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Thursday, March 31, 2005

world cup soccer qualyfying in full swing

these past few days most nations played two games and qualifying is now past the half way mark... i don't follow it as closely as i could but spain is looking vulnerable right now.. france tied with israel!.. england is heading straight to the cup....

in the case of the US the loss to mexico over the weekend was a bummer but the US side turned it all around by beating guatemala yesterday 2-0... this victory is huge as the US side is battling with guatemala for one of the spots in the concacaf...

when it comes to south america...: argentina beat bolivia 2-0 in the high altitude locale of la paz... argentina had not won here since 1973 when it won with the so called "ghost team".. a team of local many somewhat unknown argentine players who were sent to la paz for one month to get used to the altitude.. i don't remember for sure but if i am right that victory was instrumental in getting argentina into the 1974 world cup... argentina had not qualified for 70.. since 74 argentina has been in every cup and i think some credit goes to those largely unknown men.. in any case, on this occassion argentina coach pekerman tried a new strategy.. he selected all local players and flew in to la paz an hour or two before the game!... this was an attempt to limit the effects of the altitude.. if you've ever been in a place like la paz or say quito ecuador trust me. you begin to feel like shit after a day....lethargic.... in any case, the gambit worked and argentina picked up a very valuable 3 points.. by all accounts playing far better than the locals.. then for the game against colombia in buenos aires last night pekerman picked almost all foreign based players! in other words he used two different teams for the two matches! the largely foreign based team eked out a rather paltry 1-0 win over colombia... i suppose the important thing is that with these two victories argentina is pretty much in the world cup... one more victory, i think, is all we need out of the final 5 group matches... brazil meanwhile was held to a 1-1 draw against uruguay in montevideo.. its interesting that brazil has never managed to beat uruguay in uruguay!...i think the level of play in south america is very weak which is why argentina can't take any comfort from leading the group by four points.... it looks like the south american nations that will make the world cup will be once again: argentina, brazil, uruguay, paraguay and perhaps ecuador.. just as in the last world cup...

incidentally pekerman's strategy with argentina right now seems to be to try out new players. this is alienating some of the veterans that during the bielsa coached period had a fixed place in the roster ... i say tough shit... thats what this qualifying phase should be about: testing out new players, tactics, strategies, sneakers.. whatever....

in addition, i think its clear that argentina's results so far are confirming the problem that has faced argentina during the past decade or so: an inability to play creatively enough to facilitate goalscoring.. argentina's defense is rock solid game after game but the team has trouble scoring....what can i say? we need a new maradona!..

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