Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Diego´s Argentina need to bounce back

SoccerNews in World Cup 6 Jun 2009

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It’s getting close to crunch time for Argentina approaching the final straight of Latin America’s long slog of 2010 World Cup qualifying.

A 6-1 mauling in their last outing at high altitude in Bolivia in April was the albiceleste’s worst loss in six decades and heaped acute embarrassment on coach Diego Maradona, whose side have to seek redemption Saturday at home to Colombia.

Argentina currently occupy the last of the four guaranteed qualifying slots for the finals in South Africa with 19 points from 12 games – five adrift of Paraguay, two behind eternal rivals Brazil and one shy of Chile’s 20.

With Uruguay breathing down their necks on 17 points the Argentines cannot afford to slip up against a Colombian side which would, in the event of a shock win, close the gap to just two points in a tight regional contest.

As Maradona, a controversial choice as coach last year, seeks to fend off the increasingly frequent brickbats, Brazil counterpart Dunga is not without his own critics as media and fans alike moan that his style is not as full of flair as they might like.

But in defence, Dunga has assembled an effective unit as witnessed by just five goals conceded to date.

A win in Montevideo would move the Brazilians seven points ahead of Uruguay with just five games to go – but the visitors will be aware that they have not tasted success at the Centenario stadium since 1976.

In addition, Uruguay, while infuriatingly inconsistent, have scored more goals, 21, than anyone else in the group.

The Uruguayans have every reason to want to avoid the potential heartbreaker of a playoff against the fourth-placed side from the North American and Caribbean grouping Concacaf as they lost out in 2005 to Australia at the same stage.

As Brazil and Argentina try to keep the flag flying for the big guns it is Paraguay who will be out to retain the top spot they have hung onto since the early stages although third-placed Chile will be a tough rival in Asuncion.

Ecuador, level on 14 points with Colombia, will bid to stay in the hunt with an away win Sunday over rock bottom Andean rivals Peru in Lima while in the remaining encounter Bolivia will seek to use the altitude once again to their advantage against fellow strugglers Venezuela.

Fixtures (All times GMT):

Saturday

At Montevideo: Uruguay v Brazil (1900)

At La Paz: Bolivia v Venezuela (2050)

At Buenos Aires: Argentina v Colombia (2100)

At Asuncion: Paraguay v Chile (2250)

Sunday

At Lima: Peru v Ecuador (2030)

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