Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

By Nick Dorrington

Twenty years ago Colombia traveled to Buenos Aires needing just a draw to confirm their place at the 1994 World Cup and consign their hosts, Argentina, to a playoff against Australia. What followed was one of the most famous victories in the history of World Cup qualifying, a 5-0 thrashing which, via the endorsement of Pelé, elevated Colombia to a position among the favorites for the upcoming World Cup.

Diego Barragán was on the Colombian bench that day. A coach and physical preparation specialist, he had worked alongside Francisco Maturana at Atlético Nacional and Real Valladolid and was an integral part of the national team coaching set-up. He remembers that the team was full of confidence ahead of the fixture.

“We had a history with the Argentine national team,” he recalls. “In the Copa America of 1987 we won 2-1 in the same city and the same stadium as the 5-0, against the team that was the champion of the world in Mexico ’86 and still had the same coach, Carlos Bilardo. In 1989 we beat them 1-0 in Barranquilla, and in the Copa America of 1993 in Ecuador we drew 0-0 and they won on penalties. We had also been very good in qualifying up to that point and had beaten them 2-1 at home.”

The team could sense the tension of the locals from the moment they arrived in Argentina and so there was little need for Maturana or his staff to go to any great lengths to get the players motivated for the match. “It is interesting that before the match the coach did not speak much,” Barragán remembers. “We had seen a lot of worried Argentina supporters on our trip from the hotel to the stadium, which bred confidence. The key topic was the ball: keep it, play well and the game will be ours.”

A draw would have been enough for Colombia to qualify, but the team was not set up to play for that result. “It has never been part of my footballing philosophy to play for a draw and that was the same with the national team,” Barragán explains. “We didn’t care too much about results. In football, the team who has the ball and shows intent to win is usually the one who does.”

Colombia suffered a few scares in the first half, with goalkeeper Óscar Córdoba alert to cut out a couple of attempted through balls and the hosts flashing a couple of other chances wide. But they took the lead just before the interval when Carlos Valderrama snaked between two challenges and slid a ball through to Freddy Rincón, who took it superbly in his stride, rounded the goalkeeper and finished into the empty net.

Valderrama was at the heart of all of Colombia’s best play. Strong in possession and with devilishly quick feet in close quarters, he was the focal point through which his side’s attacks were built. “Valderrama was one of the key components of the national team,” Barragán explains. “He was vital in the construction of the style in which we wanted to play. But his role was given importance by the players who surrounded him and were also vital in developing the Colombian style of football: Rincón, Faustino Asprilla, Leonel Álvarez, Adolfo Valencia, Andrés Escobar, Luis Herrera.”

Five minutes after the restart Colombia were 2-0 up, Asprilla turning inside a defender and prodding the ball into the back of the net. “When Asprilla scored the second at the start of the second half, we repeated our previous instructions,” Barrágan recalls. “We told the team to play with intelligence and to try and keep possession for longer to play a little with the frustration of the Argentines.”

The team did that and more, with further goals from Rincon, Asprilla and Valencia sealing a famous victory that would have eliminated their hosts had Paraguay not failed to win in Peru. It was a result that changed everything. “After the match many people, as we say here, ‘jumped on the bus of victory,’ and there were sponsors, politicians and directors who got involved and contributed nothing but chaos,” Barragán remembers. “After the 5-0 we could not work in the way that we needed to.

“People forgot that the results were achieved because of the work we did between 1987 and 1990, and from 1992 to 1993. For example, for the qualifiers in 1993 we had 18 weeks of training and nearly the same amount of matches – 16 between friendlies and qualifying. There were 126 training sessions and we were together in concentration for 18 weeks, 10 without travel or time off. Afterwards everything was improvised.”

What came next is well documented. Colombia arrived in the United States as many people’s dark horses to win the World Cup, but suffered a humiliating group stage exit, losing to Romania and the host nation. Defender Andrés Escobar paid for the failure with his life when he was gunned down in Medellín a few days after returning from the tournament.

But despite Colombia’s inability to turn their potential into tournament success, the 5-0 win over Argentina brought worldwide attention to the talent of the country’s footballers and is a match that will always hold a position of significance in the history of Colombian football. “It was an important historical moment,” Barragán explains. “Twenty years have passed and we are still talking about it.

“A few days after the match I spoke with an Argentine friend and he said to me, ‘How many of your squad play abroad?’ And at the time there were maybe one or two. We defeated Argentina and suddenly five or six more moved away. Just a few years later we became exporters. Today that history is displayed through Falcao, Jackson, Zuñiga, Cuadrado and others. Colombian players are now stars on the world stage.”


So much so he’s a card-carrying fan. Literally. What a de-monstrance-ation of his support! There’s certainly no one mitre-er than San Lorenzo, after all. The club was named after a priest, so it would be a cardinal sin not to support them! I’m the Honest Ed of football blogs!

They don’t play:

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s tax chief laid out new rules Thursday aimed at reducing tax evasion and money laundering in soccer, the country’s sacred national pastime.

Ricardo Echegaray has made Argentina’s soccer clubs responsible, starting Friday, for putting the profits from player transfers into special bank accounts. Player contracts must be reported along with these profits, and the investors and agents involved must be registered as representing the player. If any of the income or other information they declare doesn’t match, the tax agency will block those responsible from operating within Argentina’s financial system.

Argentina is the world’s top exporter of soccer players, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in profits as thousands of players are transferred from team to team each year. But Echegaray says the players themselves are often cheated by shadowy businessmen hiding their cash, and their clubs are put at a major disadvantage as powerful financial interests control the cash that drives the game.

This is the fruition of the rampant reliance of all parties on third party player ownership, wherein agents, sports management companies, and dodgy investor groups purchase the economic rights to a player and reap the rewards of any potential transfer. It ostensibly benefits Argentinian clubs who may not otherwise be able to compete for the signature of younger star players, but it’s also susceptible to abuse, with transfer monies leaving the country to far and away global interests, who are often concealed.

Earlier this week, Michel Platini reaffirmed his desire to ban third-party ownership outright in Europe:

[Platini] wants to end the third-party ownership of players’ transfer rights but that is being fiercely opposed by agents who contend it would be a disaster for smaller clubs who depend on outside financing to secure big names.

The issue came up repeatedly at a two-day football conference in Dubai with several agents complaining the issue was being mischaracterised in the press and that imposing a ban – which is already in place in France and England – would only serve to further widen the gap between big and small clubs.

Platini would presumably say that the egregious transfer fee inflation permitted by clubs able to spend well in excess of turnover is the disease, and that third-party ownership an unfortunate symptom. Ideally, instead of hoping for a cheap buy from a third party owner, smaller clubs would turn to the old, less flashy method of developing young stars to sell on to bigger clubs in order to help boost their finances, and, with good management, their on-field fortunes.

But whatever, money is money, and the Kia Joorabchians still need to peddle the phony line about helping out the little guy while they rake in money that rightfully belongs both to the player and the clubs they sell to.

It seems appropriate that on the day before Christmas I’m writing about yet another Neymar transfer rumour. Despite his oft-repeated intention to stay at Santos—at least for the time being—the 20-year-old nevertheless remains atop the wishlist of almost every European club that can afford him.

For three years talent scouts have been dispatched to the Vila with care, in hopes that Neymar soon would be theirs.

Manchester City’s Txiki Begiristain is just the latest club official to have made the pilgrimage to Santos, where he is thought to have spent two days making overtures to the São Paulo side and the player’s other rights-holders regarding a move to Eastlands at the end of the Premier League season.

City are by no means the only club with designs on prying Neymar from the Vila Belmiro before the 2014 World Cup, which is widely understood to be the point in time when the world’s best footballer not currently playing in Europe will most seriously entertain offers from the other side of the Atlantic. But their interest did find its way into the English press, and while that in and of itself doesn’t make such rumours worth addressing, the resulting commotion and potential misunderstanding of the situation probably warrants a brief response.

So here it is.

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When nearly a year-and-a-half has passed between Superclásicos, anticipation will no doubt be unprecedented. Nerves will be threadbare; tickets will be all but impossible to come by.

Earlier this week River Plate—one half of South America’s existential derby—temporarily suspended ticket sales for Sunday’s match against eternal rivals Boca Juniors because, as they said in a statement, “With record demand we have decided not to sell to non-members of the club.”

A special website for Superclásico reservations had already crashed due to the volume of visitors, and given the interest in the derby a premium of 800 pesos ($168) was tagged to the tickets allotted for NO socios, or the Boca fans attending the match at River’s Estadio Monumental, when the various Buenos Aires ticketing stalls reopened.

Never have River Plate and Boca Juniors gone so long without facing one another, and as it was River who were responsible for the 17-month ceasefire they and their fans will be especially anxious about the resumption of hostilities.

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Tim Vickery stops by to chat with James and KJ about the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in South America.

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While River Plate’s relegation at the end of the 2011 Clausura made headlines around the world, their promotion after winning the Nacional B title in June of this year was swallowed up in Euro 2012 coverage. Hopes had been high for a return to the form expected from a team considered historically second only to Boca Juniors, but the results this season have been dire. Out of eight games this season, River have won two, lost three and drawn three.

They currently sit 14th in the Primera Division, and River fans are understandably upset. While they’re angry with manager Matias Almeyda, following River’s 0-1 loss to Racing Club, fans also gathered in a concourse at the Monumental calling for the resignation of president Daniel Passarella (seen above in a video entitled Drop Dead Passarella).

It’s a significant moment in the club’s history, particularly considering Passarella’s historic involvement with the team as a defender from 1974-82, and his importance to the Argentinian national team’s 1978 World Cup win.

As a player, Passerella was the second highest scoring defender of all time (Ronald Koeman is number one). His preference to defend by attacking seems to have extended to his managerial and presidential career; the nickname El Kaiser clearly applies to his personality as much as his playing style as detailed by Playfutbol. He once famously banned long hair and earrings as Argentina manager, out of ugly, homophobic paranoia, an outlook that may have played a role in his dislike for Gabriel Batistuta while at River. This is but one in a litany of instances of Passerella’s dictatorial approach.

How he will respond to the loss of faith among River Plate faithful is uncertain, but the post-promotion honeymoon has quickly worn off.