first half, the Barcelona back-line(more-so Victor VALDES) fell asleep as Valencia scored twice in 2 minutes to give the home team a lead heading into half-time. With 5 minutes to play in the game, Barcelona was awarded a free-kick. MESSI of all people sent the ball into the Valencia box as the goalkeeper miss timed his run to the ball and Thierry Henry scored to tie the game. The match ended 2-2.
Later on today, Gonzalo HIGUAIN and Fernando GAGO visit Sevilla. Gabriel HEINZE did not make the team list. And Serie A champions Inter Milan visit Diego MARADONA's old club Napoli.
Friday, April 24, 2009
By the time the game moved to the fourth quarter, the Rockets’ 15-point lead was reduced to seven and the Blazers were surging through the sort of comeback that has marked their season. The Rockets, however, had one last push to take the win and the series lead.
And just how did SCOLA became the focal point of this win?
Well both YAO Ming and Ron ARTEST were having a bad night. The Blazers tactic on fronting YAO and going on the double-d on him prove to be suicidal.
When that happen, SCOLA stood out and hurt them with his jump shot. He was once again up for a tough battle against LeMarcus ALDRIDGE. While SCOLA was killed in Game 2 but in this game it was pay back time. He posted 19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists & 1 steal.
“We play as a team,” SCOLA said. “So because of that, we can afford for Ron and YAO to have a bad night and we still win. And that’s a good thing to have.”
Now SCOLA and the Rockets have present themselves a great chance to win this series. They will host Game 4 before the going back to Oregon. A win here might just be the turning point. Now the dream is on again.
While Carlos TEVEZ has to sit on the bench while witnessing how Dimitar BERBATOV even takes penalties ahead of him, Gonzalo HIGUAIN keeps winning games for Real Madrid and it's getting more and more inexplicable why he is not being considered to play for Argentina.
As always, when things like these happens, rumours start flowing faster than Lionel MESSI!
TEVEZ is being linked with a number or top European sides. To the rather old versions linking him with Inter Milan and Real Madrid, you have to add those suggesting that the Apache could be heading to Chelsea or even Man Utd's bitter rivals: Manchester City and Liverpool.
TEVEZ made some comments to an Argentine radio a few days ago about how he would have no problems leaving United and saying he needs to play regularly, especially with the World Cup being just around the corner.
Alex FERGUSON is still to make a decision on whether he'll aim to keep TEVEZ or not. Expect a thousand different reports from here until the start of next season. We could be in for a long transfer saga!
As for HIGUAIN...reports in the Argentine media lately, suggested his absence in recent Argentina matches has nothing to do with his level of performances. It seems Pipita doesn't see eye-to-eye with Real Madrid team-mates Fernando GAGO and Gabriel HEINZE and that could be the reason behind MARADONA's not calling him up.
I don't entirely buy this versions, but more often than not, when this kind of reports come to the surface, there's at least a shadow of truth behind them.
That said, it's nothing confirmed and if it was, then I doubt under the current state of things, MARADONA will be wanting to miss out on such an in-form player. Not only his performances are up there with that of the best strikers in the world, he is also showing a knack for scoring crucial 3-pointers. Vital match-winning strikes, that are keeping Real Madrid alive this season.
Here's where MARADONA should use his power to convince the Real Madrid players that the national team is bigger than their club, their qualities and their big fat egos.
I'll be desperate to knowing what's in store for our next WCQ squad list!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The host team spearhead by the large vocal support from the crowd took the lead as early in the 7th minute. Argentina’s Ezequiel CIRIGLIANO was found to have handle the ball from which the referee pointed to the spot. Chile’s Alex GONZALEZ converted the penalty to give his side a dream start.
Jose Luis BROWN’s side were quick to response and found themselves on level terms in just three minutes later. Daniel VILLALVA scored from 10 yards after the Chilean keeper could not hold on to the ball from a earlier shot.
Argentina kept up the pressure and were rewarded with the lead just after an hour when Sergio ARAUJO coolly headed the ball over the Chilean keeper. Just five minutes later Argentina were 3-1 up. Leandro GONZALEZ headed the ball in courtesy of free kick from the left from Sebastian GONZALEZ.
Another Wonder Goal From Zarate
If yesterday it was Gonzalo HIGUAIN who gave Diego a postcard telling him to call him up, this time it was Mauro ZARATE. Lazio booked their place in the Coppa Italia Final after defeating Juventus 2-1 (4-2 on aggregate) in the Estadio Del Alpi.
ZARATE gave his side the lead with another of his trademark wonder goal. Aleksandar KOLAROV slid a nice pass to the hit man who controlled, looked up, and fired a magnificent right-foot curler into the top corner. The sheer quality of the strike made Gianlugi BUFFON look average as he struggled to stop the ball from hitting the back of the net.
After seeing these two, I’m very convince that we must play an out-and-out striker in the middle. Period.
This is where others such as Ron ARTEST or Luis SCOLA will need to step up to fill the void. SCOLA was having his own personal trouble indeed in his match up with Blazers forward, LeMarcus ALDRIDGE. After out getting the best out of him in Game 1, this time the table was turn dramatically. SCOLA just manage to post 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists & 1 block shot.
Luis and the Rockets will return home to play the next games in the series. We hope the home court status might just work in their favour.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
And he did it again, not once but twice; first, muscling aside Cata DIAZ before rounding Vladimir STOJKOVIC and slotting home. The second; a brilliant 20-yard finish in the last minute.
With these two goals, Pipita has taken his tally in La Liga to 16 goals in 27 appearances. If that is not a statement, then what it is? Diego I hope you’re watching this.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
In Ligue 1, Olympique Marseille stretch their lead to the top of the table with 2-1 win at Lorient. Renato CIVELLI got himself in the score sheet in the 60th minute. In the Russian Premier League, Rubin Kazan were 3-0 winners over Dynamo Moscow with Alejandro DOMINGUEZ scoring their second of the match. Whilst in Turkey, Leonardo IGLESIAS became the hero for Ankaragucu as he scored the winning goal in their 3-2 win over Eskisehirspor K.
Not to forget, it was Superclasico weekend in Argentina as Boca Juniors and River Plate both settled for 1-1 draw. Martin PALERMO celebrated his return to the National Team, opened the score in 58th minute. Marcelo GALLARDO equalized for River in the 68th minute.
At last in Brazil, Pablo GUINAZU and Andres D’ALLESANDRO both scored for Internacional in their 8-1 trashing of Caxias in the Futebol Brasileiro.
Some Transfer News & Speculations
So looks like Carlos TEVEZ might (depends whether will he stay at Old Trafford next season) not win a FA Cup medal as Manchester United crashed out against Everton in the semis. During the game, a friend of mine (also a Red Devil fan) sends me a text message asking me about Javier PASTORE.
I must admit at first I had no clue, so I decided to Google search him. Turns out to be he is a highly rated 19 years old midfielder from Huracan, who just rejected a £8.8m offer from Premier League champions. His main reason is to believe due to high competition for places. Fair enough.
Well maybe Seba (or anyone else) might want to share a little bit more about this player. I mean for the Red Devils to offer that kind of money for a teenager, there must something special about him.
Meanwhile TEVEZ is not the only Albiceleste still uncertain about where he would play next season. Lazio apparently have not made any move to offer Mauro ZARATE a permanent deal to stay at Rome.
His brother Sergio - who also acts as one of his agents - says the Roman club have little more than two weeks to take up their option on the player. If they do not agree to any terms, then other clubs will be allowed to make a move for him - although he insists his brother wants to stay in the Eternal City.
ZARATE is still under contract with Al-Sadd from Qatar. A number of Premier League sides, including Liverpool and Manchester City, are reportedly keen to bring him back to England and have been linked with big-money bids for the striker for months.
For an extensive details on the match coverage, please check out the review from Dave’s NBA Round Table blog (Game Time: Portland vs. Houston).
In the match up that might have given the Rockets the most concern, Luis SCOLA dominated LaMarcus ALDRIDGE. SCOLA hit seven of nine shots for 19 points, 15 in the second half alone (plus 8 rebounds, 1 assist & 1 block shot).
ALDRIDGE, who was Portland’s leading scorer against the Rockets this season and was expected to continues his dominance over SCOLA for this game. But SCOLA was immense in his own way (watch out his amazing block in the fourth quarter on the video below) force ALDRIDGE to make three of 12 shots.
Both teams will square off again on Tuesday for Game 2. Pretty tough call to say what might happen but a win for the Rockets will ensure they got one foot already in the next round.
The Argentine performance may not have their opponents quaking, but a potential banana skin has been avoided and the 2-0 win puts them joint top of Group B.
With the game still in its infancy, Alexis QUINTULEN decided to test the Venezuelan keeper with a fizzed free-kick from outside the box. Jesus ESCALONA duly found the shot too hot to handle and handed Argentina a corner kick.
QUINTULEN, again, put in a testing delivery and as skipper Esteban ESPINDOLA rose to meet it, he was bundled over and the referee pointed to the spot. ESPINDOLA dusted himself down and elected to take the penalty himself, planting it way beyond the reach of ESCALONA.
Argentina’s corners continued to be a problem for Venezuela all night, as they persisted in sending up three centre backs each time.
In the second half, Venezuela were reduced to 10 men after defender Rafaelle CENTOFANTI became the first player to be sent off in this competition. His dismissal came for the double offence of upending Daniel VILLALVA and then booting the ball against him as he lay on the deck.
It did not take Argentina long to capitalize on the numerical advantage and a Sebastian GONZALEZ free-kick was converted by Sergio ARAUJO. ARAUJO’s performance was well worth a goal, as he hassled and harried the Venezuelan defense from start to finish.
Next up for Argentina is the hosts Chile.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Atletico Madrid continued their push for a Champions League spot by seeing off struggling Numancia 3-0 at a rain-swept Vicente Calderon, with Ever BANEGA opening the scoring in the 62nd minute.
Roberto AYALA still got some thing on his sleeve as he scored Real Zaragoza only goal against Gimnastic de Tarragona in the Spanish Segunda Division.
While in the English League One, Luciano BECCHIO scored for Leeds United in their 3-1 win over Tranmere Rovers. In Russia, FC Moscow defeated Saturn Moscow 1-0 with a goal from Hector BRACAMONTE.
Lazio became the first team to defeat Genoa (1-0) at home, who were playing without their ace Diego MILITO. It was another Albiceleste striker that got the spotlight this time. In the 65th minute when Mauro ZARATE latched onto a long, sweeping ball from Christian LEDESMA before picking his spot in the far corner of RUBINHO’s goal.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Things are looking very predictable this year as compared to last year, from neutral fan point of view. As always our attention will focus on the Tall Albiceleste. Of course there is a big loss for us here but also a little sense of optimism from the others.
Once again, I was on the mission to look for someone who can come up with something interesting to talk about in this year’s Playoff preview. And I succeed in finding that right person.
Dave from the NBA Round Table has been a regular visitor on our blog since last year’s playoffs and I have always been personal fan of his knowledge and expertise on the orange game ball. Not only that, he is also big supporter of Chelsea. He was more than willing enough to give us his take about what’s in store for us this year. And here are his opinion on the Tall Albiceleste.
How big a loss is Manu GINOBILI?
The Spurs losing GINOBILI is the equivalent of Boston losing Paul PIERCE (written before KG's injury news!). Could Boston win a Championship without their Finals MVP from a year ago? Not a chance. Unfortunately, the situation is even worse than that for San Antonio because not only are they without their Paul PIERCE, but they also have no fourth star as good as Rajon RONDO and no second big man as good as Kendrick PERKINS. In other words, the Spurs are dead in the water. San Antonio has no hope of contending for a title this season, they simply do not have the talent, not without GINOBILI.
Manu GINOBILI is an All-NBA caliber player -- although he doesn't always get the recognition he deserves because of the sacrifices he makes (starting, minutes, shots, touches). Teams cannot replace a player of that quality with a bench player and expect to maintain their contender status.
The only question left to answer on San Antonio, is when will they lose and to whom? Tim DUNCAN has never missed the playoffs, and never lost in the first round. There is an all too real possibility that his streak of playoff series victories ends this year.
It's a shame we won't get to see Manu this postseason, the league is worse off for it. Manu is both a great showman, and a great player.
Unfortunately, it looks like OBERTO is the fifth big man in POPOVICH's rotation -- behind Tim DUNCAN, Matt BONNER, Drew GOODEN, Kurt THOMAS -- and thus it appears that he won't play a role in the postseason for San Antonio.
This disappoints me because I rate OBERTO as San Antonio’s fifth or sixth best player. I admire his passing, his intelligence, and most of all I admire his movement without the ball. I think San Antonio plays it's most fluid and cohesive offensive game when OBERTO is on the floor. Then add in his quality rebounding, and good all round defensive work ... and you have a wonderful role player who does a lot of little things that add tremendous value to a team.
I would hold out some hope for OBERTO's playing time and that's the general struggles San Antonio has had with it's form as the season comes to a close. POPOVICH is still searching for his best rotation and if he continues to fail in his quest to find it, then his attention may turn to the tried and trusted Fabricio OBERTO.
San Antonio's Playoff Chances -- Do San Antonio have a shot at winning a title? No. Do they have a shot at winning a playoff series or two? Absolutely.The Spurs have a great match up on their hands with the Dallas Mavericks. These two teams have been long time foes and had a tremendous battle in the playoffs a few years ago, back in 2006, when Dallas knocked the Spurs out in seven games and ended up making the Finals. This should be a really good series, a close series, a series that could go either way. Watch out for Tony PARKER, he destroyed the Mavericks during the regular season, dropping 31.3 points a night and adding 7.3 assists for good measure. The Mavericks have nobody who can stop him, their pick and roll defense is weak and their guards struggle mightily against quick point guards. Tony PARKER has had some incredible individual performances in the playoffs in the past, but this might top all of them.The Spurs have one major advantage in the playoffs, and that's the playoff draw. They've managed to avoid the LA Lakers until the Conference Finals, and will only have to play New Orleans or Denver in the second round. The Spurs are no sure thing to get that far, but if they play to their fullest ability then they'll certainly have a shot at a Conference Finals appearance.
It's been an odd season for HERRMANN. He didn't get much of an opportunity in the first half of the season, and when he did he was poor -- particularly his jump shooting, hitting under 39% of his shots from the field and only 33% from three point range. However, once Detroit gave him some consistent minutes, and touches, HERRMANN's performances improved considerably.
For the past month and a half HERRMANN has been nailing 46% of his shots from the field and 42% of his three point attempts. This hot shooting has got him back in the picture with the Pistons, but in truth, he still hasn't solidified his role in Detroit.
It's somewhat difficult to try and predict how Detroit will use HERRMANN in the playoffs because the Pistons still haven't found a rotation they're comfortable with, and the whole Iverson situation has clouded everything. Also, Detroit's numerous injuries over the past month has forced them to dig deeper into the bench and it's hard to figure out who stays and who lose their place (minutes wise), now that the main players are back in action.
I expect the Pistons to use a nine man rotation once the playoffs arrive. It's rare that teams go beyond a nine man rotation in the playoffs, and several squads even go with as few as eight players. The Pistons will roll with their starting five of STUCKEY, HAMILTON, PRINCE, McDYESS and WALLACE. Kwame BROWN is playing really well right now so Michael CURRY may keep him in the starting lineup and use Sheed or Dice off the bench instead, but that'll pretty much be it.
Detroit's best player over the last month has arguably been their third string point guard Will BYNUM, and he figures to be their primary backup guard off the bench for the playoffs. Detroit will likely use a two big men off the bench, because they have five quality bigs and their depth there is a major strength for their team, and that figures to be MAXIELL. That would leave Amir JOHNSON as a deep reserve, and out of the rotation. The final player in the nine man rotation will be a backup wing and will come down to a battle between AFFALO and HERRMANN, and for now I expect AFFALO to win because Coach CURRY loves AFFALO’s defense.
Walter Herrmann figures to be the deep reserve (like Amir) after that, a combo forward who can fit into several different roles based on how Detroit needs to alter their game plan. If they need size on the perimeter, then Walter will play some small forward. Or if the Pistons need to go small and space the floor, Walter may get some minutes at power forward. Teams generally don't go beyond a nine man rotation in the playoffs, so Walter will likely only see spot minutes in the postseason unless there's a specific matchup he's required for.
But like I said, it's next to impossible to say anything definitive about how Detroit will use their bench, and specifically HERRMANN, due to the huge uncertainty facing the team over the past few months and how unsettled their regular rotation is.
I'd love to see HERRMANN join a squad that would commit to giving him playing time (Detroit has failed to do so for two years now!). San Antonio are the team I think about the most, because I think he'd be a great replacement for Matt BONNER, and that HERRMANN would be a terrific fit alongside Tim DUNCAN in a small ball lineup. He'd be a matchup nightmare that would go for at least 15 points per game, like he did late in his rookie season for the Charlotte Bobcats.
Detroit's Playoff Chances -- Somewhere between slim and none, and slim just left the building.The Pistons will lose in the first round against the Cavs. They can battle and make the games scrappy and close, but the Cavs will always have that extra firepower to bail themselves out. Detroit are simply out-manned and out-gunned heading into this series.I think the draw was somewhat unfavourable for HERRMANN, and his possible playing time, because (1) Cleveland are an excellent interior team with great rebounding, and Big Z causes them problems, and, (2) LeBRON is the best player in the NBA and Coach CURRY will want his best defenders (Tayshaun, Rip, Afflalo) to spend time on him. After seeing the draw, I think HERRMANN's playoff minutes under great threat. Still I think the Pistons need HERRMANN's offense, his shooting ability and scoring, and that they could get a nice boost from playing him some small ball lineups. I think Detroit need to find some extra firepower to hang with the Cavaliers, and HERRMANN might be the best option they have (backup bigs don't provide much offense, neither does Afflalo, too much pressure on starting lineup).
Luis SCOLA has had a terrific season for the Rockets, and for my money, he's been the Rockets second best player this season. SCOLA has been on fire since the turn of the year scoring 13.7ppg on 55.5% shooting, while also hauling down 9.5 rebounds a night.
Rebounding is SCOLA's best asset and hugely valuable to the Rockets, but it's not his only contribution. He is a multi-dimensional player who affects the game in many ways for the Rockets. SCOLA is a team first player and we see this in a bunch of areas offensively - using his good passing skills, sturdy screens both on and off the ball which free up his teammates, and great movement without the ball (cutting to the rim) to help create some player movement. Defensively, SCOLA is a solid part of one of the best defensive ball clubs in the NBA, and is the Rockets best big man at defending the pick and roll -- he does a great job trapping the ball handler. At his most basic level, Luis SCOLA does whatever dirty work needs doing and is one of the best glue guys in the NBA.
The Rockets lost Tracy McGRADY to an injury midway through the season, and with that injury the Rockets chances of winning a title flew out the window. Houston desperately needed McGRADY's creativity, and ability to beat defenders off the dribble, in order to balance out their squad and win at the highest level. Without that dynamic weapon the Rockets have become too predictable and they will lose in the playoffs.
Houston aren't a contender, but they will be an extremely tough out. They're one of the finest defensive squads in the NBA, very good on the backboards, physical squad, and have good depth. This isn't a team that's going to go out easily, it'll be a hard fought battle, but it will eventually happen.
Houston's Playoff Chances -- The Rockets title chances vanished the minute Tracy McGRADY got injured. So, I think Houston will either lose in the first round (Blazers) or the second round (Lakers).I'm very excited about this Blazers-Rockets series. This is my pick for the series to watch in the first round. We have two very good teams who are evenly matched, and there's a huge amount of individual talent on the court.I love how these two teams match up. In some ways they're so similar; excellent rebounding, slow tempo, half court basketball and complete opposites in other ways. The Rockets are a elite defense/mediocre offense while the Blazers are an elite offense/mediocre defense. Moreover, the vast difference in their players experience, a battle of the Rockets vast experience with YAO Ming, Ron ARTEST, Shane BATTIER, Luis SCOLA, Brent BARRY, Deke versus the youth of Portland with ROY, ODEN, ALDRIDGE, BATUM, OUTLAW, RODRIGUEZ, FRYE.Perhaps the most interesting subplot to this series, is the matchup between Luis SCOLA and LaMarcus AlLDRIDGE. Sometimes in the NBA there's just players who for some reason get a hot hand against you, and there's nothing you can do about it, and for SCOLA it appears that ALDRIDGE may be his guy.
ALDRIDGE dropped 23ppg on 48% shooting during the season series. He also got to the free throw at will, averaging 9.3 FT attempts a game, versus the four he normally gets. ALDRIDGE upped his rebounding to, to 8.7 a night. SCOLA just couldn't seem to stop him, and that forced ADELMAN to go with Chuck HAYES, since he's their best defender at the four spot, for increased minutes (24mpg versus Portland). It wasn't all one way either, SCOLA was giving ALDRIDGE the business on the other end of the court, dropping 15ppg (69% from the field) and 7.5rpg in just 28 minutes (imagine if they gave him 40 minutes like ALDRIDGE got? 21.5ppg, 10.5rpg?). How well SCOLA defends ALDRIDGE man-to-man could very well be the deciding factor in this series. The Rockets desperately need to limit ALDRIDGE's offense, because when you combine that with ROY's low efficiency and the lack of other 20ppg scorers, the Rockets could put the clamps on Portland's offense. They also need SCOLA to defend ALDRIDGE well enough to allow Luis to stay on the court, because the downgrade from SCOLA to HAYES is huge, and the Rockets badly need SCOLA’s production and offensive ability.I think this series will go six or seven games and either team could win it. I think we might have a great series on our hands here. Houston should be deemed the slight favourite, but it's real close.
So now you will know what are the challenges in store for the Tall Albiceleste. Will OBERTO be given some quality minutes to contribute something for the ailing Spurs? Will we see HERRMANN in action for the Pistons? Or will SCOLA be able to finally lift the Rockets from their first round jinx Watch out for this space.
On behalf of the Mundo Albiceleste team, we like to say a Big Thank You to Dave for his contribution and we will look forward to hear more from him as we head into the playoffs fever.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
He'll have them for training sessions at Ezeiza and will use them to face a South American opponent (most likely Paraguay) in a friendly match to be played in Santa Fé, Argentina, on 20 May.
Martín PALERMO is the most notorious inclusion in a list that includes players from Argentinos Juniors, Arsenal de Sarandí, Boca Juniors, Colón de Santa Fé, Estudiantes de La Plata, Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, Huracán, Independiente, Lanús, Newell's Old Boys, Racing Club, Rosario Central, San Lorenzo de Almagro and Velez Sarsfield.
MARADONA added that he wants to have enough players to make up two different teams. He also added: "There are no River Plate players on the list. I want to have this friendly on 20 May, but it will all depend on how far will Boca Juniors and Estudiantes advance in the Copa Libertadores".
Furthermore, MARADONA hinted that it is possible that he will use two different teams for the upcoming World Cup Qualifying matches against Colombia at home and Ecuador away.
"It's a possibility. My players will be tired after the first game and some will have some problems. We'll look into the possibility of having two different teams."
According to TyC Sports, here's the full list of 26 players named by MARADONA on Thursday:
Mariano ANDUJAR (Estudiantes de La Plata)
Cristian CAMPESTRINI (Arsenal -Sarandí-)
Diego POZO (Colón)
Emiliano PAPA (Vélez Sarsfield)
Juan FORLIN (Boca Juniors)
Matías CARUZZO (Argentinos Juniors)
Nicolás OTAMENDI (Vélez Sarsfield)
Alexis FERRERO (Colón)
Ignacio CANUTO (Argentinos Juniors)
Marcos ANGELERI (Estudiantes de La Plata)
Hernán BERNARDELLO (Newell´s Old Boys)
Sebastián BATTAGLIA (Boca Juniors)
Juan Sebastián VERÓN (Estudiantes de La Plata)
Juan MERCIER (Argentinos Juniors)
Sebastián BLANCO (Lanús)
Franco ZUCULINI (Racing Club)
Daniel MONTENEGRO (Independiente)
Matías DE FEDERICO (Huracán)
Fabián RINAUDO (Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata)
Martín PALERMO (Boca Juniors)
Mauro FORMICA (Newell´s Old Boys)
Maximiliano MORALEZ (Velez Sarsfield)
Milton CARAGLIO (Rosario Central)
Gonzalo BERGESSIO (San Lorenzo)
Eduardo SALVIO (Lanús)
José SAND (Lanús)
Newspaper Olé, on the other hand, has some differences with TyC Sports and they published the list contains 25 names instead of 26.
They have Boca Juniors defender Ezequiel MUÑOZ on their list, but they don't have Fabián RINAUDO (of Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata) and Juan MERCIER (Argentinos Juniors).
Some comments and general information about the names you probably don't know will come soon here on Mundo Albiceleste.
We will probably be able to update and confirm the entire list at some point during Friday.
Stay tuned...and discuss the names you know and what do you think about Diego's comments and ideas.
Mundo Albiceleste wishes him a speedy recovery!
What Diego wants is to train twice a week with players from the Argentine league and observe them further to eventually call some of them for the World Cup Qualifying matches ahead.
Amongst the names being rumoured, the strongest of them all has to be that of Martin PALERMO.
The record-setting Boca Juniors striker, could be on the verge of a return to the national team.
PALERMO became famous worldwide when he missed three penalty-kicks in one single match against Colombia in a Copa America 1999 match. He played 7 matches for Argentina and scored his only 3 goals with the Albiceleste in that same Copa America in Paraguay. Since then, he never played again for Argentina, despite becoming Boca Juniors' all-time leading scorer.
Apart from the probable inclusion of PALERMO, here are the names that could be working with Diego every week:
Mariano ANDUJAR (Estudiantes de La Plata)
Cristian CAMPESTRINI (Arsenal -Sarandí-)
Emiliano PAPA (Vélez Sarsfield)
Juan FORLIN (Boca Juniors)
Matías CARUZZO (Argentinos Juniors)
Nicolás OTAMENDI (Vélez Sarsfield)
Hernán BERNARDELLO (Newell´s Old Boys)
Sebastián BATTAGLIA (Boca Juniors)
Juan Sebastián VERÓN (Estudiantes de La Plata)
Juan MERCIER (Argentinos Juniors)
Sebastián BLANCO (Lanús)
Martín PALERMO (Boca Juniors)
Mauro FORMICA (Newell´s Old Boys)
More news will follow when these things are confirmed.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Chelsea vs. Liverpool
This one at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea defeated Liverpool last week at Anfield 3-1 and will try to wrap it up today. Argentina captain Javier MASCHERANO missed the first leg due to suspension but will more than likely start today's match. Emiliano INSÚA who played the full 90 minutes against Blackburn is not in the Champions League squad, which means he will not take part in today's match. Meanwhile for Chelsea, Franco DI SANTO(if picked) will start on the bench.
FC Bayern Munch vs. FC Barcelona
Barcelona took advantage of their home match against the Germans and scored 4 goals, 2 of which by Lionel Messi(he had 2 goals and 1 assist). All signs indicate that Barcelona coach Pep GUARDIOLA will start MESSI on the bench and bring him on incase of an emergency. For Bayern, Martín DEMICHELIS will start at the back, he who played the full 90 minutes against Barcelona last week. It looks like José SOSA will start on the bench(he came on at the 77th minute last week against Barcelona). Bayern will need 4 goals to bring the match to Extra-Time at the same time making sure that Barcelona do not score. If Barcelona scores, Bayern will need 6 goals to win the match.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
However the Easter weekend belongs to the first Argentine to win the green jacket at Augusta National, Angel "Pato" CABRERA.
As expected by many golf experts, the finale to the Master was intense as ever. Pato survived a wild final round that began with a supercharged duel between Tiger WOODS and Phil MICKELSON and ended with a stunning collapse by Kenny PERRY.
Two shots behind with two holes to play, CABRERA fought his way into a three-way playoff when the 48-year-old PERRY, on the verge of becoming golf's oldest major champion, bogeyed the final two holes.
Even in a playoff, CABRERA looked like the odd man out. He drove into the trees, hit another shot off a Georgia pine, but still scrambled for par with an 8-foot putt. He won with a routine par on the 10th hole when PERRY missed the green badly to the left and made yet another bogey, this one the most costly of them all.
"This is a great moment, the dream of any golfer to win the Masters," CABRERA said through an interpreter during the green jacket ceremony. "I'm so emotional I can barely talk."
Congratulation to the Mighty Duck of Cordoba, Vamos Pato Carajo!!!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
CABRERA is no strangers to pressure on a big stage as two years ago he surprise everyone to win the US Open at Oakmont. Pato as he is known , made three birdies on the back nine and scratched out an important par on the final hole for a 3-under 69. It will be the first time they've played in the final group at a major.
"I'm lucky enough to be in a very good position," CABRERA said. "I haven't been in this position before so I'll try to make the most of it."
CABRERA is also on a mission to bury the Albiceleste ghost, 31 years after the legendary Roberto DE VICENZO made a shocking clerical error to lost the Master. Lets hope that this Sunday will be sweet one for him and for all of us at Mundo.
HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!!!
Soon after Goran PANDEV gave Lazio the lead (2nd minute), an absolutely stunning strike by Mauro ZARATE from 30 yards in the 4th minute, put the blue half section in the Stadio Olimpico in cloud nine.
Luis SCOLA was part of the big contributor to this win posting a career high of 28 points, 9 rebounds & 4 assists. He together with the likes of veteran Dikembe MUTOMBO, Ron ARTEST and the rest of Rockets played in what was the best team performance against the Warrior.
As SCOLA, alongside ARTEST was doing damages on the offense, MUTOMBO was taking care of the defense. A perfect game plan from the Rockets. I’m not sure whether SCOLA and the Rocs have what it takes to compete against the Lakers but at least I do have a sense of optimism from this team.
Unlike they’re division neighbour, the Spurs who looks to be walking wounded towards the playoffs. Oh yes, they did beat the Jazz 105-99, with no action from Fabricio OBERTO.
Walter HERRMANN had 2 points for the Detroit Pistons in their 100-93 win over the New Jersey Nets. Andres NOCIONI posted 11 points, 9 rebounds and one block shot in the Sacramento Kings heavy loss to the LA Clippers (78-109).
Friday, April 10, 2009
I've missed out on commenting on a few interesting things that happened over the last few days. The most important of all being Lionel MESSI's mercurial performance for Barcelona against Bayern Munich.
Now I've seen a few comments by some of our readers and I've noticed there is an ongoing debate on whether Lionel MESSI can play for Argentina just as greatly as he plays every week for Barcelona and I would like to write a few things about it.
Starting from the notion that it is impossible to compare a club with a national team, I guess what we should consider whenever we want to start a debate like this is that continuity is a key for any player to perform with consistency over a prolonged period of time.
Playing only twice every three or four months and without the chance to train with your Argentina team-mates as often as any player does at their club, is hardly an ideal platform for a footballer to show his best attributes or live up to his entire potential.
As one of our readers pointed out in the comments' box, on top of what I just wrote, MESSI doesn't have XAVI and INIESTA behind him. Or ETO'O and HENRY around. All players that are part of a structure and, just like MESSI, don't perform for their national team, like they do for Barcelona. Well...perhaps Spain, the form national team in recent times, have found a way for XAVI and INIESTA to play a similar role and in a similar position to what they do every day. So they are not affected by this change of scenario that much.
What about FIFA World Player of the Year, Cristiano RONALDO, and his lackluster performances for Portugal compared to a 42-goal season for Manchester United? Let me remind you that Portugal is a national team that is on the verge of missing out of South Africa 2010? And what about Serie A top-scorer Zlatan IBRAHIMOVIC and his almost eliminated Swedish national team?
With those points made, I would like to remind everybody here, that Lionel is just 21 years old. Lionel is just starting his international career and he's got numbers that are not bad at all.
He scored 12 goals in 36 matches with the Albiceleste. To put that into perspective, he is only 7 goals shy of breaking into the top 10 in the history of our national team. That's not something you manage to achieve if you don't perform at an acceptable level.
Here's the top 10 (First/Last indicates the year in which these players had their first and last cap):
Name First/Last Goals
1. Gabriel Omar BATISTUTA 1991-2002 56
2. Hernán Jorge CRESPO 1995-2007 * 35
3. Diego Armando MARADONA 1977-1994 34
4. Luis ARTIME 1961-1967 24
5. Leopoldo Jacinto LUQUE 1975-1981 22
Daniel Alberto PASSARELLA 1976-1986 22
7. Herminio MASANTONIO 1935-1942 21
José Francisco SANFILIPPO 1956-1962 21
9. Mario Alberto KEMPES 1973-1982 20
10. Norberto Doroteo MÉNDEZ 1945-1956 19
José Manuel MORENO 1936-1950 19
René Alejandro PONTONI 1942-1947 19
The asteriks means the player is still active.
In that list, except for MARADONA, PASSARELLA, LUQUE, MENDEZ and MORENO, (to no surprise) we see only strikers.
MESSI is not a natural goal-scoring striker. A target man. A hit-man. He is more like a second forward. Sometimes an offensive midfielders. He plays wide, not inside the box waiting for a rebound or a cross from the wings, which makes it more difficult to score.
He doesn't take penalty kicks or free-kicks (a great source of goals for MARADONA and especially PASSARELLA, if we talk about the players in that Top10).
I guess we all agree in that.
Now if we want to (again!) compare him with MARADONA and we want to base that comparison in statistics, we can see that MARADONA scored one goal every 2,67 matches during his international career.
MESSI, on the other hand, scores a goal every 3 matches, but there's no denial that average is getting lower and lower (take the last three matches he played. He scored 2 goals (at France and v. Venezuela).
Speaking strictly about performances, because it'd be unfair to compare players based only on goals scored, we need to put things into perspective.
When MARADONA was 21, he was just starting to become famous worldwide. He was winning the league with Boca Juniors in 1981 and being bought by Barcelona right after that. He had won the Youth World Cup in Japan in 1979 (like Lionel did in Netherlands in 2005) but was snubbed by MENOTTI in 1978 for the Argentina World Cup (contrary to Lionel, who made the squad and played his first World Cup in Germany -aged 19-).
I was a little boy at that time, but let me tell you that MARADONA was not regarded as the best player in the world in the build up for Spain 1982 (his first World Cup). In fact, he had a terrible tournament in Spain and even saw the red card in a match against Brazil. He was strongly criticized by the public opinion after that and only managed to win over the critics in Mexico 1986 and kept showing his best football in Napoli for several years after that World Cup triumph.
Times have changed and players tend to reach their peaks much faster than 20 or 10 years ago. This 21-year-old MESSI, granted he started his career in Europe, has achieved more success than MARADONA when he was 21 in 1981 and he is a famous face worldwide. That is quite irrefutable and the facts I provided you with in the last couple of paragraphs can serve as proof.
Please...don't take this as if I was telling you that MESSI is better than MARADONA. I don't think he is.
Diego is and will forever be my favourite player. No matter what. Because he was the main reason I fell in love with football and he ruled the world during the time when the strongest love affairs are built in a person's life: the childhood years. Nobody will be able to dethrone him in my heart. NEVER. It doesn't matter if MESSI leads Argentina to two or three World Cup wins!
At the same time, I'm a big big fan of Lionel. I think he can be more successful than Diego, yes I do. And I'm not ashamed to say that I want him to be.
I think they are two very different players with two factors that make them equal and should immediately make us support them unconditionally:
1. They are the best players in their respective generations.
2. They play for Argentina.
I think we should support MESSI just as much as we supported MARADONA. Give him time.
We are up for great things from this little fellow and mark my words, you'll miss MESSI when he retires (I hope that happens a million years from today!). So if you're not a Real Madrid fan from Brazil, enjoy MESSI in every match he plays. In Blaugrana or Albiceleste.
The following is a list of defenders who have more-or-less earned a spot in the squad. I bolded the names of those who I think should not be on the team.
Out of those 10 players, I think it's safe to say that 5, maybe even 6 of them should not be on the team. HEINZE, PAPA, DÍAZ, COLOCINNI, BURDISSO and to some extent SAMUEL should not be anywhere near the team. We're now left with 4 defenders but many more who should be added. Fabián MONZÓN, Pablo ZABALETA, Federico FAZIO, Nicolàs PAREJA, Ezequiel GARAY, Emiliano INSÚA and finally GONZALO RODRÍGUEZ. We're back to 10 defenders, 11 if you want to count the injured Gabriel MILITO. With that, we would have something like this. I would throw in Julio ARCA but that would be a bit too much.
Right Backs: ZANETTI, ANGELERI, ZABALETA
Center Backs: DEMICHELIS, FORLÍN, FAZIO, GARAY, PAREJA, GONZALO, MILITO
Left Backs: MONZON, INSÚA
The most obvious case is the lack of left-backs on the team. I know that World Cup Qualifiers is not the time to start experimenting with the backline, but surely the center backs I have mentioned cannot be or do any worse than HEINZE and PAPA. A little side note, can you imagine the likes of PAPA going up against strong players like Michael BALLACK and/or Bastian SCHWEINSTEIGER?! Just the thought of it makes me nervous.
Against Colombia maybe have a back-line consisting of something like this...
Against Ecuador something like this...
Play more conservative against Ecuador. ZABALETA has been playing everywhere for Manchester City. Right Back, Right Midfielder and even Left Back, so he would help out in midfield. Same thing for CAMBIASSO who has played as a Center Back for Inter in a few matches and yes, even MASCHERANO has played as a Right Back for Liverpool. But I think we all agree on keeping him as a defensive mid. CAMBIASSO/GAGO/JONÁS for the defensive help they would bring(and we will probably need) against Ecuador. We cannot forget that the game against Ecuador will be played at altitude.
So there's my ideal back-line, what's yours?
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Barca tore the visitors' defense apart with a flowing move and Samuel ETO'O set up Lionel MESSI (9th minute), who drilled a neat finish past Hans-Jorg BUTT to open the floodgates. Three minutes later, MESSI turned provider as he slid a deadly ball into the path of ETO'O and the Cameroon striker clinically slotted past BUTT.
MESSI should have had a penalty five minutes later when he was brought down in the box by Christian LELL. But instead, he received a booking for his troubles as the home fans roared with disapproval.
In the 38th minute, Thiery HENRY beat his marker for pace on the left and flashed a low centre across the six-yard box which MESSI poked home with his outstretched right leg to give Barcelona a three-goal lead.
And two minutes before the break, MESSI charged in from the right flank and laid the ball off to ETO'O, who in turn found HENRY. The unmarked Frenchman slid a low angled drive into the bottom right-hand corner to virtually seal Barca's passage to the semi-final within just 45 minutes.The second half was basically a continuation of Barca’s dominance. MESSI was unlucky not to get his hat trick but nevertheless he is the star of Europe for his magical display.
Javier MASCHERANO was not in action for Liverpool, but looks like his team is in trouble after going down at home to Chelsea, 1-3.
FC Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich
The first leg is at the Camp Nou and there's only 3 players representing Argentina(4 if you count the injured Gabriel Milito). 1 from Barcelona and 2 from Bayern. Lionel MESSI will take on Argentina team-mate Martín DEMICHELIS, while José SOSA is likely to start the match on the bench for the German club.
Liverpool vs. Chelsea
The match taking place at Anfield and in this case chances are 0 Albicelestes will start. Javier MASCHERANO is out for the first leg due to suspension(accumulation of yellow cards) which leaves Emiliano INSÚA who has started a few matches for Liverpool but is unlikely to start on Wednesday. For Chelsea, there's only Franco DI SANTO who has barely played for his team at all this season.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
However it didn't end there. 4 minutes following TEVEZ's goal, another Albiceleste player put his name on the scoresheet. And once again, that player was a substitute! 2004 Oylmpic Gold Medalist with Argentina, Mariano RODRIGUEZ(though he prefers being called MARIANO) gave his team another precious away goal 1 minute before the end of regular time. Lisandro LOPEZ's cross was flicked on by John O'SHEA which landed infront of MARIANO who was unmarked as he was left alone infront of Edwin VAN DER SAAR. The second leg is next Wednesday in Portugal with the score 2-2.
In total, 4 Argentina players took part in the match. 2 started and 2 were substitutes. Lucho GONZALEZ, Lisandro LOPEZ and MARIANO for FC Porto while Carlos TEVEZ was the only Albiceleste representative for Manchester United.
In other Champions League Argentina news, Gonzalo RODRIGUEZ played the full 90 minutes for Villarreal and Ariel IBAGAZA played 78 minutes as Villarreal and Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw in Spain.
The first tie from Day 1 will see the Devils (Manchester United) entertaining the Dragons (FC Porto) at home. Carlos TEVEZ (in place of the injured BERBATOV) is expected to start alongside Wayne ROONEY up front. United might look favourite for this tie, but as a fan of the underdog, I would like to see Lisandro LOPEZ and Lucho GONZALEZ putting up an inspiring performance in Old Trafford.
Lisandro, who scored six goals on Porto's route to the last eight, said: "We have to consider that we have a very young team, with little experience at this level. For us, the tie is a real final."
In the other match of the day, Villareal will play host to Arsenal in a repeat of the semi-final clash in 2006. If there is one moment that we could have remember from that game, it has to be the penalty miss by RIQUELME towards the end of the second leg.
What about the ties from Day 2?
Of course for most football fans here in Malaysia, the talk of the town is all about Liverpool vs. Chelsea, part V. I’ve had many conversations with some Blues supporters around here whom regard Michael ESSIEN as the best defensive midfielder in the world. Not to disrespect him as he is one hell of a player but I’m hoping for a solid performance from Javier MASCHERANO just prove them otherwise. Haha!!!
For me, the biggest encounter in this round has to Barcelona playing host Bayern Munich. Much of the attention will be on the head to head collision between Lionel MESSI and Bayern’s Frank RIBERY. Barca will look to Lionel (who has six goals to his credit) to inspire them to their first win over the Bavarian side. Bayern will welcome Martin DEMICHELIS to their line up after his arrival from international duty. Ironically, upon his return he watched his club getting hammered 1-5 at Wolfsburg over the weekend.
Let’s hope for some great display and goals from the Albiceleste
Monday, April 06, 2009
Manu missed 19 games after the All-Star break before coming back late last month. The Spurs said tests showed Manu had an increased narrow edema and stress fracture in his right distal fibula.
Manu did not play in the fourth quarter in Sunday’s loss at Cleveland. The news is a huge blow to the Spurs with the postseason just a few weeks away. San Antonio plays at Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Manu GINOBILI and the Spurs are struggling, not a good time for such statement during this time of the year. The latest loss is against the Cavaliers 81-101 from which he was only a shadow of himself (4 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals). Despite of this setback, they still maintained their position in third place in the West. But I’m not too sure about their chances this year.
On other hand Andres NOCIONI will miss the post season for the second straight year while Walter HERRMANN does not get enough minutes for the Pistons. So who else is left?
I’m thinking that Luis SCOLA might have a long shot for the title with his Houston Rockets. After all they are playing better basketball in the absence of a certain Tracy McGRADY. They’re latest win against the Portland Trail Blazers (102-88) means they are still in contention to secure home court advantage in the first round.
SCOLA was again a high performer for them, posting 16 points, 6 rebounds & an assist. Still with a very tight situation from which at least 4-5 teams are fighting for position in the West, much of it could change in the weeks to come (with a possibility of these two being a first round match up).
"We were playing a team we have a lot of chance to play in the playoffs," said SCOLA, who made eight of 10 shots for 16 points. "It was a lot of stuff on the floor. It was the four (seed), also the tie-breaker. It was a good statement heading into the playoffs."
For now this is what I see from the current form of our Tall Albiceleste. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
With the International break officialy over, one Albiceleste player certainly made a case for an International Call-Up...
Real Madrid travelled to Malaga in what was a difficult match for Los Blancos. Fernando GAGO and Gonzalo HIGUAÍN played the full 90 minutes for Real Madrid as one set up the other for the game winner. GAGO passed the ball to HIGUAÍN who ran half the length of the pitch and scored in the 49th minute to give Real Madrid the 3 points.
Pablo PIATTI scored the second goal for Almeria as they defeated GONZALO's Villarreal 3-0 at home.
Sadly, those are the only 2 Albicelestes to score on Saturday. Here's to hoping for more goals on Sunday!
Friday, April 03, 2009
Disaster in La Paz! Plenty to talk about after Argentina lost 6-1 in the altitude of Bolivia. For that, John and I are joined by two journalists friends. Martín from Argentina and Rafael from Brazil.
We discuss what went wrong, what should have been done to avoid such a heavy defeat and what comes ahead in Argentina's road to South Africa 2010.
Right-click on the following link and save it as an MP3 file or listen to it in your computer: download.
Enjoy! And don't forget to send us your views to firstname.lastname@example.org or right here in the comments' box.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Ever since the qualification for France 1998, South American national teams have been all competing in only one group of 10, with every team facing each other twice (home and away). Before that, they were divided in two groups (some times more than two groups) and they played teams from their group in a one-month period. The form team, or the lucky one, would often advance, other than the best out of a period of two years of facing every team in the region both home and away.
To add to this explanation, there's something that helps us compare this campaign with the two previous ones. In France 1998, the order was different. Besides, since Brazil were World Cup holders and automatically qualified, there were only 9 teams taking place in the tournament. We can't really compared the current campaign with the one from 1998.
Now, if we compare the 2002 and 2006 campaigns with the current one (10 teams, home and away and same order in the fixtures), here's the result we get.
After the 12th round of matches, Argentina had collected:
29 points in 2002
25 points in 2006
19 points in 2010
Yes, our production when it comes to points collection clearly decreased. OK, but...let's read a little bit in detail into those numbers.
First of all, that BIELSA's team of Argentina set the record of 43 points at the end of the qualifying campaign for 2002. It was a product of 13 wins, 4 draws and only 1 defeat (away to Brazil). In my opinion, that campaign will be impossible to match, let alone beat.
It would be unfair to jump at Diego's jugular because we have 10 points less from what he had in 2002 or six less than this time of the year before Germany 2006. I guess you'll all agree with that. He's only been in charge for two matches and got 50% of the points at stake.
Competition in the region is getting fiercer and fiercer. Teams like Venezuela (even when they haven't taken points from us) are improving and winning games. Venezuela finished their 2002 qualification campaign with 16 points. They had 18 for 2006 and with six games to go, they already have 13 this time.
HOW MANY POINTS DO WE NEED TO QUALIFY?
Let's take a look at the qualified teams for previous World Cups and have in mind the fifth placed team (the one with a right to participate in a playoff to get to the World Cup), needed 27 points in 2002 and 25 points in 2006.
After 10 weeks in the 2002 WCQ campaign, Argentina had 29 points and were leading the standings. Behind them:
Brazil 21 (same as this time around); Paraguay 19; Ecuador and Uruguay 15.
For 2006, Argentina had 25 points and were ahead of Brazil (19); Paraguay (16); Ecuador (13) and Uruguay (11).
Based on statistics and what happened in the previous WCQ tournament, you can say we would need 6 points from our next 6 matches to at least make it to South Africa 2010 through the playoffs by finishing 5th in South America.
But leaders Paraguay are at 24 points (less that what Argentina had in both 2002 and 2006). Teams are beating each other in ways it didn't happen in the past. Chile are pretty much in the mix. Things are changing all the time.
THE KEY IS TO IMPROVE THE AWAY FORM
Several teams still have a good enough shot at that coveted fifth spot and away wins are extremely rare! Out of the 10 matches played between last weekend and Wednesday, only Chile managed to get an away win (at bottom-placed Perú).
This is very true, especially with Argentina.
It's our away form that's making the difference this time around.
Let's see...in 2002 (the record-setting campaign), we won four out of our six away matches up to the 12th round, with one draw (Bolivia) and one defeat (Brazil).
In 2006, we won at Bolivia, Perú and Venezuela, managed draws in Colombia and Chile and lost to Brazil for a 3 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss record.
In the current campaign, we have only defeated Venezuela away from home. Draws with Perú and Brazil and defeats at Colombia, Chile and Bolivia have put is in an uncomfortable position.
Our next visits are not exactly walks in the park: Ecuador (round 14); Paraguay (round 16) and Uruguay (round 18), but with good results at home, we will surely be able to secure enough points to make it to South Africa.
Again, things are tighter than ever before and the good news is that Argentina are 5 points clear from the 6th and 7th placed teams: Colombia and Ecuador. A win in Buenos Aires against Colombia will make it 8 points with only 15 to go. A win in Quito (not looking very likely, but nothing impossible) would also separate Argentina from Ecuador by a good margin of points.
Add to that the fact that Ecuador and Colombia still have to face each other (round 15 in Colombia) and that both have to play Uruguay, which means all of those teams will take points from each other. It's not that easy to cut the distance when you're coming from behind.
Look on the bright side!
This is what he said:
"We didn't expect to lose. Let alone losing by such a margin".
"I'm hurt. Without wanting to make excuses, we struggled to play there. They hit us at every right moment in the match. Bolivia had a perfect game and we couldn't match them".
"They never stopped and they were faster than we were".
"Personally, I think playing in La Paz is impossible, but there's no excuse. All the teams in this qualification campaign have to go and play there".
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Here are the results from the 12nd round of fixtures:
Venezuela 2-0 Colombia
Bolivia 6-1 Argentina (how it hurts!)
Ecuador 1-1 Paraguay
Chile 0-0 Uruguay
Brazil 3-0 Perú
The standings now look like this:
Paraguay 24 points
Brazil 21 points
Chile 20 points
Argentina 19 points
Uruguay 17 points
Colombia 14 points
Ecuador 14 points
Venezuela 13 points
Bolivia 12 points
Perú 7 points
Argentina went down to fourth place after being placed second before the heavy defeat at Bolivia and sure missed a chance to get even closer to Paraguay and widen the gap with the teams aiming for the fifth spot (which guarantees a playoff with the fourth team from the CONCACAF region).
ON THE UP:
In my opinion, Chile and Uruguay are the biggest winners from these two rounds of matches.
Getting four points from a possible total of six, both teams have helped their causes and continue well in contention for a place in the next World Cup (after missing out of Germany).
Brazil, even when some would think they dropped points in Ecuador, escaped with an undeserved point from Quito and had no problems to beat Perú at home to claim second place.
IN THE BUBBLE:
Argentina and Colombia got two easy home wins only to fail dramatically at their next hurdle. For Argentina, the chance of rebounding is bigger and the margin of error too. Colombia can't score for toffee, are currently out of qualification spots and they next visit Buenos Aires.
Paraguay had two difficult away matches. They lost to a fairly solid Uruguayan side at Montevideo, but then they rescued a point in difficult Quito with 10-men against Ecuador to keep their well-earned first place in the standings.
Venezuela looked out of sorts in Buenos Aires but rebounded nicely with a derby win against Colombia. They will need all the luck in the world, but they're in with a realistic shot at making it to their first ever FIFA World Cup.
Bolivia were left with a sweet taste in their mouthes, but 12 total points are still some distance short from looking encouraging. They can build up on their historical win over Argentina but they need to get maximum points from their home matches as well as winning some points away from La Paz.
OUT OF LUCK:
To me Ecuador are the biggest losers of these two matches. At home for both games, they let Brazil escape with a point on Sunday and they repeated the same with Paraguay on Wednesday. Sunday at least had a positive feeling about it because it was Ecuador the one who scored in the dying minutes and it was Brazil. Wednesday was heartbreaking for Ecuador because they conceded so late. Instead of taking a deserved six points, they got only two and they are currently outside qualification places, with only themselves to blame.
Perú are hopeless. Six goals conceded in two matches (1-3 at home to Chile; 0-3 away to Brazil). Only seven points. Last in the standings. Really, there's nothing positive for them to look at at the moment.
The most memorable defeat, that humbled our national team that went to the World Cup in Sweden 1958, came against Czechoslovakia. It was the same result as the one on Wednesday in La Paz. 6-1 to the Europeans.
Another one in a World Cup was the heavy 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Clockwork Orange of Holland in 1974.
When it comes to World Cup Qualifiers, this is the first time we concede 6 goals, but we lost by the same margin of 5 goals in 1993 when Colombia beat us 5-0 at home and left us on the brink of missing out on the USA 1994 World Cup. Eventually, Argentina defeated Australia in a playoff series and made it to the World Cup.
Another 5-0 came against Uruguay in 1959 and one year later we lost 5-1 to Brazil.
It's true. Like it's also true that the altitude played a big part in this terror film.
With all things considered, I would like to ask you to look at the following picture and do as it says: DON'T PANIC, PEOPLE!
Diego said: "Every goal from Bolivia was a dagger to my heart. I can't say much more to our fans. I think any team in the world would have suffered against Bolivia today because they were brilliant. I hope this is a one off and I'm confident we'll come back from this".
Argentina had a poor start and our team failed to find the way to ensure possession and play as far from CARRIZO as possible. Bolivia went ahead, enjoyed a number of goal-scoring chances and hit the bar inside the first 15 minutes.
Just when it looked like Argentina could get something from the game with a lucky break we found when Lucho GONZALEZ scored from distance, reality hit us back.
If I had the chance to turn back the clock, I'll go back in time to the moment when MESSI combined with TEVEZ and got in front of the keeper only to shoot at him and failing to see a wide-open Maxi RODRIGUEZ coming from the right. That would have been 2-1 for Argentina. Even when we clearly weren't playing anywhere near the top of our game.
Instead, a few moments later, CARRIZO couldn't control the ball, ZANETTI then made a school-boy error, lost posession and committed a foul inside the box. 2-1 down.
The definite nail on the coffin came in the last minute of that ugly first half when a perfect counter-attack sent Bolivia 3-1 up.
The rest was history. Everytime a team is forced to chase the result, more goals can come and most like will come instead.
Frustration had the best out of our players, especially DI MARIA, and we were lucky not to lose by more.
The road ahead is still long. Argentina pretty much depend on their own ability and as of right now, we don't need other results to go our way in order to calculate if we can or we can't get to the next World Cup.
I'm a positive person and I'm always looking on the bright side of things. Today, there's not much I can take from this game, but if anything, this is a good experience for Diego and this group of players. I'm confident they will learn a lot from this and they'll be incredibly motivated to shake this loss off when we face Colombia next.
Here's what our man in Albany, New York, has to say about the players' performances from today's disastrous match.
If you're not an Argentina player, you'll enjoy these player ratings even when the grades each and every footballer got is way below sea-level.
Wow! Terrible performance all around on everybody’s end. The altitude was definitely a reason why we were tired and did not have enough air in our lungs but still to lose 6-1 with such a skillful and talented team is very unbelievable. That being said I will attempt to
bring up any positives by our players although they are very microscopic if any. We will have to see how Maradona bounces back from this lose and what changes if any he makes to fire up the Albiceleste playing back on normal altitude grounds.
CARRIZO: 2.5- A little shaky at the beginning of the match but settles in for a couple minutes of the barrage from distance from the Bolivians. The first goal was close range and could do nothing about it. He had some incredible saves from distance but poor reactions from close range, which is not entirely his fault but the defenses. The blunder he had was what unfortunately turned into a PK for Bolivia, and what was he thinking with that attempt to fake out the Bolivian attacker. Also, poor reaction on the last goal that Bolivia scored, not what you would expect from the #1 Argentine goalkeeper. I will not give up on him yet but if he has another poor performance then bring in Romero or Ustari when they are back from injury. Maybe Maradona will bench him in the next games because he probably wont be starting for Lazio either.
ZANETTI: 2- The curious case of Javier was definitely a curious case. He played so well and confident against Venezuela, but today was making every mistake possible. Never made any attacking run, clipped the legs of the player blatantly for the PK, and was last getting back
for two of Bolivia’s goals. If there were any games that showed Zanetti being to old to play, this game was it. Again, I am not jumping ship on Zanetti he has pure talent, is a rock, but he got beat
far to many times today.
DEMICHELIS: 3.5- The best defender on the day which is not saying much at all. Had a few strong challenges and cool calm moves in the back. Was very unlucky that the first goal was scored because of a deflection that fell right into the path of the Bolivian attack. Like Zanetti was late coming back and caught off guard for 2 other of Bolivia’s goals. Seemed to be a bit confused…what happened the Demichelis we saw vs. France.
HEINZE: 2.5- Nothing too ridiculous from Heinze this game, but much like the other defenders was caught flat from the start and seemed confused with how to play defense the entire game. You can’t question his heart though, you could see the passion in his face with everything he was doing and hustled the entire 90 minutes, no reward though. Again like Zanetti and Demi was caught out of position on the ball over the top that put Bolivia up 5-1.
PAPA: 3- Hustle, hustle, hustle. Papa’s work rate is great he is so scrappy and will run up and down the entire pitch the entire game. That being said he was running out of control the majority of this game, he would be up at the opponents box and leave gaps in the back which caused pressure. Should have made the tackle on the player in the box for the first goal that was scored. It will be interesting to see what Maradona does with the defense for the next games. Will he go
back to the 3 man line? There are many defenders that deserve a shot at the NT especially after this result. Gonzalo? Zabaleta? Garay? Monzon? I’ll leave it at that
Maxi RODRIGUEZ: 2.5- Not much to say for Maxi this game. Did get involved with some good runs in the beginning of the game. Did nothing to help out defensively and was really quiet, much like all of our midfield. Did have a few attempts at distributing up to Tevez and Messi but was late on all attempts. Did not play well with the Bolivian’s pressuring him with every touch.
MASCHERANO: 2- Really? Come on Mascherano...Our usual heart and soul of the Albiceleste did absolutely nothing at all today. No hustle back tracking runs to disrupt the opponent’s attack, no helping the back 4 with defense, which he did so well for the back 3 against Venezuela.
It was almost like he was not even on the field. He gave the Bolivians way too much space to attempt all those long-range shots at Carrizo all game. I was sitting hear waiting for the team to be like okay they are taking long shots lets step up to stop this, and it never happened. Poor play by Javier. Also, all his passes were off today as well…I don’t want to sound like it’s the end of the world, because its not at all we just need to take a long break and think and learn from what happened today. I feel that this result will make us a stronger and more aware team in the future.
GAGO: 3.5- Player of the game if we are even aloud to have one after this performance. Was a little sloppy on the ball at times but also showed pure class touches and control. You could see he was trying so hard with everything he did, it just was not working out or was unlucky. Of all the players on the team he was the one that was most involved. Everyone on the team was sitting back and never even seemed like they wanted to attack. Gago would win the ball and push it up
field looking to distribute to Messi n Tevez. Good play by Gago just unlucky that no one else on our team felt like playing hard today.
Lucho GONZALEZ: 2- Should be a 1 but he did score a goal, a lucky goal, but a goal none the less. Very poor play by Lucho today, seemed like he was lost out there on the wing, was always in bad defensive position; sometimes he wasn’t even in any position. In the beginning of the game Bolivia were taking advantage of his side because they knew he does not know how to defend. Many chances were created because the majority of the time Lucho was just walking back and letting players go by him.
The altitude was definitely effecting him the most out of all players, but if it is let the coach know and make a change so that you don’t become a detriment to the team.
TEVEZ: 3- The altitude and the Bolivian pressure was too much for Carlitos today. He did show his immense amount of heart and work rate just to no avail today. Had a few good combinations with Messi that allowed Messi to have 1on1’s with the goalie. When he did combine with Messi it was good combination, but this was only 3 or 4 times all game because we were on our heels the entire game.
MESSI: 2.5- Again Messi is truly a special player, however, today nothing was working for him. He touched the ball a lot less then Tevez and it seemed like he was not coming to the ball at all today, like he didn’t want it. When he combined with Tevez it was good to see that, however both times he got in on the goalie he either went for a chip, when the low shot was the proper choice, or favored his left foot like he always does when the right foot would have had the angle to score.
Not a good performance by Messi today, not a good performance by the entire team today. Hopefully Maradona will turn this around in the next round of qualifiers and make changes that are needed to better our team to seal a qualification spot to South Africa.
DI MARIA: 0- Came on for Maxi in the 56th minute, and was a little spark for us as he added quick pace to the game and even attempted to shoot on the keeper from distance which no one was doing. Then the child and lack of experience came out in Di Maria. The blatant kick of the legs of the Bolivian defender. For this he got a straight red card because he also mocked the referee by putting his hand up like a ref does when they book someone. Very very poor decision, the frustration settled and got the best of Di Maria in less then 10 minutes. He has the talent, but after that decision who knows if he will be called back up.
Again I don’t want to make it seem like it’s the end of the world because it’s not. But this performance was weak especially coming off of the 4-0 win. They all knew that it was going to be in the high altitude, and we are technically, physically, and skillfully far better then Bolivia. It’s a sad day for me, as it is for all us Albiceleste followers to see us fall 6-1. But we will regroup and
Maradona will most likely make some changes for the next games and then we will see what we are really made of.
Also, a lot of people don't know that they can actually WATCH the match online without having to pay and without doing anything against the law.
Here are some guidelines for you to be able to watch Argentina at Bolivia and to know when to set up your alarm so you don't miss the start of the match.
First thing first. Check your local time.
I'll help you by listing the local time for some major cities in different parts of the world.
The match will start at 3:30 PM local time in La Paz.
That's 4:30 PM Buenos Aires.
3:30 PM New York (and the whole Eastern coast of the USA).
8:30 PM London
9:30 PM Paris/Rome/Madrid
3:30 AM on Thursday for Beijing.
For more and to find out exactly what time will be in your city when the match kicks off, visit this website:
World Time Server.
To watch it?
The easiest way is to visit this link:
Bolivia v. Argentina.
No need to download a software or anything.
Other options (software download required):
Roja Directa. (Scroll down until you find the link to the match)
Then of course you can chat with us and other fans during the match.
Not long before the match starts, but you still have time to listen to our podcast show.
Right-click on the following link and save it as an MP3 file or listen to it in your computer: Mundo Albiceleste's Podcast.