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SPORTS | 07-10-2017 20:54

Toothless Argentina in last-chance saloon

Disappointing scoreless draw leaves downtrodden national team in crisis and means the likelihood of missing out on the World Cup – for the first time since 1970 – is an all-to-real possibility. Only one chance remains: Ecuador on Tuesday.

Ultimately, the Bombonera did not guarantee success for the argentina national team.

Thursday night’s disappointing 0-0 draw against Peru was not quite as catastrophic as a similar result back in 1969, which condemned the Albiceleste to elimination from qualifying in the visitors’ favour, but memories of that failure have begun to circulate with a vengeance around the downtrodden side.

Argentina are now left casting a glance at the other results around south america to make sure of their place at the russia world Cup next year. a failure to beat ecuador on Tuesday would leave them hanging on a knife-edge, facing up to the possibility of missing the quadrennial fiesta of football for the first time since Mexico 1970.

In a week that began with extra-football issues dominating the headlines, argentina’s failings eventually took centrestage. The much-publicised move to the Bombonera, from river Plate’s Monumental, was accompanied by other, less savoury reports of Boca’s La 12 hooligans being handed control of the lucrative ticket resale racket. whatever the truth in those stories, the image of convicted murderer and La 12 heavyweight rafael di Zeo entering the stadium signing autographs like a rockstar was a sorry reflection of the state of argentine football off the pitch, where mafias continue to hold sway over the politics and economics of clubs. 

On the pitch, too, it was all depressingly familiar as Argentina dominated control of the ball yet failed to hurt a rival that pulled back, awaited the onslaught and eventually achieved their goal. 

once again, in a near-mirror image of their last run-out against Venezuela, a failure to take a host of great chances cost the team coached by 
Jorge Sampaoli dearly. While Thursday’s showing was far superior to the disjointed, kamikaze display given back in september, it was still not enough for a team that has now gone more than five hours since its last goal from open play. Boca Juniors’ own hero darío Benedetto spurned a great opportunity, as did alejandro gómez, while even lionel Messi fell victim to the apparent curse afflicting argentina by turning a fairly simple rebound effort onto the post. It was one of those evenings where nothing seemed to go right, made worse by a serious knee injury suffered by Fernando Gago just minutes after taking the Bombonera field where he has been so impressive for Boca in recent months. 
“We are going to win in ecuador,” Sampaoli stated defiantly after the final whistle. 

Starved of reasons to celebrate by the misfiring side he took over in June with just a handful of games to go in these qualifiers, the ex-sevilla coach chose to highlight results elsewhere in his bid to continue in a positive mind. It is true that Paraguay’s incredible comeback to beat Colombia means at least a play-off place is guaranteed with victory in Quito, but the assertion that “there was excitement when we found out that if we win we are through” sounds rather over-optimistic given his side’s chronic failings in front of goal. 

First and foremost, Argentina must start to score goals before they can even entertain the notion of winning. 

The altitude of Quito makes for an uneasy visit, and while ecuador are officially eliminated from the running they will still be keen to sign off these qualifiers on a high by ending in turn the chances of Sampaoli’s charges. Absolutely nothing can be taken for granted at this point. 
Fans will await Tuesday’s decider with calculator in hand, and no few nerves. If Argentina cannot turn the corner and finally find the net, catastrophic elimination is now an all-too real possibility.


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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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