It was the third round of qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in South America where the Paraguay win over Ecuador, 2-1, and the draw between Colombia and Venzuela, 1-1, stood out as well as the Uruguay and Argentina matches.
Fate provided the date, 11.11.11, and everyone was focussed on him, yes, Leo Messi. There were to be no more excuses, it would be his day, his number, against a perfect opposition, the ideal scenario, with competent team mates, but it was not to be – yesterday was to be the day of the four goal scorer Luis Suarez for his country.
The present champions of the Copa America, Uruguay, were hosting the Chile team of Claudio Borghi still trying to find their identity in the post-Marcelo Bielsa era, at the Centenario de Montevideo stadium. And they were hindered during the week by the indisciplined actions of Arturo Vidal, Jorge Valdivia, Carlos Carmona, Jean Beausejour and defender Gonzalo Jara.
The Uruguay team of Oscar Washington Tabarez started with a system of 1-4-3-1-2. Fernando Muslera in goal, ex-Lazio and now at Galatasaray, and with a back 4 where captain Diego Lugano stood out. He is perfect for this type of game as he positively influences his team mates and negatively influences the opposition, as he imposes himself on the opposition strikers. The young Sebastian Coates was on the bench with Diego Godin as the other centre back. The full backs were Alvaro ‘Palito’ Pereira on the left and Martin Caceres on the right.
In front of them there was a line of three hardworking and disciplined midfield with tactical balance. Arevalo Rios, Diego Perez and Alvaro Gonzalez. They waited for the opposition in their own half and pressed in zones ready to launch a quick counter attack. These transitions were assisted by a young left footed talent Gaston Ramirez, 20 years old, and currently at Bologna in Serie A. It was he who started his team’s counter attacks, playing behind the two strikers, Edison Cavani and the scorer Luis Suarez.
The Liverpool striker deserves special mention. Maybe he’s not the quickest or the strongest, the best finisher or dribbler but there is one thing he has and it is his competitive spirit.
In the second half, they brought on Cristian ‘Cebolla’ Rodriguez, Sebastian Eguren and Sebastian ‘Loco’ Abreu. The score was 2-0 at half-time but it finished with an emphatic 4-0 win.
While Uruguay were scoring for fun, in the Monumental de Buenos Aires Stadium, the Argentina side of Alejandro Sabella, were up against Gustavo Quinteros’s Bolivia, the Argentinian coach now a naturalised Bolivian, who played for his country in the 94 World Cup.
The Argentina fans had high hopes for their team in this match but if we have to summarise it, it would say ''Sin noticias de D10S" (Without news of God)
Argentina started with a system of 1-4-3-3. Sergio Romero in goal, with an experienced defence where Zabaleta and Clemente Rodriguez were the full backs and Martin Demichelis next to Nicola Burdisso was in the centre. In front of them was the ‘Little Chief’, Javier Mascherano as a holding midfielder, assisted by Fernando Gago on his right and the Inter Milan player, Ricky Alvarez, on his left. There were three in front of them, the PSG star, Javier Pastore on the left, Gonzalo Higuain as the striker and Leo Messi with a free role, but mainly on the right.
The tempo of the match set by Argentina was slow at times, with short supporting movements slow with no pace or penetration in the final third. Ezequiel Lavezzi who came on after 59 minutes gave them an immediate solution by scoring their only goal, the equalizer as Marcelo Moreno had put Bolivia ahead. The Shakhtar Donetsk striker certainly stood out both attacking and defending.
As for Bolivia, they played with a 1-4-4-2 and a lot of defensive intensity, good support play, dropping off and pressing with five in midfield when necessary. A final score of 1-1, Argentina are still looking for their match winner and once again, Gustavo Quinteros’s Bolivia were well organised defensively.
Meanwhile, Mano Menezes’s Brazil, already qualified as the hosts of the next World Cup, played Gabon on Friday. It was played in the Libreville Friendship Stadium, officially opened for the match, in torrential rain over several hours before kick-off and with a power cut just before the start according to eyewitnesses.
The canaries experimented with several players against an opponent with more hope than challenge. Diego Alves played in goal, with an established defensive line, with Fabio and Adriano as full backs, and Luisao next to David Luiz in the centre. In front of them, they played with a line of four midfield, Sandro, Elias, Bruno Cesar and Hernanes, and Jonas and Hulk up front. In the second half they used Alex Sandro, Lucas Leiva, Thiago Silva, Willian, Dudu and Kleber.
Not much to learn, mainly because of the poor state of the pitch and the standard of the opposition.
Another team trying to fulfill potential these days is the Mexico team of ‘Chepo’ de la Torre. Win number 11 in this new era against a weak Serbia who they beat 2-0.
Mexico had a 1-4-4-1-1, with Talavera in goal, the Toluca keeper. In defence they had Salcido and Juarez as full backs and Hector Moreno alongside ‘Maza’ Rodriguez as centre backs. The veteran Israel Castro, now 30, previously of Pumas and now with Cruz Azul was in the centre of midfield with Eduardo Zavala, a 24 year old Monterrey player. Wide they had Guardado and Barrera, with Giovani dos Santos as second striker and up front the national hero, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez.
The tricolor team finish 2011 as Copa de Oro Champions in CNOCACAF.