Three big matches took place on Wednesday evening at various levels of the Argentine game. At the most senior level, the least important game was played; Argentina beat Portugal in a friendly thanks to a first half goal from Ángel Di María and a last minute penalty from Lionel Messi. Club football’s biggest South American tournament welcomed Argentinos Juniors back after 25 years, with a replay of the first group stage match-up from the 1985 competition against Fluminense of Brazil. And in the Sudamericano Sub 20 came perhaps the most important match of all: a 1-0 loss to rivals Uruguay which makes the dream of defending the Olympic Gold won at the Beijing 2008 Football Tournament a distant dream. They have however qualified for the Youth World Cup. You can see highlights of all three matches right here.
Wednesday 9th February 2011
International friendly, Geneva: Portugal 1 – 2 Argentina
Although closed down as usual by international opponents, Lionel Messi was once again key for Argentina. He set up the opening goal for Ángel Di María in superb fashion, slipping a through ball on for his team-mate after riding a brutal attempted challenge by one of his markers. Minutes later Portugal levelled through Cristiano Ronaldo, but when Argentina’s second half pressure told in the final minute, as Fábio Coentrão fouled Vélez Sarsfield’s Juan Manuel Martínez, it was Messi who stepped up to slot home and seal the win.
Copa Libertadores, group 3: Fluminense (BRA) 2 – 2 Argentinos Juniors
Argentinos Juniors returned to the Copa Libertadores 26 years after they were crowned champions of South America, and against one of the same sides they faced back in 1985, they claimed a creditable draw. Fluminense, the Brazilian champions, with Darío Conca included in the lineup, have already begin their season in a manner – the Carioca state championship isn’t as gruelling as the real business of the national title, but it’s competitive football all the same, and as such the hosts in Rio were more match fit. At 0-0, Franco Neill had a legitimate goal disallowed when André Luis cleared his header off the goal line (sadly not shown in the video below), but he was to get two more later on. Argentinos took the lead twice, and ended up with a 2-2 draw (Flu’s two goals coming from Rafael Moura), which gets them off to an excellent start in their Copa campaign.
Sudamericano Sub 20 Peru 2011, final group stage: Argentina 0 – 1 Uruguay
Argentina went into this match knowing a draw would probably be enough for them to secure one of the top two places in the group and qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Football Tournament. That was because Uruguay and Brazil, the other top teams in the group, have to play each other in the final round of matches and thus at least one will take points from the other. A draw, and a win against already-eliminated Colombia (who, moreover, will be playing in the Youth World Cup come what may, as hosts) would have been enough. In the 19th minute, though, Matías Vecino threw a spanner in the works and put Uruguay ahead. In a dull match, Argentina couldn’t find a way back, and the defeat leaves them needing Uruguay to hammer Brazil in that last match, and themselves to beat Colombia by enough to overturn a six-goal goal difference deficit as well as the three point gap between the two sides. They have, at least, qualified for the Youth World Cup later this year, though.
You can follow the ins and outs during the build up to the 2011 Torneo Clausura, as well Argentina’s performances in the Sudamericano Sub 20, the country’s vast foreign legion and the latest news from the selección during the 2010-2011 season direct from Buenos Aires with HEGS on Twitter. If you’ve not signed up yet you can do so here. You can also join the official HEGS Facebook group, to keep up to date with the latest posts on the blog and discuss things with other fans. You’ll find it here. Also remember to bookmark Hand Of Pod, our Argentine football podcast, which returns for its first episode of 2011 very, very soon indeed (subscribe to it on iTunes here).
Photo taken from ole.clarin.com