Argentina In World Cup With Win Over Uruguay

By Dialogo
October 16, 2009

Argentina ended its long struggle, landing a spot in next year's World Cup thanks to their 1-0 victory at bitter rival Uruguay behind an 84th-minute goal by substitute Mario Bolatti. Despite the loss, Uruguay — the No. 5 team in South American qualifying — faces a two-game playoff in November against Costa Rica, the No. 4 team from North and Central America and the Caribbean. Ecuador, which also had a chance to advance, was eliminated after a 1-0 loss at Chile. Ecuador was trying for its third straight berth in the World Cup. Brazil, Chile and Paraguay had already clinched places before Argentina became the fourth and final automatic qualifier. The victory saved face for two-time champion Argentina, which has not missed a World Cup since 1970. Brazil topped the standings with 34 points, Chile and Paraguay had 33 and Argentina 28. Uruguay finished with 24 and Ecuador 23. In the last qualifiers in South America, all of which had no affect on the remaining berths, it was: Peru 1, Bolivia 0; Brazil 0, Venezuela 0; and Paraguay 0, Colombia 2. Maradona, an icon as a player but under enormous pressure as a coach, should have been relieved by the victory. Many questioned why a team with many of the world's top players labored so hard to qualify. Maradona cast doubt on whether he would go to South Africa. Last week he suggested him might resign, but then said he was misquoted. "First I have to speak with Grondona," Maradona said, referring to Argentine Football Association president Julio Grondona. Maradona switched between contentment and anger after the game, lashing out at his critics in a tirade laced with profanities. "Thanks to my players, today I was consecrated as a coach," he said defiantly. "We are in the World Cup with full honors." He credited the win to the support he received from the fans, but said some Argentine media treated him "like garbage." The Argentine players danced on the field after their win, but were unhappy at finishing fourth. "There's nothing to celebrate. From Grondona on down, it's all bad," midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron said. "There's no reason to sweep things under the carpet. We've got to huddle and do a lot of talking." Maradona shrugged it off, and praised Veron as a "symbol of my team." In a match full of fouls called by referee Carlos Amarilla of Paraguay, the foul by Uruguay defender Martin Caceres turned out to be pivotal. Caceres tripped up Veron during a clean break just outside the box, and as he received his second yellow card — and red card — he covered his head with his jersey in shame and frustration as he was sent off. From the free kick, Lionel Messi and Veron set up Bolatti — just four minutes after he'd been sent in by Maradona —who shot low past Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. Bolatti, at least, was thrilled. "It's a dream fulfilled," he said.