December 7, 2013
SOCCER — WORLD CUP QUALIFIERSTuesday, September 10, 2013
Argentine victory would clinch spot
May also qualify before kick-off
Argentina visits Paraguay today at 10.40pm with the strong possibility of securing a spot in the 2014 World Cup but the national team may also qualify if Uruguay or Ecuador, which play earlier, fail to win.
ASUNCION — A point may be enough for Argentina if either Ecuador or Uruguay fail to win their games to guarantee its place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A single point is all that is required for Colombia, who shares the top of the standings with Argentina, to qualify.
Argentina and Colombia face away trips to Paraguay and Uruguay respectively, two teams in dire need of positive results.
Nor are the other encounters on the 16th of 18 rounds of qualifiers any less pivotal. Ecuador travels to already eliminated Bolivia in La Paz determined to cling onto fourth place, while Venezuela and Peru meet in Puerto La Cruz in a must-win clash for both sides.
Argentina knows that a win in Paraguay will guarantee its involvement in an 11th consecutive edition of the global finals. Given it is involved in the day’s last match, the team coached by Alejandro Sabella could already have qualified by kick-off time should Uruguay or Ecuador lose, as this pair must still meet on the penultimate matchday.
Argentina have lost their last two qualifying encounters in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion, though they will be boosted by Lionel Messi’s presence in their starting line-up. La Albirroja would surely have been hoping for otherwise, given only a win will keep alive their slim hopes of fifth spot and the ensuing intercontinental play-off. Indeed, so lengthy are the odds against them, they may already be out of the running by kick-off time at the Defensores del Chaco stadium.
Sabella did not confirm yesterday the starting line-up at the press conference but he said that the team should not relax today and that he expect to seal the World Cup spot in this round.
“We feel the responsibility of facing a qualifier and we have to do our best with the aim of qualifying. We will face a team which is in playoff spot contention and is always a tough contender,” said Sabella.
Sabella will have another chance to test his team-building, fielding a side lacking four first-choice players through suspension and left back Marcos Rojo due to injury.
Striker Gonzalo Higuaín is serving the second of a two-match ban and midfielder Javier Mascherano the first while centre backs Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernández have accumulated two bookings each.
However, Sabella welcomes back Fernando Gago, whose midfield playmaking affords Messi the freedom to play just behind the strikers across the face of attack where he causes the most damage.
“We have a good team, the players are feeling good inside and outside the pitch. I am very confident. Leo (Messi)’s comeback makes us better because we know what the best player in the world means,” added Sabella.
Herald staff with FIFA, DyN