December 13, 2013
Qualifiers previewFriday, October 11, 2013
Argentine, without Messi, hosts Peru today
Argentina will not hold back despite having already qualified for the World Cup finals or lost four top players including Lionel Messi to injury when they host Peru in a qualifier today.
Coach Alejandro Sabella also will be without Gonzalo Higuaín, Fernando Gago and Javier Mascherano, normal shoe-ins to his first choice team, for the match at the Monumental at 8pm and its last qualifier away to Uruguay next Tuesday.
Argentina’s goal is to win the South American group as a reaction to the difficulties it had to qualify under former coach Diego Maradona four years ago for the 2010 finals in South Africa.
“The team is not confirmed yet, but we will play with the same players we were practicing all week,” said Sabella in a press conference yesterday.
It means that the Argentine will play with: Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Federico Fernández, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo; Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Ángel Di María; Rodrigo Palacio, Sergio Agüero and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
“Our goal was to qualify for the World Cup and we did it. That gives as more confidence. However, we must be focus inside the field to give everything in this two matches.”
Four years ago Maradona’s team went into the corresponding two qualifiers against Peru and Uruguay with qualification in the balance.
A dramatic victory in a downpour, secured with a late winner by substitute Martín Palermo and memorably celebrated by Maradona diving onto the waterlogged Monumental pitch, eased the tension.
Four days later, Argentina sneaked into the tournament in South Africa with a 1-0 win over Uruguay at the Centenario in Montevideo and Maradona insulted Argentine reporters who had dared to doubt his abilities as national team coach.
Sabella’s team, in contrast, coasted into the 2014 finals in Brazil with a 5-2 victory over Paraguay in Asunción last month and two matches to spare, taking the pressure off the visit of eliminated Peru and the trip to Uruguay.
Argentina has 29 points from 14 matches, three points more than Colombia, which needs one point from today’s match at home to Chile to secure its first ticket to the finals for 16 years.
The climate in Barranquilla could be a handicap for the Chileans used to cooler temperatures but coach Jorge Sampaoli said his main worry was opponents on a run of five successive home wins.
“Our opponents, with the arrival of their present trainer, have marked a difference with the rest of the national teams,” Sampaoli said, referring to fellow Argentine José Pekerman. “They’ve scored a lot of goals at home (14), had none scored against them and won all their matches (at home since the new coach took over).”
Chile has 24 points and Ecuador (22) is in the other two automatic qualifying places with Uruguay, also on 22, in the berth for a playoff with Jordan.
Uruguay visits Quito for a key clash with the Ecuadoreans today.
Herald with agencies