Another loss for Maradona’s Argentina, this time in Asuncion when Paraguay became the 10th country to qualify for next year’s World Cup. Nelson Haedo Valdez gave the home team the lead in the first half, and they were closer to 2-0 than Argentina was to equalizing.
Argentina is now placed 5th in the South American World Cup Qualification group, one point behind Ecuador, who won 3-1 away vs. high altitude colleagues Bolivia today. This means that they right now are set for a play-off against the 4th placed North American team.
Maradona’s desperation is obvious. His team doesn’t function in away matches – today’s loss was the team’s fourth consecutive, and in the last round of the qualification they face arch rivals Uruguay away from home. Uruguay is, after beating Colombia earlier this evening, one point behind 5th-placed Argentina. Judging by the latter’s away record, fans of the La Selección, must probably put their hopes in Argentina securing the 5th place already in the next round (the second last).
Maradona is failing. The Argentinian stars seem to play without a plan, organization is defence is weak, the attack is without movement and the team the team doesn’t create chances. You never get the feeling that there is a team on the pitch, it’s more like eleven individuals who happen to wear the same shirts.
A sign: When Maradona brought on 36 year old striker Martin Palermo (thereby ending a nine year absence from the national team) in the second half, he had used 64 players since he took over as manager ten months ago.
It could have been a winning move, though, Palermo was useful as a target man, and in the 94th minute Argentina got their chance to take a point when Palermo headed down a Gago cross inside the box. It was very close that catapulting defender Rolando Schiavi had connected to the ball and equalized. But he didn’t, and Schiavi’s (36 year old national team debutant), night ended in misery.
But as things looks now, Argentina will hold on to the 5th place and secure their World Cup spot through the intercontinental play-off. I doubt that Uruguay will take any points away on 4000 meters above sea level in Ecuador, who has found great form since Sixto Vizuete replaced Luis Suarez as manager. Coming from behind is also Colombia, but I doubt that they will take any points in Asuncion, where they play against Paraguay in the next round.
4. Ecuador 23
5. Argentina 22
6. Uruguay 21
7. Colombia 20
So, most likely, beating weak Peru at home, will be enough for Argentina reaching the intercontinental play-off. Question is, will it be with Diego Armando Maradona at the helm?