Thursday, 15 October 2009

Destination South Africa

The shots of Carlos Bilardo embracing an emotional Maradona at the end of last night's deserved victory in Uruguay highlighted the schizophrenic nature of the qualifying campaign for Argentina. If reports are to be believed (all rubbish says Diego) their relationship has become increasingly strained in recent months - but now the love is back? How can a nation with such a mine of top class footballing talent struggle to make even the final qualifying position? How can the world's finest player consistently produce such ineffective performances for the national side whilst continuing to shine for Barcelona? Why was Real Madrid's leading goalscorer Gonzalo Higuain ignored for so long? And the big one - how could a country with the international pedigree of Argentina entrust World Cup qualification to the unproven, untested and unpredictable Diego Maradona?

The win in Montevideo surprised those of us who were expecting more strange substitutions, erratic formation changes and a start for Martin Palermo - quite the opposite as sensible changes at the right times along with a starring midfield role for the returning Veron helped secure the win. Uruguay offered little in front of the expectant home crowd and the game as a whole was far from the classic that was anticipated. For periods in the second half Argentina went back to the future and began to look like Argentina again. AFA boss Julio Grondona wants Bilardo to be more involved in team affairs - this win may well have his influence all over it. Could Maradona finally have reneged and let Carlos Bilardo have more say in the team?

You can imagine the gentlemen of the press rubbing their hands together at the prospect of Maradona's post-match press conference, biros and dictaphones poised to record every juicy detail - payback time. Never one to hold back Diego let rip - details of his tirade can be found all over the web, tellingly his main target was the media, dedicating the win to 'all Argentines, minus the journalists'. The journalists wont be too disappointed at being excluded - it's a win-win for them, Argentina are at the World Cup and constant source of copy Maradona is still in charge. The pantomime continues.