Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
As readers (or perhaps that should be ‘the reader’) of this blog will know, Argie Bargy isn’t the biggest fan of the Sudamericana.
It’s a bit like a pre-season friendly, or a supercup, or its European equivalent, the, er, Europa League.
It only counts, people only care, if you win it. Then you can shout about it.
There will be no Argentine shouting this year, at least not in the Sudamericana.
In the earlier phases of the Meekee Mouse competition, Lanús knocked River Plate out, Vélez did the same to Boca, while San Lorenzo made sure that Tigre were going nowhere.
Although that halved the number of Argentinian teams in a cup where the sponsor’s name seems to feature in a considerably larger font that the name of the tournament itself, the remaining trio - Lanús, Vélez and San Lorenzo - looked good value to go far.
Or at least that’s what everyone in Argentina thought.
Lanús then travelled to Quito and, taking a leaf out of the Maradonian book of Dealing With Altitude, conceded three goals in the first half an hour, rendering the remaining 150 minutes of the tie null and void.
Not to worry, declared the Argentine press. One down, two to go!
San Lorenzo and Vélez were quickly crowned joint favourites by the national press.
The Ciclón are drilling out results under Simeone! Vélez are a well-oiled machine under Ricardo Gareca! We’re playing teams from Ecuador and Uruguay!
You know where this is going.
There's not one Argentine team in the last four of the competition.
Having won 1-0 in Uruguay, Simeone expected to progress without any trouble in the return leg against River Plate.
They had the away-goal advantage. And River Plate – the Uruguayan club – are far from a force on the continent. (Actually, the same goes for the Argentine club).
Simeone put out three centre-forwards and gave one youngster his third-ever appearance in professional football.
And judging by the way San Lorenzo performed, he also forgot to tell the lads that the game wasn’t just a training exercise.
The Uruguayans won 1-0 to take the game to penalties, and no amount of Grobbelaar/Dudek impersonations from Pablo Migliore could save the men from Boedo.
San Lorenzo lost the shootout 7-6 and Migliore didn’t save a single spot-kick. He scored one but bought two of the most theatrically poor dummies, making him the logical scapegoat.
Five down, one to go.
It was up to Vélez to restore local pride and maintain Argentine interest in the Sudamericana.
At half-time against Liga de Quito on Thursday, things were looking good.
A goal just before the break gave them the advantage, but two goals in seven minutes in the second half put paid to any hopes of Argentine representation in the last four.
All of this means that as another eternal round of football gets going – this ‘weekend’ runs from Friday night to Monday evening – thoughts now turn to qualification for the Libertadores.
As things stand, Vélez and Estudiantes will be in there, along with this season’s champion.
Then it goes down to the glorious idiosyncrasy of Argentine football - averages.
Basing qualification on the performance over the last two seasons, as things stand it is Cólon, Lanús and Banfield who are in the three driving seats.
Not a Big Fiver amongst them. Perhaps they thought they were playing in the Sudamericana...
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That an Argentinean team is not in the final four is a cause for celebration my friend.
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