Maradona's last chanceTuesday, October 13, 2009
As the River Plate battle approaches
Argentina and Uruguay will clash on Wednesday at what is known as to be the oldest derby between national teams in the world. The River Plate derby is definitely one of the most passionate in world football, and due to the importance of the match tempers are likely to flare.
Since the teams met for the very first time on July 20, 1902 at the Paso del Molino stadium in Uruguay (Argentina won 6-0) there has been a great rivalry between them both.
Uruguay will claim the three points against fierce rivals Argentina at the Centenario stadium so they can qualify directly for the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
These two teams have already encountered each other in decisive moments. Uruguay beat Argentina in the final of the 1930 World Cup, which was staged at the Centenario stadium, venue of Wednesday's game, and prior to that the Uruguayans had also defeated their neighbours in the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games' football final. The two sides also played against each other on 10 Americas Cup finals having Uruguay triumphed in eight of them.
Since then, however, Argentina have had the upper hand. In 180 official meetings between both sides (many recall up to 220 derbies, but there are few who support it since many of them were played between both countries leagues all-star teams which included non-native players on both sides and cannot be counted as official). Argentina have claimed 77 victories, with Uruguay claiming 52. There have been 44 draws.
Argentina haven't beaten Uruguay playing away since June 9, 1976 when the Atlantic Cup was played and won by the Pampas gauchos. Last time both teams saw each other in Montevideo was in 2005 when Uruguay edged Argentina 1-0 in the final match of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. While on that occasion Argentina went directly through to the World Cup, Uruguay missed out on Germany, after losing on penalties to Australia via the playoff, after both teams were locked 1-1 on aggregate after both legs.
For the first round of the current qualifiers, Argentina beat Uruguay 2-1 at the Monumental Stadium of Nuñez.
Argentina and Uruguay played a total of 7 qualifying games starting with a 0-0 draw in 1997. Argentina holds 3 wins, with Uruguay claiming 1, and 3 tied matches.
Oscar Washington Tabárez counts with a formidable squad, where Diego Forlán of Atlético Madrid and Luis Suarez of Ajax Amsterdam rein supreme in the attack. Both players were on the score-sheet in Uruguay's dramatic comeback victory over Ecuador last Saturday. Uruguay will be hoping to take full advantage of the fact that they will be playing at home in front of their own fans. Less than 24 hours before the match tickets were made available to the general public the tickets for the game were sold-out as a passionate crowd of 70,000 Uruguayans is expected to steer Uruguay into next year's World Cup.
Argentina are just a point away from direct entry to the World Cup and a draw will buy them a one way ticket for South Africa. After Maradona's team claimed their first victory against Perú, after three successive defeats in the World Cup qualifiers, but they are well aware that Uruguay aren't Perú, and the fact that they will be received by a hostile home crowd in Montevideo.
Diego Maradona's side will have to be on top of their game at all moments, but if Argentina perform in the same manner as they did against Perú last Saturday when veteran Boca Juniors striker Martín Palermo had to save Maradona's job in the last minute of aggregate, they will be in for a difficult time.
Maradona has been constantly criticized for not yet find an effective game plan for his side, as also for not putting the players to work together as a team. Argentina's fate depends on the performances of their individuals players like Gonzalo Higuaín, Lionel Messi, Juan Sebastián Verón, Carlos Tévez, and Javier Mascherano.
As the local media hardly criticized Maradona's side performance, the former football star seems to be thinking of making four changes. In will come Martín Demichelis, Nicolás Otamendi, Rodrigo Braña and Juan Sebastian Verón.
The coach may also make some final-minute alterations, and this could mean that Nicolás Pareja could also be part of the starting lineup. Everything indicates that Argentina will be looking for a draw in Montevideo, a result that will send them directly to South Africa 2010.