Back in April, I was lucky enough to interview Horacio Elizondo, the Argentine referee who sent off Zinédine Zidane during the 2006 World Cup final, following Zidane’s headbutt on Marco Materazzi. That interview is going to be published in issue eleven of The Blizzard, and on Wednesday, they released a short excerpt from it as a sneak preview of the issue. In this excerpt, Elizondo tells me how it feels to send off a player on a big stage, and reveals how much of a role the fourth official really played in one of the most controversial red cards in World Cup history. You can read it here.
There were four matches on Sunday in the 2013 Torneo Inicial. First, Lanús had their amazing recent run halted by Gimnasia, who scrambled a 0-0 draw out of their visit to El Granate. After that, there was a surprise in La Bombonera, as Boca Juniors – who had one of the league’s best home records – fell victim to All Boys’ first away win of the season, as Ricardo Rodríguez got a 2-0 win in his first match as manager. Championship rivals Newell’s Old Boys and Arsenal de Sarandí drew 1-1, and in the day’s last match Racing claimed a 1-0 win over River Plate. All five goals are right here.
The seventeenth round of the Torneo Inicial is underway, as a ridiculously close title race hots up. On Friday night, Vélez Sarsfield came from behind to beat Godoy Cruz 2-1 at home, and on Saturday there were three more matches. Argentinos Juniors drew 1-1 after falling behind at home to Quilmes; the first time this season that Argentinos have conceded first and not lost. In Bahía Blanca, Olimpo claimed a 1-0 win over a Rosario Central side who performed dreadfully, and in the big title challengers’ clash of the day (there’s another tomorrow), Atlético de Rafaela took a 2-0 lead but were pegged back by two frankly ridiculous golazos from San Lorenzo’s Ignacio Piatti, to be held to a 2-2 draw. All ten goals are right here.
Saturday’s and Sunday’s matches in the Torneo Inicial brought no fewer than twenty goals in seven matches – in fact, twenty goals in six matches, since River Plate v Belgrano ended goalless thanks largely to the incredible profligacy, yet again, of River’s forwards. Earlier on Sunday, Rosario Central had shocked league leaders Newell’s Old Boys with a 2-1 win in an entertaining clásico rosarino, Gimnasia had drawn 2-2 with Olimpo in La Plata, and Tigre had ended Arsenal de Sarandí’s unbeaten start to the season by coming from behind to win 2-1. Later, Boca Juniors needed a last minute penalty to rescue a 2-2 draw away to Godoy Cruz. On Saturday, Lanús beat Colón 3-0 away and San Lorenzo beat All Boys by the same scoreline at home. San Lorenzo were the only one of the top eight to claim a win this weekend. All the goals are right here.
Friday brought three matches to kick off the twelfth round of the 2013 Torneo Inicial, and four goals. The first was in Quilmes, were the hosts were well outplayed by Atlético de Rafaela, but came away with a 1-1 draw thanks to a spectacular shot from Arnaldo González. After the game, Quilmes manager Nélson Vivas (the former defender for Arsenal, of the English Premier League) got into an argument with a fan and, after hitting him a few times, had to be escorted away by police; his future at the club is now in doubt. Later, Argentinos Juniors ended a run of five games without a win, beating Estudiantes de La Plata 1-0 with an even more spectacular goal from Daniel Villalva. In the evening’s late kick off, Vélez Sarsfield visited Racing, who were celebrating Reinaldo Merlo’s return to the club for his third spell as manager. Vélez spoiled the party, winning 1-0 thanks to Mauro Zárate’s first half goal.
Not that anyone cares, of course. On Tuesday night, the World Cup qualifying campaign came to an end in South America, with Argentina losing a nearly two-year long unbeaten record in a five goal thriller away to Uruguay, thus handing their hosts the title of Unofficial World Champions. Maxi Rodríguez scored both goals for Argentina, whilst Uruguay’s were scored by Cristian Rodríguez, Luis Suárez (scoring from the spot after winning an-ahem-controversial penalty) and Edinson Cavini. None of the goals were Argentina goalie Sergio Romero’s fault.
You’ll be getting some reflection on Argentina’s qualifying campaign as a whole (no-one cares about Tuesday night’s match, after all) in the next few days, via articles I’ll be writing for ESPNFC and The Bubble. Keep an eye on this blog for links.
Friday night saw Argentina host Peru in Buenos Aires’ Estadio Monumental in their last home match of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuaín were among the absences due to injury, but an impressive attacking performance saw the side win 3-1. Claudio Pizarro scored a fantastic lob to give Peru the lead, but Argentina equalised within minutes through Ezequiel Lavezzi, who added a second by finishing a fine team move minutes before half time. Early in the second half, Rodrigo Palacio tapped in from Marcos Rojo’s cross. Argentina – the holders of the Unofficial World Cup – haven’t lost since the 11th September 2011. That’s the longest unbeaten run of any international team in the world at present. Their next match (the last of the qualifiers) is against Uruguay on Tuesday.