A 4-1 win Tuesday over world champion Spain should do much to transform Sergio Batista from caretaker to full-time coach of Argentina. More than that, though, it rams home a lesson forgotten by predecessor Diego Maradona amid the euphoria of South Africa 2010 -- midfield is not an optional extra.
Rebuilding the sense of team after the painful World Cup exit, and following on from the discharge of Diego Maradona, was never going to be easy for Argentina. Only a handful of Argentinian press travelled to Dublin, to cover the 1-0 friendly win against Ireland on Tuesday, which marked the international soccer launch of the new Aviva stadium, as well as that of Sergio "Checho" Batista's interim appointment to the adult men's squad.
Much of Diego Maradona's life has seemed to play out at a different level to ordinary mortals, so it was no surprise that the announcement of his departure as Argentina coach was spiced with high drama.
If the World Cup were contested among continents instead of countries, the tournament would have had only two winners in its 80-year history: South America and Europe. And now that the Netherlands beat Uruguay, the only South American team left standing in the final four, Europe has emerged victorious.
Diego Milito's goal against Roma last week gave Internazionale a 1-0 victory and its first title of the season, the Copa Italia, and put the club on track to challenge for the triple that also includes the Italian League and Champions League trophies. But the final destination Milito is really gunning for is actually in South Africa with Argentina.
Over the past few weeks Barcelona's Lionel Messi has stunned the soccer world with some of the most superlative performances people have ever seen -- relentlessly bettering himself and his team and enhancing the game itself.
Is the best form of defense a good offense? While Argentina's greatest concern ahead of the 2010 World Cup continues to be its vulnerable defense, head coach Diego Maradona is more than aware that if his team wants to be a force in South Africa, it needs to take full advantage of the abundance of talent it has up front.
The fast-approaching New Year tends to bring a bit of nostalgia -- and indeed, soccer fans in the U.S. had a lot to commemorate in 2009. Whether you're a follower of the U.S. national team, Major League Soccer, the UEFA Champions League or all of the above, this past year provided a collection of drama that proved more boards are surfing the soccer wave than ever before.
If his incredible two-goal display against Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday was any indication, Atlético Madrid superstar Sergio Agüero could be on the path to recovery after a frustrating beginning to the 2009-10 season.
Brazil and Paraguay already booked their tickets for the 2010 World Cup, but six other teams are still in the running. There are only two automatic tickets left for South America, and one playoff berth against the fourth-place team from CONCACAF.
With Argentina on the brink of elimination from the 2010 World Cup, which would be the first time it missed out on the finals in 40 years, immediate measures need to be taken. Diego Maradona, who will remain the coach for Argentina's final two qualifiers versus Peru and Uruguay next month, will need to pick up positive results to avoid the embarrassment of elimination.
In a little more than a week, we'll likely know if Argentina is a contender for the 2010 World Cup or a pretender, and a serious risk to miss out on South Africa altogether. Diego Maradona's squad has little option but to claim all three points on Sept. 5 when it takes on archrival Brazil in a decisive South American qualifier.
As Brazil coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari's most controversial decision was his refusal to pick Romário. Even at 36, Romário was still one of his country's most prolific strikers at the time and "Big Phil" faced a Spanish inquisition at every media conference. TV stations and newspapers launched pro-Romário campaigns and even Fernando Henrique Cardoso, then the Brazilian President, joined in.
These lists are not mere compilations of all-time bests in their respective sports but all-time bests at quickening the pulse and evoking a visceral response from those fortunate enough to have witnessed their artistry.
As a player, Oscar Ruggeri bludgeoned his way through 97 games for Argentina, winning one World Cup and two Copa América titles to become one of his country's most successful internationals. His coaching career, on the other hand, has been an extraordinary run of failure. It began reasonably well at San Lorenzo, when he was close to winning the championship in his first season. But it has been all downhill since then.
After a couple of years with nothing to show, FC Barcelona has finally been transformed into the most feared club in Europe. The Catalan giants have been nothing short of extraordinary this season, and if their magnificent form continues, they could be on track for a rare triple.
BEIJING -- It was a zany night at Workers' Stadium, a Brazil-Argentina soccer showdown that included a Kobe Bryant-driven human stampede, a good-old-fashioned journalist scuffle, the sight of Diego Maradona talking on a 1980s-style cellphone and a beleaguered Brazilian manager who dressed like a Club Kid, coached like a fraidy-cat and, in the end, mistook me for an Englishman.
My favorite sports venue? Whenever I want to explain why it's La Bombonera, the Buenos Aires home of Boca Juniors, I simply refer to the photograph. It was taken by ace SI snapper Simon Bruty at Diego Maradona's farewell game in 2001, and it captures everything I love about Argentine soccer supporters -- for my money the most passionate sports fans in the world.
If you ever really want to test your knowledge of soccer, try your luck with an Argentine cab driver. During a recent ride I took to meet River Plate's latest European export, Gonzalo Higuaín, my cabbie, a passionate River supporter, asked me: "Tell me, who do you think is the best Argentine soccer player at the moment?"