Monday, October 12, 2009

Messi, Diego: More about Argentina

These guys can't stop making news. Or prompting columnists and analysts to write and talk about them.

Argentina. Diego Maradona. Lionel Messi.

OK, those are three pretty compelling concepts in the world of soccer.

Argentina's profoundly uneven qualifying campaign comes to a close -- well, at least the South America portion of it -- on Wednesday when the albicelestes play Uruguay just across the River Plate, at Montevideo.

If Argentina wins, it finishes fourth and gains at automatic berth to South Africa 2010. A tie, it almost certainly finishes fourth in the South America standings.

But an Argentina defeat puts Uruguay in the No. 4 slot, and leaves Argentina fifth, and headed for a playoff with the No. 4 team out of Concacaf ... or even sixth, behind Ecuador (if it wins at Chile) -- and out of the World Cup, as of Wednesday night.

Anyway, at this moment, Messi may want to make an appearance in crunch time.

Author Harry Harris has noticed that Messi, FIFA's World Player of the Year for 2007, has gone missing in action. And it might be nice if he showed up for the crucial match with Uruguay.

What Messi's issues might be are open to speculation. The author of the linked piece (above) suggests Messi is "overawed" by the idea of national icon Maradona as coach of the team.

That sounds a bit far-fetched, actually. Messi has played in too many big matches.

More likely? Messi is being used badly ... or is a bit out of form ... or can't actually get excited about playing for a coach who has Argentina to four defeats in its last six matches.

Anyway, we keep coming back to Argentina, don't we?

Mostly, it's about big names and big stakes. Argentina still is at risk of being the biggest name not to get to South Africa. The world will be watching to see if Maradona -- and Messi -- can avoid that indignity.

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