Sunday, 14 November 2010

Superclásico Preview: Two Super- clásicos From The Past

Have a scan. Posted on Bleacher Report:

YouTube links:

River Plate 5 - 4 Boca Juniors 1972

Boca Juniors 4 - 2 River Plate Copa Libertadores Quarter Final - 2000.

1st leg

2nd leg

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Hello Reader

I will now be posting on The Dirty Tackle. My two latest ramblings can be found:

Also on Bleacher Report:

Thanks to all those who have read and commented over the last 2 years. Be sure to Follow On......Follow On!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Messi Resumes Normal Service

Prior to El Presidente Julio Grondona's brave/foolhardy/ridiculous decision to appoint Diego Maradona as national team coach a little under two years ago the pragmatists choice was Sergio 'Checho' Batista. Batista brings a blend of national team experience as a player in the 1986 World Cup winning team combined with a Gold Medal at the Beijing Olympics as coach and as if to underline his fallibility a spectacular failure at the South American under-20 championships. Aside from the shiny gold medal in Beijing he also managed to get the best out of Lionel Messi, something Maradona failed to do on a consistent basis. Now for the disclaimer, it was only a friendly, Spain were tired, the Spanish squad were more concerned with photo opps at La Bombonera than training, it wasn't there first choice 11 etc, etc. At the very least we were spared the strange sight of Jonas Gutierrez playing right back and for this we should be thankful. The AFA will find it very difficult not to appoint Batista as permanent coach.

Match report below courtesy of Stephen Coutts at:

Argentina...4 v Spain...1

7 SEP 2010, Antonio Vespucio Liberti

LIONEL MESSI inspired La Albiceleste to an impressive win over World Cup winners Spain in Buenos Aires.

The Barca maestro had failed to set the heather alight in South Africa and revelled in front of a boisterous 53,000 home support.

Spain fielded a strong team and despite a host of names benchwarming Messi put his adopted country to the sword.

Messi's marauding run was rewarded with a slide-rule pass the split the Spain defence and he effortlessly chipped Pepe Reina to open the scoring on 10 minutes.

Three minutes later and Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuaín doubled their lead as he broke free to round Reina and slot home from an acute angle.

Argentina had the woodwork to thank as David Villa's long range effort crashed off the post before Carlos Tevez pounced on Reina's slip to bundle in their third after 34 minutes.

Villa tried his luck again from a 25-yard direct free-kick but the same post managed to keep the Spaniards out.

The first-half goal-feast led to a lacklustre second 45 minutes and in a bright moment Argentina saw Ángel Di Maria's goal ruled-out for offside on 63 minutes after Messi hesitated on releasing the pass following another mazyz run.

Spain substitute Fernando Llorente managed a consolation after his neat control and turn effort found it's way into the net on 84 minutes.

And Kun Agüero wrapped up the scoring on 90 minutes with a fine header from Gabriel Heinze' cross.

Argentina: Romero, Heinze [b64], G Milito [b12], Demichelis, Zanetti, Cambiasso [b19], Mascherano, Banega, Messi, Tévez [Di María, 60], Higuaín [Agüero, 68]

Subs not used: D Milito, Andújar, Bolatti, Burdisso, Zabaleta, Samuel

Spain: Reina [Valdés, 46], Marchena, Monreal [b67], Arbeloa [b23], Piqué, Fábregas [b24, Xavi, 57], Iniesta [Llorente, 46], Alonso, Silva [Navas, 46], Busquets, Villa [Cazorla, 46]

Subs not used: Torres, Casillas, Capdevila, Pedro, Ramos

Friday, 3 September 2010

A Radical Approach to Management

Those in their forties are often termed 'middle aged', Afghans in their forties will be 'senior citizens'. A 'quiet' week in Baghdad results in thirty civilians being murdered. Everything is relative. Ricardo Gareca's 'longstanding' reign as coach of Vélez Sarsfield started in January 2009, the transient nature of coaching jobs in Argentina makes 'Flaco/Tigre' (choose the nickname you prefer) almost a veteran at Liniers and Vélez a model of stability. As much as is possible the squad has retained many from the side which won 2009's Clasura or has promoted players up through the ranks. Of the 147 transfers that were completed before this tournament began (a record) Vélez signed only two players - midfielder Augusto Fernández from St.Etienne and defender Fernando Ortiz cited as a possible replacement for the much maligned Porto-bound Nicolás Otamendi. Sensible acquisitions with an eye on the bank balance, the prolific Santiago Silva was brought back from Banfield in January. As can be seen at many teams, those who are forced to recruit vast amounts of players during the close season may find it impacts negatively on the harmony and dynamic developed in the dressing room, often transferring to problems on the pitch. In a championship that only lasts for 19 games these effects are all the more acute. Argentinos Juniors have been decimated since their title win a few months ago and have collected only two points from a possible 12. Footballing ability alone is not enough, consider France's inept World Cup.

I've always had a soft spot for Vélez for reasons far too anoraky to expand on. Gareca is a Vélez man through and through, like his father. As a player he spent only 3 years at the club but has always been a fan. Perhaps that's why he found it easier to cross the divide - he moved directly from Boca Juniors to River Plate in the mid 80's and has been loathed ever since. Paradoxically River fans aren't too keen on him either. On moving to America de Cali in Colombia he was on the losing side in three consecutive Copa Libertadores finals, character building indeed.

"When we joined Velez our aim was to fashion a team in a similar way to how the all-conquering 1990s side was built. I asked the players to draw on that aggression and that attitude, the fighting spirit that any player wearing this shirt must have. They took the message on board and we lived up to the club's history," Ricardo Gareca on the Clasura triumph of 2009. The title was clinched in a winner takes all match against Huracán; the result was mired in controversy not least as Maxi Moralez's late winner was only made possible after Huracán goalie Monzón was lying prostrate in the area as Joaquin Lavirrey's foul went unpunished. Moralez was sent off for his celebration, Huracán had an earlier goal disallowed and giant hailstones pumelled the pitch. The then Huracán coach Angel Cappa and fans appealed in vein to the AFA in the days after the match. Tomorrow's match v River Plate sees Cappa return to Liniers, both teams are early contenders for the title but the similarities end there. River's recent history has been built on rocky ground - lurching from coach to coach often in mid-campaign. Vélez go into the game on the back of two defeats, they had the misfortune to meet Boca Juniors last Sunday on what was the home side's customary one good game in every eight and lost 2-1. On Thursday they were defeated by Banfield in the Copa Sudamericana highlighing again the difficulty of competing on two fronts. Just one point separates Vélez and River as we go into the fith round of matches - or perhaps more tellingly 15 places and 42 points in the Promedio (relegation standings).

A victory for stability.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Battle of the River Plate

The start of a new season is upon us. The time when we're allowed to dream, from the newly promoted to football's aristocracy - everyone is equal. Things aren't quite so simple in Argentina the 'table within a table' the Promedio/relegation standings tell a different story, decimalised points totals catch the eye and we all reach for our calculators.

At River Plate the equilibrium in the pristine Primera A table tells only half the story, they are languishing a lowly 17th in the relegation standings with only the three newly promoted teams below. An abysmal 84 points from from 76 games have dragged the Millionaires down the table, season 2010/11 will be one of the most important in their illustrious history. Club president Daniel Passarella is gearing up for his first full season at the helm and understandably holds the previous regime of Aguilar responsible for River's current predicament, thanks to the Promedio system they at least have a fighting chance of retaining their top-flight status. World Cup winner Passarella secured a narrow victory last December and has vowed to reverse the club's monthly $1.2m loss by the end of next year. El gran capitán was much more than a defender; he scored almost a goal every 3 games for River (99 in total) and as President he's much more than a figurehead. A sponsorship deal with Petrobras has been secured until 2012, new sources of investment are being sought including the development of a trust scheme in which anyone and everyone will be welcome, existing debts are also being settled. All of this bodes well for the medium term - fans will be more concerned with the next 10 months.

Ex-Huracán coach and lover of football Angel Cappa has been brought in, during the close season eight new players have joined on various contracts and agreements. River scored 16 goals in 19 games during Clasura 2010, to rectify this pressing problem they brought in Mariano Pavone on loan from Real Betis who'll be under immense pressure to re-create his title winning form with Estudiantes . Other arrivals include returning goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo from Lazio, midfielder Walter Acevedo from Independiente and Carlos Arano who played under Cappa at Huracán. Circumstances permitting Ariel Ortega may have one more good season, Diego Buonanotte may fulfill his immense potential even allowing for the events of last December. As with all great clubs results are expected, at River they are now essential. Given the cost of failure will Cappa be bold enough to stick to his footballing ideals? We'll get our first glimpse of the new River against Tigre.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

New Boys

Roberto Bugallo has recently celebrated 10 years as President of All Boys. Given the frenzied and unstable nature that surrounds the Argentine domestic game this is no mean feat. Longevity, in isolation is no barometer of success; Bugallo's reign has contributed to a meteoric rise for the club from Floresta in the west of Buenos Aires, culminating in this years's promotion to the Primera division after defeating Rosario Central in a 2 leg play-off.

On taking over from the previous regime in June 2000 All Boys were languishing in the 2nd tier of Argentine football, players and staff had been without pay for 10 months and the threat of bankruptcy surrounded the club. There was to be no quick fix for los albos as they fell into the regionalised 3rd division the Primera B Metropolitana where they remained until 2008. If triumphs on the field were few and far between during this time the fans remained loyal to the regime of passionate fan turned president, Bugallo, who's also forged a close relationship with AFA President Julio Grondona. The club will no doubt have benefited from the cordial relations beween the two. The dilapidated Estadio Islas Malvinas, complete with wooden stands had changed little since it's 1963 inauguration. In 2004 fans raised enough money to build the ground's first concrete stand and with the help of an AFA loan the stadium was completely renovated and re-opened in 2008.

The club was founded in 1913 and chose their Anglicised name for no other reason than it was common practice to do so at the time. Three years earlier and in the same barrio of Floresta Vélez Sarsfield were formed and subsequently relocated to Liniers the barrio with which they are commonly associated. Prior to this year All Boys' only other foray into the top division came in 1972 where they stayed for 8 seasons. Their current coach José Romero was a member of the 1972 side, giving him the unique accolade of gaining two promotions to Primera A.

With the Apertura kick-off fast approaching All Boys debut away at Racing with their first home game being against former neighbours Vélez. Previous financial problems remain a recent memory and the club could be forgiven for cashing in on their Primera status. Their ground has a capacity of 19,000 and by switching home games against Boca or River to Vélez they could accommodate many more away fans, something All Boys refuse to do.

New recruits continue to arrive with the headline grabbing Cristian 'El Ogro' Fabbiani the most notable and highest paid. His level of physical fitness was deemed unacceptable by Mexican side Veracruz, not the first time this has been questioned during his career. The Mexican physios may have called this one correctly as a little over 6 minutes into his debut in a friendly against Tristan Suarez he suffered a thigh strain and is now in doubt for the start of the Apertura. Eight months without a game will have been a major contributing factor. All Boys will be wanting a similar impact to that which occurred initially at River Plate ( and hoping his form will be more consistent over the season. The omens so far do not look good.

'I want to see los albos in the Copa Libertadores' said Bugallo after promotion, if the upward curve continues he could see his dream realised. Following in the footsteps of Banfield, Argentinos and Lanús, less fashionable clubs are demonstrating that there is an alternative to the irresponsible and self-destructive strategies pursued by the Big Five.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Made in Paraguay...... Finished in Argentina

Looking at the nations who have made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup leaves us in no doubt that to-date this has been South America’s tournament. Amongst the inevitable delights that four weeks football brings high on the list has to be the backtracking and squirming of professional pundits and analysts on their pre-tournament predictions. Whilst not wanting to engage in schadenfreude and appreciating that for all the statistics, form guides and technology that surrounds football the game is still perilously difficult to predict. Switzerland’s win against Spain, Italy’s dismal performances and England’s failure to top their relatively weak group all bear testament. However a fairly consistent argument trotted out prior to the tournament was that this being a winter World Cup the conditions would inevitably favour European sides. Teams were dismissed with an air of colonial like contempt on the basis that they hail from warmer climes; completely disregarding the fact that the vast majority of South American footballers play in Europe. Brazil and Argentina aside South America’s other representatives were relegated to mere supporting roles before the group stages.

Paraguay’s historic march to the last eight has surprised many, not least in the UK; for the English media the country's contributions to football can be condensed into the 3-0 reverse to England in Mexico 1986 and Roque Santa Cruz. The current squad demonstrate that Paraguayan talent is well represented in the world's toughest leagues including Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga. The country's proximity to Argentina has seen many players pursue their careers further down the Parana River. The most revered of these is undoubtedly Arsenio Erico (1915 -1977) - Argentina's all time record goalscorer bagged 293 goals in 332 games for Independiente of Avellaneda, he shares this acolade with Angel Labruna of River Plate who achieved the same total but in 515 games. Born in Asunción he secured his passage to the Red Devils after being spotted playing in a Red Cross team which toured Argentina to raise funds for victims of the Chaco war between Paraguay and Bolivia. The little known conflict which killed over 100,000 in three years demonstrates that Europe doesn't have the monopoly on mechanized industrial scale slaughter. Erico joined Independiente in 1934 and formed an attacking trio with Vicente de la Mata and Antonio Sastre. Famed for his heading ability and capacity to outjump goalkeepers he netted the first of his goals against Chacarita Juniors, scored a record 6 against Quilmes in 1936 and was leading marksman in three seasons between 1937 - 1939. Along with la Mata and Sastre they secured championships in 1938 and 1939 and scored 556 goals between them. As with all great players fans attended games specifically to see Erico and no less than Alfredo di Stefano cites him as a major influence in his formative years. It's impossible to gauge the strength of the Argentine league at this time in comparison to Europe and perhaps futile to do so. What is apparent is that the years following the advent of open professionalism were amongst the most exciting and successful with the majority of legendary players remaining in Argentina including but not limited to River Plate's famed 'La Maquina'.

Arsenio Erico was asked to play for Argentina at the 1938 World Cup an offer he turned down. On the eve of Paraguay's quarter final against Spain and things seem to have come full circle. Another prolific goalscorer Argentine born Lucas Barrios will be representing Paraguay by virtue of his mother. Perhaps it's time for the commentators to acknowledge that Paraguay has a football history and not merely a football past.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Rosario Central

Rosario Central lost their long drawn out battle against the drop at the end of May. In a similar fashion to the pursuit of glory consistency is the key; unlike the scrap for a league title you have to be exceptionally awful over three years to be relegated. Central weren't just bad this season - its been years of torment which has seen them slide down the Promoción table. With two teams automatically relegated the next two play-off against the third and fourth placed teams from National B. The team faced the same scenario last season when they successfully came through two legs against Belgrano to preserve their status. This year they faced All Boys from Floresta, Buenos Aires. After a 1-1 draw away they tumbled out of the elite league by virtue of a 3-0 home defeat.

The repercussions of the result have seen 'colourful' club president Horacio Usandizaga resign from his post. Readers may well remember el presidente's posturing from seasons gone by when he threatened to kill his players if performances didn't improve. There is little appetite in the foreign sports press for Argentine domestic football, however this outburst produced headlines around the globe. In a country where deaths and injury are an all too common occurrence at football even AFA chief Julio Grondona was forced to condemn his comments. Post-relegation ex-president Usandizaga has shown his more sensitive side, speaking from his hideout in San Sebastian, Spain he feels personally responsible for the relegation and admitted blubbing inconsolably 'I couldn't believe it, I couldn't believe it. I cried like a child, I cried all day and all night, I couldn't sleep'. One young fan, Juan Pablo Dandreta 25 comitted suicide after seeing his team relegated.

Rosario Central and Newell's Old Boys blazed a trail for football in the provinces, being the first clubs from outside of Buenos Aires to join the professional league in 1937. In its initial guise as The Central Argentine Railway Athletic Club the club's early years tell a familiar story with club being founded by English railway workers - on becoming Rosario Central in 1904 it broke formal ties with the railway by allowing members to join whatever their occupation or ethnic background. For next season at least Argentina's third largest city will not be hosting the Newell's - Central derby, arguably the most passionate and intense affair in the country. The city's other two clubs, Tiro Federal and Central Cordoba have also been relegated this year. One city, four football clubs and no derby.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Priority Ten

Those unfortunates who have beared witness to 18 months of Boca Juniors mediocrity, turmoil and scandal could be excused a nano-second of hope, a moments anticipation on reading the headline in recent edition of Olé. On delving a little deeper into the article dreams are soon dashed, 10 new players wont be arriving in the close season, Mayor of Buenos Aires Mauricio Macri wont be directing city funds towards his former employers, and wealthy Arab shaikhs don't see Boca Juniors as the next Manchester City.

The Ten is Juan Roman Riquelme, one of the few players who's returned to the land of his birth without the aid of a walking frame. For many Riquelme is the embodiment of La Nuestra (the way the game should be played) whilst for others he's an unnecessary luxury, a relic of a bygone era and a devisive figure within the team and club as a whole. Never one to shirk confrontation he famously fell out with Maradona (who hasn't?) and retired from the national team for the 2nd time; made a guest appearance at a barbecue organised by the club's infamous La Doce hooligan gang ( and in recent months has admitted that he can't stand Boca's record goalscorer Martin Palermo. He's seen off potential coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto who would only consider the job on the proviso that JR moved on, probably a blessing as he has no coaching experience. Riquelme's contract expires in June and rumours seemed to indicate that he'd follow Pato Abbondanzieri north to Brazil with Flamengo and Corinthians showing interest which would give the 31 year old another chance at Libertadores glory. This evening's game away to Banfield may have been his last appearance for the club 'if I don't return as a player I'll be back as a fan' he said last weekend but after an operation on his left knee he will be sidelined for at least 2 months.

Post-convalescance keep your eyes and ears open, scour your local paper the world's greatest playmaker could be taking the field at a football ground near you..........

Friday, 5 February 2010

Dear Reader(s)

Just in time for the kick-off of the 2010 Clasura, Real Football Argentina will be taking a break for a few months. The 'suspension' however has not been mandated by FIFA nor is at a result of libel proceedings arising from some of the more edgier posts...

Thanks to all those who have followed and commented on RFA up until now. Like a veteran Argentine footballer yearning for his homeland - Volveremos (We'll return).

Enjoy the season.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Testing Times

Whilst the group stages of the Copa Libertadores aren't quite the cash cow that the Champions League is competition to reach them will still be fierce. The guaranteed income that they provide will keep the bailiff's away and the tax man happy for a few months. With the financial tightrope that the majority of Argentina's clubs are balanced on both Newell's and Colón will feel the pressure to progress.

Newell's face the longest trans-Andean trek as they've been drawn against Ecuadorean side Emelec of Guayaquil a mere 4000km away. The PSV Eindhoven of Latin America - whose origins are also borne of a local electrics factory will be testing opponents for The Lepers. Emelec were the country's first representatives in the Copa Libertadores of 1962 a decade in which clubs from both banks of the Rio de la Plata dominated. Football in Ecuador has shrugged off the tag of perpetual minnows in recent years with Liga de Quito winning the 2008 Copa Libertadores and Recopa Sudamericana and also last years Copa Sudamericana. A barometer of the country's progress can be seen from the amount of talent now playing in Europe. With Guayaquil being at sea level at least Newell's wont have to wrestle with the affects of altitude they will however be subjected to a hot and clammy tropical climate.

In contrast to Newell's, Colón of Santa Fe are faced with a short hop to Santiago where they will play Universidad Católica, who lost out to city rivals Colo Colo in the final of 2009's Apertura. This will be Colón's first Libertadores appearance since 1998 and they have qualified by virtue of the amount of points they amassed last year, a trip to Chile's third most successful club is scant reward for their toils. Lining up against Católica will be 37 year old striker Esteban Fuertes Colón's all time record goalscorer and the archetypal footballing nomad. Never has David Coleman's 'goals pay the rent, and Keegan does his share' quote seemed more apt. Considering the amount of teams he's played it's of no great surprise that he also had a spell with La UC which ended under somewhat of cloud when he suffered a knee injury.

The triumph of Estudiantes last season was a majestic achievement. This victory has masked the collective failings of Argentina's other representatives and also highlighted the general decline in standards throughout the league, only the eventual champions reached the quarter finals as opposed to four teams from Brazil. Both San Lorenzo and Lanús finished bottom of their respective groups and as I've mentioned before none of the Big Five have made it this year, they'll have the various pre-season clásicos to fret over.

This year's Copa Libertadores schedule in full:

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A Long, Hot Summer

Slow news week. A minor inconvenience for Argentina's premier sports daily Olé who still have column inches to fill. We've discovered that Napoli and Argentine midfielder Jesús Dátolo has posed for Italian gay magazine Romeo Mag, his club we're informed aren't happy as one of the pictures features the hallowed Napoli shirt. Other fillers include a section encouraging fans to send in summer holiday snaps featuring their sporting idols, San Lorenzo's Diego Simeone leaves very little to the imagination in a minute pair of Speedos, enough to put many a reader off their medialunas.

Back to the football - new signings are thin on the ground at the time of writing. One absentee, Santiago Silva (once) of Banfield has failed to join the champions for pre-season training. The Apertura's leading goalscorer seems to be heading back to Velez who own half his contract. Banfield's president Carlos Portell is unwilling to pay $2.5m for complete ownership of the striker's contract - Estudiantes or River beckon. Teams are limited to four new recruits each during the summer break and most are a long way from nearing this limit. Financial constraints once again have helped to stifle the market, we're all aware this is a global economic slump and as such buyers from Europe are few and far between. Without revenue from the old continent the perilous state of Argentina's top clubs becomes all the more acute. Figures recently released show that only five of Primera A's 20 clubs are in the black, it'll be interesting to see if the Government's handout in exchange for TV Rights makes any difference in the months to come. No surprises that both Boca and River occupy first and third places respectively in the debtors list. Arrivals may be borne of necissity, Diego Buonanotte will be absent from River for months following his car crash - his physical injuries will heal but the mental scars will last for a long time and he may never be the same player again. Of a less serious nature is the the knee injury suffered by Boca Juniors' midfielder Sebastain Battaglia which will rule him out for the duration of the Clasura. One player who looks to be heading to Europe is 19 year old Eduardo Salvio of Lanús after being touted around he seems to favour Spain and if reports are to be believed Atletico Madrid will sign him. Ironically Lanús are one of those rare exceptions - a well run, solvent club whose existence doesn't depend on this transfer going through. Salvio's arrival at the Vicente Calderon could see Sergio Aguero move on.

The provinces this weekend will be graced by the big clubs as the various tradional Summer Tournaments get underway; a few clásicos of varying descriptions and a couple of superclásicos will take place this month before the proper games start at the end of January. Olé will then have someting to write about - and so will I! Finally Verón has put his heart and his family ahead of a lucrative move to Manchester City and will stay at Estudiantes. One spell in Manchester regardless of the team would seem to be enough for Seba .

Hot!!? Jesus Datolo's photoshoot: