In the end, there were precious few surprises and Argentina walked away with the fourth qualifying spot in South America by beating Uruguay in Montevideo 1-0 with an 87th-minute goal from Mario Bolatti.
It’s a historic win in many ways. It’s the first time under this qualifying format that Argentina qualified on the last match. It’s the first victory for Argentina in Montevideo in 33 years. It breaks a streak of five away losses for Argentina in these qualifiers. It’s the first goal by Mario Bolatti for Argentina, in only his third ever appearance … and, oh yeah, it means Diego Maradona will probably be travelling to South Africa next year.
It’s that last one that bothers me.
If you see Argentines celebrating today, it’s more from relief than elation. This should’ve happened already. It really shouldn’t have been this hard. And if you’re looking for a culprit for the late qualification, look no further from the man at the top. Diego was a Rolls-Royce of a player, but he’s a beat-up, rusted-out AMC Pacer of a football coach.
I’m being too harsh, you say? World Cup qualification is never guaranteed, you say? Maradona deserves some credit here, you claim?
Let’s check in with Diego post-match. What does he have to say to people like me who not been supportive of his time in charge, including the Argentine press.
They can suck it, and they can keep sucking it.
Asked if he’ll be manager when the World Cup rolls around, he answered that he’d have to speak with AFA President Julio Grondona.
This is exactly what Diego likes, what he wants. He wants to feel vindicated that everything he does is right, he wants to feel that his fans love him and his enemies are all jealous. And above all, he wants us to come to him and thank him and beg him to continue.
I expect that from a 6-year-old, not from the manager of one of the world’s leading football teams. Many people have put it in contrast with Marcelo Bielsa’s handling of Chile: measured, rational, and ultimately highly successful. Bielsa is a Man With A Plan. Diego is, well, Diego. He doesn’t have a plan, because he doesn’t really feel he needs one. Bielsa is probably already thinking of his lineup for his first match and his conditioning programme before the Cup and how he’ll deal with South Africa’s weather and where the team will be based. Diego is thinking about his revenge for the people that doubted him.
Well Diego, I still doubt you. And if you don’t like that, well, you can just blow me, and keep blowing.