Argentina are making a mess of qualifying for the World Cup
Awful away form continues to hinder Diego Maradona’s side
Ever since CONMEBOL first introduced their lengthy everyone-plays-everyone (twice!) World Cup qualifying system for France 1998, Argentina have coasted through – finishing first twice and joint-top on the other occasion.
This campaign, however, has been different, and yesterday’s 2-0 loss away to Ecuador leaves them just two points clear of their equator-straddling opponents in the final automatic qualifying place, with four games to go. Those include trips to Paraguay and Uruguay and a home clash with Brazil. Yikes.
The side who finish fifth meet the fourth-placed CONCACAF side in a play-off. That would usually be a limited nation like El Salvador but, thanks largely to Sven-Goran Eriksson earning his latest payoff, Mexico occupy that position.
Since arriving with the fanfare usually reserved for a Geordie Messiah last year, Diego Maradona hasn’t exactly done a great job. He has won two home qualifiers and lost two away, but perhaps it’s a little unfair to blame him for Argentina’s current position. Their away form has stunk throughout (just one win from seven), and they took even fewer points – five – from the four games before his arrival.
They should still make it to South Africa, but this is a far cry from their dominant 2002 qualification campaign. Although, considering how that worked out, maybe this is all a deliberate ploy to avoid peaking too soon this time.