Argentina’s full selección may be struggling to stagger across the line in the race to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but one country who are already there will take on a locally-based B team in Córdoba on Wednesday night. The starting XI isn’t being reported as I type this up, but a number of players in the Argentina B squad will be hopeful of forcing their way into Diego Maradona’s squad for the crucial final two World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Uruguay. Boca Juniors striker Martín Palermo will be the captain.
‘There are seven or eight places in the [full] squad still up for grabs,’ Maradona said on Wednesday. ‘I’m not going to give any names, but everyone playing tonight has an opportunity.’ Colón’s Diego Pozo, in goal, is probably the safest bet to take one of those places, assuming he keeps up his good form to date when he’s been picked for Maradona’s past domestically-based squads.
The centre backs have very different roles tonight: Rolando Schiavi, of Newell’s, will be vice-captain for his spirited play and his experience, whilst Nicolás Otamendi, another who will surely be in Maradona’s thoughts for one of those seven or eight positions, isn’t in the squad to face Ghana at all because he’ll be involved in Vélez Sársfield’s Copa Sudamericana match on Thursday night against Unión Española of Chile.
Huracán’s Mario Bolatti and Estudiantes’ Rodrigo Braña will both be hoping they can win a place alongside Javier Mascherano following Maradona’s decision to dump the underperforming Real Madrid midfielder Fernando Gago from the squad, and although Juan Sebastián Verón hasn’t been called up – Maradona already knows very well what he’s capable of – his and Braña’s clubmate Enzo Pérez will be hopeful of tying down a place among the wide midfielders to compete for a starting berth with Lucho González and Jonás Gutiérrez (who, I’ll keep saying it, gets in the full squad along with Fabricio Coloccini despite playing in the English second division after being part of a team that got relegated last season).
Palermo, of course, will be hoping he can get in the squad and perhaps even the starting lineup against Peru, although anyone with any sense has to be hoping that Gonzalo Higuaín or Diego Milito will finally be given their chance as the number 9 when the competitive games roll around. All the same, buena suerte to Palermo et al tonight. You’ll be able to see any goals here on HEGS tomorrow evening.