Thursday, October 15, 2009

I can't remember looking forward to an international game of football, that didn't include Scotland, as much as last night's South American qualifier between Uruguay and Argentina.

Two teams battling for their World Cup survival. Two passionate sets of players and fans. Two teams not known for anything but playing robustly. It had all the makings of a cracker. And I'm sire that that's what we would have got if the home side had bothered to turn up for the occasion.

Argentina's struggles this qualifying campaign have been well documented. This wasn't exactly make or break for them, as a defeat could still have seen them clinch a playoff place, but it was close to it.

From talking to people as to who they wanted to win this game, the jury was most certainly out. You have the purists who wanted Argentina to qualify as they want to see the best and biggest teams competiting together on the world stage. Then you had the romantics who like to see the lesser nations do well and the bigger teams face humiliation and taken down a peg or two (not that Uruguay is exactly a minnow but they don't have the status they had in the past).

Anyone who knows me won't be surprised, but I was in that latter category. The thought of a powerhouse like Argentina not being at the South African party really warmed my heart. I've never been a lover of Uruguay after their antics against Scotland in Mexico 86 but on this occasion I had my light blue scarf firmly held up.

I'd hate to be a referee in South America. The pressure on them during fierce games like this must be immense but the ref last night handled it pretty damned fine to his full credit.

Uruguay came out of the blocks at a really fast pace and had a couple of good chances, before Argentina found their feet and the goal-less score at half time wasn't necessarily a disappointment to me, as it meant that both teams would have to attack in the second half, or so you would think.

The game had promised to be full of fight, battles, tackles flying in, goals, anguish and a fair few yellow cards. With 3 bookings in the first 16 minutes I hoped that this would set the tone for the passion that was going to be on display for the rest of the evening. Unfortunately we got a bit of a snoozefest in the end and when word came through that Chile were beating Ecuador 1-0, well all the spark seemed to just drain from Uruguay and it looked like they were happy to just secure a playoff spot.

That's what they got and Argentina made the 32 bound for South Africa by the skin of their teeth. It's amazing to think of their struggles when you look at the quality and skills of the players they have on offer.

It was disappointing to look forward to a game so much and feel cheated by the action on display. Maybe the occasion overwhelmed Uruguay. Whatever it was, my light blue scarf has now been firmly put away again and I'll be cheering on Costa Rico for the playoffs.

Remember, it's always nicer when the smaller nations come through.


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