October 14th, 2009
10:00 AM ET

Messi holds the key to Maradona's survival

Maradona, despite his god-like footballing status in his homeland, has placed the national football team, an almost sacred entity in itself among the loyal fans of Argentinean soccer, in something of a mess.

Maradona must swallow his pride and play Messi in his best role.
Maradona must swallow his pride and play Messi in his best role.

Argentina have failed to reach the World Cup just once - after a draw against Peru in a qualifer for the 1970 finals in Mexico - and history nearly repeated itself this weekend.

Once again, a draw with Peru would have condemned Argentina to miss the party.

And things looked bleak when, through the driving wind and rain, Hernan Rengifo, a striker who plies his trade in Poland, drew the home side level with Maradona's men.

It looked a dagger blow for Diego's under-performing squad of millionaires and the end of his controversial spell in charge.

But then up cropped one of his selection gambles, Martin Palermo, a striker who played alongside his coach at Boca Juniors in Maradona’s retirement season 12 years ago, to tap in a dramatic winner in the fourth minute of injury time.

Maradona magic or just plain lucky given his messy situation?

Actions on the pitch aside, can you imagine what Maradona’s collective team of doctors were thinking for those three minutes it appeared Argentina would not win?

His blood pressure must have hit the roof and his memorable celebration, sliding full length on the muddy pitch give some idea of his relief at redemption.

And speaking of pressure – has it ever be more intense for Maradona or Argentina than ahead of the Wednesday evening kickoff in Montevideo against Uruguay?

Uruguay also have designs on clinching the fourth and final automatic World Cup spot from South America and are tough at home.

Ecuador, who are favorites to clinch fourth spot, play Chile who are already qualified in third place and may not be too bothered by the outcome.

On top of this, pundits are claiming that the best Argentina can hope for is to clinch fifth in the group and go into a playoff against a team from the CONCACAF region which they would be heavily favored to win.

But Argentina need to improve to even secure the draw they likely require as a minimum and they need their superstar Lionel Messi to step up to the plate.

The Spanish sports newspaper AS is reporting there is a rift between Maradona and his talisman, who is being deployed in a different position than he plays for Barcelona and is apparently disillusioned by the tactics employed by the coach.

Maradona must sort out this situation fast or he will be looking for a new job on Thursday morning, which would be a shame because whatever one's opinion of him, he is box office and the World Cup finals will be the poorer for his and Argentina's absence.

While a World Cup without arguably the best player in the world in Messi is surely unthinkable.

Some heads need to be banged together in the Argentina camp starting with the football icon and his legendary boss.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. empire

    world cup without argentina will not make any diffrence.

    October 12, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Reply
  2. jabin

    argentina is the thriller of the world cup....world cup needs a argentina with messi

    October 13, 2009 at 9:21 am | Reply
  3. Kenuya

    There seems to be a mistake. You wrote: "...through the driving wind and rain of Lima...". The game with Peru took place in the Monumental Stadium, In Buenos Aires, Argentina (where River Plate plays home). It rained there, not in Peru.

    October 13, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Reply
  4. dickie

    Definitely, the Saturday 10th. game mentioned in the note was played in Buenos Aires ( Argentina ) and NOT Lima ( Peru ). Were the writers watching the match or just wrote from " hearsay " ? Furthermore, if and when Argentina loses tonight`smatch, why would Maradona looking for another job tomorrow? Nobody will kick him out and he said he would not resign. Remember that even if Argentina loses tonight there is still another chance / game.

    October 14, 2009 at 11:59 am | Reply
  5. umuguma

    Did argentina play home or away? n if they dont come to worl cup, then what? Must they be there?

    October 14, 2009 at 12:10 pm | Reply
  6. south american

    The game was held in Argentina, not Peru.

    October 14, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  7. Patrick Moyna

    Ecuador being favourites to be 4th? you must be joking. With luck they will be 5th, and by the guts shown in Quito, they will come in 6th and out.

    October 14, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  8. Niyi Ola

    World cup will be beautiful in Africa without Argentina.Maradona is stubborn and his pride would cost him a place in world cup.He should swallow his pride and invite Riquelme into his squad.

    October 14, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Reply

    Quite frankly, Argentina's chances are very slim because Uruguay are a fantastic team presently. And they would not want to disappoint their fans at home. But personally i would love to see Argentina and Maradona at the World Cup.

    October 14, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  10. pura vida

    Maradona was a genius as soccer player, but face it, lacks all intellectual, mental and management skills a coach should have. Poor Argentina!

    October 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  11. advaita

    No one will miss Argentina with all those other great teams playing.

    If we want to see Messi playing great football and scoring goals, switch your channel to the Champions League and watch Barcelona. There he gets all the support he needs to play his game!

    October 14, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  12. aRt

    World Cup without Argentina will make HEAPS of difference – the rivalry between Argentina vs England is always the most interesting of every world cup given various aspects of their past history (ie Falkland, Hand of God, etc).

    October 14, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Reply
  13. Cesar Ortiz

    Messy played lousy games, even with Uruguay, and actually if he was kind enough to watch the game, Maradona was able to establish a good team, good tactic and Argentina deserved to win against Uruguay, against Peru it was a miracle Argentina won, and I believe from now on, Argentina is going to go only upwards, all the way until getting the world championship.

    October 15, 2009 at 12:44 am | Reply
  14. David Rogers

    Leave Rush alone. He has done nothing wrong.

    October 15, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  15. Anathalie G.

    Maradona needs to have a better team to second him, you do not hear about anyone else but him, but surely there are other Argentine coaches whom he respect and can work with to 1) better accommodate Messi in the squad's game 2) study the plethora of talents available and 3) find the good system to make them a powerful team for the WC. Argentina is WC royalty like it or not, they made it to the finals on direct qualification, no playoffs, so let them work to a new WC crown. They can earn it, whether Riquelme wants to comeback or not.

    October 19, 2009 at 12:25 am | Reply
  16. beachgirl

    As a northamerican who has lived both in Barceona and in Argentina it is quite evident that the way Messi plays for Argentina and the way he plays for Barcelona are like "dia y noche" nada que ver...Messi although a born Argentinian hasl lived in Barcelona since the age of 13 ... his heart in Barcelona and that is where he should stay. He only makes Argentina look worse!!!!

    October 25, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Reply
  17. StraightFacts

    Mr author .. even if Argentina would have drawn, they could have qualified. Get your facts right.

    This story is not about Africa, where everyone can write negative things and the readers got no where to get the facts to verify the story. I am looking at the South American log now.. and Uruguay has 24 points and Ecuador 23 points.

    My little maths tells me even if Argentina would have drawn they would have had 25 points and they would still have qualified.

    October 26, 2009 at 10:27 pm | Reply
  18. karimi African

    welcome to africa,Lionel messi ,but for Maradonna i dont care !!!

    October 30, 2009 at 11:47 am | Reply
  19. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Lionel Messi will have an important role to play in South Africa. Footballers of the calibre of Leo are a treat to watch. Best wishes.

    November 6, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  20. charles

    Congrat Argentina. A win is a win. Practice hard and we'll see you in action 2010. I hope for all the best.

    November 12, 2009 at 4:36 am | Reply
  21. Gideon Ogbadu Okai

    i wii like to see Argentina at the world cup.

    November 18, 2009 at 10:09 am | Reply
  22. hanna

    I would like to see Argentina at world cup. Most of all I would love to see Maradona.

    December 21, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  23. Richard

    Maradona is legendary in the world of soccer. Argentina's absence from the World Cup is somewhat of a tragedy.

    February 18, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Reply

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