A point in the River Plate derby will be enough to send Argentina straight to South Africa…
Wednesday, October 14, 2009. 18:00 ET, Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, Uruguay
Since the teams met for the very first time way back in 1900 there has been a great rivalry between them both. Uruguay beat Argentina in the final of the 1930 World Cup, which was staged at the Centenario stadium, venue of Wednesday's game. Since then, however, Argentina have had the upper hand. In 219 meetings between the sides Argentina have claimed 92 victories, with Uruguay claiming 72. There have been 55 draws.
One Win Away From Glory
Two-time world champions Uruguay seemed practically out of the running for a World Cup place after their unexpected defeat to Peru in Lima last month, however, their chances of qualifying have been restored after impressive victories over Colombia in Montevideo and over Ecuador in Quito. Due to this if Uruguay claim the three points against fierce rivals Argentina at the Centenario stadium on Wednesday they will qualify directly for the World Cup for the first time since 2002. The River Plate derby is one of the most passionate in world football, and due to the importance of the match tempers are likely to flare.
The fact that Uruguay will be up against their greatest rivals adds extra spice to the encounter. La Celeste have experienced mixed fortunes against their “big brother” in the past and know that, despite Argentina’s poor form, they will have to be at their very best to pick up the desired result. Uruguay, who defeated Argentina 4-2 at the Centenario stadium in the final of the first World Cup in 1930, suffered a 2-1 loss the last time the teams met, in the first round of World Cup qualifying. However, four years ago, Uruguay edged Argentina 1-0 in the final match of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup with a strike from Alvaro Recoba. While on that occasion Argentina went directly through to the World Cup, Uruguay missed out on Germany, after losing on penalties to Australia via the playoff, after both teams were locked 1-1 on aggregate after both legs.
Oscar Washington Tabarez counts with a formidable squad, where Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid and Luis Suarez of Ajax Amsterdam rein supreme in the attack. Both players were on the score-sheet in Uruguay’s dramatic comeback victory over Ecuador on Saturday. La Celeste have plenty of options in all sectors of the field, and will be hoping to take full advantage of the fact that they will be playing at home in front of their own fans. Less than 24 hours before the match tickets were made available to the general public the tickets for the game were sold-out. A passionate crowd of 70,000 will be hoping to steer Uruguay into the World Cup in South Africa.
Last Chance For Los Albicelestes
Argentina are just a point away from direct entry to the World Cup, but they are well aware that Uruguay aren’t Peru, and the fact that they will be received by a hostile home crowd in Montevideo means Diego Maradona’s side will have to be on top of their game at all moments. Argentina have struggled in Montevideo in the past, and if they perform in the same manner as they did against Peru on Saturday they will be in for a difficult time. Los Albicelestes couldn’t find their feet at the Monumental stadium, and were lucky to have claimed an unlikely victory well into second-half stoppage-time.
Despite this, Argentina demonstrated that they will fight right until the end, and if they confront the game with Uruguay with this same mentality it would increase their chances of picking up a positive result. After some strange team selections in past games, Maradona chose a solid Argentina side against Peru, and although they played poorly they reached their objective, which was to claim the three points. Maradona was also praised, because he presented Gonzalo Higuain with a starting role, and the striker scored Argentina’s first goal. Then, in the second half he sent on 35-year-old veteran Martin Palermo, and the Boca Juniors idol rescued Argentina the victory with a crucial injury-time strike. After the game, however, Maradona affirmed that Higuain and Palermo won’t play together against Peru because they are much too similar, and he’d rather have a smaller player to open up space for whichever of the two plays.
Argentina claimed their first victory against Peru, after three successive defeats in the World Cup qualifiers, but once again they lacked coherence. Maradona has yet to find an effective game plan for his side, and because of this much of their fate depends on the performances of their individuals. Capable players like Lionel Messi, Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Mascherano will have to be at their best, because otherwise Argentina will struggle against the Uruguayans.
Unfortunately Argentina’s main weaknesses are that they don’t work together as a team, and due to this they could be completely ripped apart by a compact Uruguay side. However, Argentina count with an abundance of talent in their squad, and will be much more confident after their heroic victory over Peru. Los Albicelestes are well aware of the importance of the match, and Maradona is expected to pack his midfield, because a draw would likely send the team straight to South Africa. In the past two editions of the qualifiers Argentina were said to have given Uruguay a hand to gift their neighbours of fifth-place and a spot in the playoffs. It is unknown whether both teams will agree to take the same approach this time.
10 October (WCQ) Ecuador 1-2 Uruguay
9 September (WCQ) Uruguay 3-1 Colombia
5 September (WCQ) Peru 1-0 Uruguay
12 August (Friendly) Algeria 1-0 Uruguay
10 June (WCQ) Venezuela 2-2 Uruguay
10 October (WCQ) Argentina 2-1 Peru
30 September (Friendly) Argentina 2-0 Ghana
9 September (WCQ) Paraguay 1-0 Argentina
5 September (WCQ) Argentina 1-3 Brazil
12 August (Friendly) Russia 2-3 Argentina
Oscar Washington Tabarez has decided to field exactly the same side that beat Ecuador. He was happy with his team's display, and will also be able to count with the services of Cristian Rodriguez, who has recovered from injury. But the FC Porto midfielder will start the game from the bench. Like is usually the case with Tabarez, he could make some last minute changes.
Probable Starting XI: Muslera, Scotti, Lugano, Caceres, Pereira, Perez, Gargano, Rodriguez, Pereira, Suarez and Forlan.
Diego Maradona knows that Argentina's defence is leaky, and for that reason he had decided to field four defenders. The newcomers are likely to be Martin Demichelis and Nicolas Otamendi, while Nicolas Pareja also has a chance to be slotted in. In midfield Juan Sebastian Veron returns to be side and he will be partnered by Estudiantes team-mate Rodrigo Brana. But there's no place in the attack for Saturday's hero Martin Palermo, as Gonzalo Higuain will keep his place.
Probable Starting XI: Romero, Demichelis, Schiavi, Heinze, Otamendi, Mascherano, Gutierrez, Brana, Veron, Messi and Higuain.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Uruguay – Diego Forlan
The Atletico Madrid scoring machine was Uruguay’s saviour on Saturday after blasting in a brilliant penalty kick in the final minute of stoppage time that handed his side a crucial victory. Despite not being provided with good service during the game, the striker always looked dangerous when inside of the area.
Forlan is likely to be Uruguay’s main inspiration against Argentina, and if he is able to link up well with strike partner Luis Suarez Uruguay could be unstoppable. Argentina have much reason to be concerned.
Argentina – Lionel Messi
The best player in the world hasn’t been able to transmit his Barcelona form into the national team and this has hurt the performance of the side. Whether the reason is because of the tactics employed by Maradona, the quality of his team-mates, or the fact that he can’t deal with the extra pressure that comes with playing for the national team, Messi can’t afford to have any excuses against Uruguay.
‘La Pulga’ will be hoping to prove his critics wrong by playing a key role in an attempt to send Argentina to South Africa. With Juan Sebastian Veron back, the chances of this happening are all the greater.
The River Plate derby is one of the biggest rivalries in world football, and with so much at stake the clash promises to be the most exciting of the entire World Cup qualifiers. Argentina have been extremely disappointing in recent months, and because of this they could be under an enormous amount of pressure against the pumped Uruguayans.
With a ticket to South Africa in touching distance both teams will fight right until the death. It will surely be an even contest, and home-field advantage could steer it Uruguay’s way.
Uruguay 2-1 Argentina
Gregory Sica, Goal.com