Esteban Cambiasso had the goal and, without actually impressing anyone, Argentina were putting to bed the run of six matches without a win that’s seen them slip from first to fourth in the South American qualification table for South Africa 2010. A poor performance but the result was still as expected. And then, three minutes into stoppage time with the match all but dead, Johan Fano grabbed an equaliser for Peru that piles the pressure onto the Albiceleste.
Cambiasso’s strike, the culmination of a brilliant team move that had begun with Juan Román Riquelme, was one of very few bright points in the match for Argentina. Germán Denis missed a good chance before, still in the first half, the match swung on the injury sustained by Newcastle United midfielder Jonás Gutiérrez. That obliged Alfio Basile to make some tweaks to the midfield at half time, but the side he sent out for the second period, against a team like Peru – who without seeking to offend anyone, don’t have the same individual quality that Argentina possess – was frankly baffling.
As well as Gutiérrez, Angel Di María had also been withdrawn and thus there was a midfield three of Sebastián Battaglia, Fernando Gago and Esteban Cambiasso behind Riquelme in the playmaker’s role. Good players, for sure, but a little more defensively minded than was perhaps apt to keep Peru on the back foot, and the lack of width in the second half was notable. Sergio Agüero replaced Denis, but Peru moved to a three-man frontline with Juan Manuel Vargas and Argentina were kept firmly on the back foot.
With three men on or around Riquelme, things were complicated further for Argentina. Peru manager José Guillermo Del Solar theorised that if Riquelme couldn’t relax on the ball, and get it to Messi, then Argentina, playing as they have done lately, were a far less dangerous prospect. He was proved correct, and Peru pressed forward. Juan Pablo Carrizo kept them at bay for as long as he could, but in the end the pressure proved too much. Argentina have a break now, but in the space of a few short months and a couple of matches, they’ve gone from top of the world rankings and joint favourites with Spain for South Africa 2010, to being rather concerned about whether they’ll actually be playing there.
To see the goals, check back later.