The World Cup qualifiers dominate this week’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly section of our podcast with Diego Maradona, in particular, featuring large. Vocabulary support can be found for the words in bold at the foot of this post.
What more could you want from a game? Argentina met Peru, the latter team with no chance of qualifying and seen by many as a whipping boy ready to roll over for Argentina and allow Maradona‘s team the chance to get to the finals, and produced a thrilling, nerve-shredding qualifier. After Gonzalo Higuain, on his debut, scored in the 47th minute, Argentina were clinging on desperately, and nervously against a determined Peruvian attack. Then, the heavens opened and torrential rain began to fall. And with the rain, in the 90th minute came Peru’s stunning equaliser, which looked set to make Argentina’s hopes of qualifying for South Africa even more difficult and perhaps impossible. Maradona held his face in his hands – but only until Palermo, recalled after 10 years out of the side, scored the winner two minutes later! Surely that was it, but no, Peru, from the kick off almost equalised with a long-range effort which hit the top of the bar. Incredible drama, added to by the fact that Uruguay had beaten Ecuador late on. Great stuff!
All’s well that ends well for Diego and his Argentinian side as they won a scrappy game in Uruguay’s Cenetenario Stadium last night to progress to the finals in South Africa.
Joining them are Denmark, Germany, Serbia, Italy, Switzerland and, surprisingly, Slovakia, from the European section. In addition, Mexico, the USA and Honduras have made it from the CONCACAF region, while Ivory Coast qualified from the African region. The remaining 8 places will be decided in the middle of November with a series of play-offs.
Now one of the reasons we have focussed so much on the Argentina-Uruguay match is that there were so few matches last night that actually counted for anything. There were more than 30 games played with most of them being dead rubbers, nothing to play for. The World Cup qualification system needs a boost and one way to do this is by reducing the number of weaker teams involved in group matches – particularly in Europe to make the whole process a little more exciting.
Bad news for Real Madrid as their super star, Christiano Ronaldo, is out for two or three weeks with an ankle injury picked up in Portugal’s World Cup qualifier against Hungary. But worse was the Spanish team’s moaning afterwards: they called the decision to play Ronaldo ‘reckless’, despite the fact that Portugal needed a win, and Hungary were still in the hunt for a place making the qualifier, a very important match for Portugal indeed. What were they meant to do, rest Christiano Ronaldo in case he got injured and couldn’t play a few games for Real? We’re talking about World Cup qualifying! Chances for any player to play on the biggest stage are few and far between. Blinkin’ ridiculous behaviour from Real Madrid.
In a move which could result in some ugly scenes at White Hart Lane, home of north London club, Tottenham, rumours have it that Sol Cambell could be poised for a shock move back to Spurs. Harry Redknapp is thought to be interested in signing the former Spurs, but more famously, former Arsenal defender. The ex-England player, Cambell is hated at Tottenham for what many Tottenham fans believe was traitorous behaviour in signing for their biggest rivals, Arsenal. Of course, Sol played under Harry at Portsmouth, and the latest Spurs boss has been re-signing players he has signed before left, right and centre, but surely this is a deal too far for Redknapp!
whipping boy: A team that is beaten by everyone else
clinging on: Just about surviving; under severe pressure
torrential rain: Extremely heavy rain
stunning equaliser: Very good goal to level the score
scrappy game: Not a very beautiful match; hard fought
were still in the hunt: To still have a chance; there are still possibilities
are few and far between: Not very frequent
dead rubbers: Have no importance, nothing to play for
could be poised for: Could be about to do something