"Football, bloody hell!"
Uruguay-Argentina and the thin line that separates success from failure
The day has come. Tonight, Uruguay and Argentina will fight for a place in South Africa 2010 in a hard-fought match which will be played in the Centenario Stadium, in Montevideo, in the presence of 60,000 fans: 57,000 cheering for the home side and 3,000 who will drive their way from Buenos Aires to their neighbouring country’s capital through San Martín bridge.
Neither the history nor the statistics could tell us what could happen tonight, since a match like this one, where they will play for a ticket for the World Cup, has never been celebrated before.
Though, we all are football fans – it’s impossible for us not to take a look at the past when a game of vital importance is played. That’s what we do when we remember what happened when they faced each other in the last game of the qualifying round for Korea & Japan’s World Cup, back in 2001. The match was a one-all draw which let the celeste play the knock-out round against Australia. Everyone knows the Argentinian guys did their neighbours a big favour despite Germán ‘El Mono’ Burgos words (“we don’t know how to play to tie a game”) – the Uruguayan supporters are still grateful for what their rivals did and they keep on thanking them at present.
Paraphrasing the article’s title, we could say that ‘El Río de La Plata’, the river which sets their border, has always been that line which also separates success from failure, which tells us when it’s a love story between these two countries and when it’s a hate one.
There, in that imaginary line, is where Diego Armando Maradona always lived, that one they say he’s the greatest footballer of all time – sure he’s still walking that path.
Maradona, object of a lot of criticism in the last days, will have his most decisive match ever during his career on the bench. What could happen if Argentina loses and they can’t qualify for such an important tournament?, some of them wonder. The myth which sets Diego as the God of Football would disappear – he would surely become a fallen idol sooner rather than later.
But what if they win? What if this horrible team with no playing style can get the 3 points in Montevideo and make their way to the final round?
We all know the World Cup is something different – it’s still football, but if it’s somewhere where we can see all the magic and significance of the beautiful game to the fullest, that’s the Mundial, Mondiale, or whatever you may call it.
Plus, we know everything can happen in those sunny and crowded stadiums in June, which will be cold and -who knows- the next summer, since it will be winter in Southern Africa.
Italy in 1982, Brazil in 1994 or Denmark in EURO 1992. Many teams struggled and were nearly out of the competitions, when they suddently woke up and ended up by winning, as well as they did it by playing a great football.
It also happened in 1986.
Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires; June, the 30th, 1985. Argentina was losing 1-2 with Peru in the last game of the qualifying round for Mexico ’86. Five minutes left for the final whistle, and if the home team didn’t score a goal, they wouldn’t be in the World Cup.
Daniel Passarella got the ball when the fans were starting to assimilate that they would miss the great event – he managed to make them all stand up from their seats and shot a ball with his right leg, his heart and his soul. The ball hit the post and there he was, Ricardo Alberto Gareca, current Vélez Sársfield’s general manager, to push it into the Peruvian goal.
364 days after that moment, Argentina became World Champions for the 2nd time in their history.