Well that was a brief road trip. Diego Maradona’s and the AFA’s protracted falling-out with River Plate over the state of the Estadio Monumental pitch led to River putting up posters proclaiming ’16 years unbeaten at the Monumental…’ in the wake of the 3-1 defeat to Brazil in Rosario last week. On Tuesday it was announced that for the final home World Cup qualifier against Peru, Argentina will return to the Monumental. A friendly with Ghana, scheduled for the 30th September, will be played in Córdoba.
The AFA’s Executive Committee decided, with Maradona having flown to Europe for a bit of R&R and to give his players an earful of his ‘wisdom’, that for financial and logistical reasons, the selección would return to the Estadio Monumental for the crucial qualifier against Peru on the 10th October. Having a far greater capacity than the other options, and being located in Buenos Aires rather than in the provinces, the Monumental is an easier location for the teams to get to, and can guarantee more paying fans through the turnstiles than the Gigante del Arroyito or, indeed, any other ground in Argentina.
As well as this decision, the AFA is expected to request to CONMEBOL that the Peru match be played in the day’s final fixture slot, so that Argentina can kick off already knowing the results of the matches involving Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Uruguay, their rivals for the final qualifying spots. Given Julio Grondona’s standing in the confederation, don’t expect this request to be refused.
Maradona will return from Europe next Tuesday, and on Wednesday of next week he’ll announce the squad to face Ghana in a friendly in Córdoba on the 30th September. Ghana, who’ve already qualified for South Africa 2010, are expected to take on an Argentina ‘B’ team consisting of players from the domestic league. Among the favourites for a call-up is River Plate’s Ariel Ortega, with Maradona apparently eager to prove that Martín Palermo and Rolando Schiavi aren’t the only geriatrics he considers bafflingly worth experimenting with in a World Cup year. The match may yet be called off, partly because several clubs have expressed displeasure at being expected to release players for the fixture.