December 9, 2013
SOCCER — WORLD CUP QUALIFIERSTuesday, October 15, 2013
Uruguay hosts Argentina but thinks of Jordan
Has little chance for automatic berth
Angel Di María and Sergio Agüero will miss Argentina’s final South American World Cup qualifier against Uruguay as the team, which has already booked their place at next year’s finals prepare to field yet more reserves.
MONTEVIDEO — Uruguay may be resigned to having to face a playoff for their World Cup ticket but it takes on Argentina today with the incentive of protecting its high FIFA ranking to ensure that if it does make it, it will be among the seeds in Brazil.
Argentina has already qualified and it would take an unlikely combination of results for Uruguay to snatch another of the automatic berths but victory in Montevideo should go a long way to keeping them ranked in the world’s top eight.
Uruguay seems destined for a playoff with Asia’s Jordan and if it then makes it to Brazil 2014, it would hope to be one of the eight seeds — based on world rankings — when the groups are drawn which should mean avoiding an early encounter with one of the favourites.
South America’s oldest rivalry, dating back to 1901 when Argentina and Uruguay played their first friendly in Montevideo, resumes at the Centenario today (8.30pm Argentine time) where the teams meet in their final qualifier.
“It’s certainly an incentive to win the ‘clásico’ and if there’s a chance we have to defend it (our ranking) to the death,” said Uruguay captain Diego Lugano, whose team is number seven in the world.
Lugano, who led Uruguay to the 2010 World Cup semifinals in South Africa, said that despite being one yellow card away from a suspension, he would not hold back for fear of missing the first leg of next month’s playoff.
“Those three points could seal our place as seeds and that’s why they’re very important,” Uruguayan FA chief Sebastian Bauza told reporters. Coach Oscar Tabárez, on the other hand, gave little importance to the issue of seeding, saying: “It’s not something that worries me. I recall that when the draw was made for 2010, we were practically receiving condolences because it was the group of death and I don’t how many other things. It’s all relative and the world won’t end for us if we’re not seeds.”
Lugano and Tabárez have said the chances of qualifying directly today defy logic since they need a big win and for Chile or Ecuador to win their match in Santiago by a large margin.
As things stand, with Uruguay three points behind both of them, Chile and Ecuador look set to take the last two automatic berths, sending the Uruguayans to the playoff. Colombia has already qualified alongside group winners Argentina.
The last time Argentina played at the Centenario in October 2009, Diego Maradona’s side beat Uruguay 1-0 to book their ticket to the South Africa finals in 2010. Since then, Uruguay eliminated host Argentina in the 2011 Copa América quarterfinals on penalties and Lionel Messi’s team exacted revenge with a 3-0 victory in their home qualifier in Mendoza a year ago.
Messi and several other first-choice players will be missing for Argentina, who booked their ticket to Brazil last month, with coach Alejandro Sabella poised to field even more reserves than on Friday when his side beat Peru 3-1 in Buenos Aires.