All articles are by Ariel Mazzarelli.

Dec 13, 1995	Do you know the way to La Paz?
Jun  4, 1996	WC '98 quals--quick report [Ecuador v Argentina]
Sep  2, 1996	Havelange's agent strikes again [Paraguay v Argentina]
Nov 26, 1996	On Pasarella
Dec 16, 1996	Pasarella must leave [Argentina v Chile]
Jan 11, 1997	The hour is near [Uruguay v Argentina preview]
Jan 23, 1997	Redondo moves and calls check
Feb 12, 1997	Two myths in one day [Colombia v Argentina, England v Italy]
Feb 12, 1997	Amnesty International requests oversight of Mondragon
Feb 13, 1997	Re: The weak argentina got lucky yesterday

All the South American WC98 qualifying results can be found at:
WC 98 Qualifying

Subject: Do you know the way to La Paz?
From: Ariel Mazzarelli  
Date: Dec 13, 1995

When I first read about the possibility that teams would not have to play at
La Paz in the world cup qualification rounds, I thought 

"well that's not very nice".

Now that I've thought about it some more, I changed my mind. Selecting La Paz
as a match site is not a contrived decision--it is the largest city in
Bolivia, and the capital. 

On the other hand, it is pretty clear that to allow Bolivia to play its home
matches in La Paz is a virtual guarantee of 12+points, because of the
altitude, and the fact that Bolivia is a pretty good team, so that they should
be able to beat just about any team there. For all intents and purposes, that
is handing them the qualification.

Furthermore, there are perfectly good sites available at more reasonable
altitudes. Personally, I can assure you that even walking around at over 8,000
feet above sea level is an unusual sensation--never mind playing a real futbol
match, and at 12,000+.

So from a sporting point of view (i.e., determining which teams are good
enough to go to the world cup), I think it is fair to play the game under
reasonable conditions, including altitude. Remember that these matches will
usually be sandwiched in between the regular club schedules--so a player
flying in from Europe for a couple of days will hardly have a chance to adjust
his body to the altitude, unless we decide to use something like blood doping.

Please note that I am not invalidating the abilities of the Bolivian
team--rather, that because they are pretty good, this is too great a handicap
in their favor. Just as we do not give the qualification to Argentina or
Uruguay based on their "name", we should not hand it over to Bolivia either.
They should have to earn it without the proverbial asterisk.

I suppose that the most notorious home "advantage" is now between Asuncion and
Barranquilla. This "advantage", however, is not easily summed up in a number,
so it is unlikely to be "neutralized".

It was also decided that Copa Libertadores and Copa America would be played 
in La Paz. The reasoning is that in those competitions, the visiting teams 
have a better opportunity to acclimatize. I would point out that in club
competitions, you have no choice but to play the game in the city where the
club is from (!). As  for Copa America, the decision is simply whether to let
Bolivia host it at all--once you do that, you can hardly ask that the games
not be played in the biggest city in the country; also, teams would then have
a chance to acclimatize themselves.

This advantage that Bolivia has is an old story--they even won Copa America
when they hosted it, and needless to say that was an unusual success for 

Subject: WC '98 quals--quick report
From: Ariel Mazzarelli  
Date: June 4, 1996

Last Sunday in Quito Ecuador beat Argentina 2-0. The altitude had something to
do with it, which is proven not just because Argentina played awful, but also
because the locals did not show the same energy that they had in their game
last month against Peru.

Now just because something affects both teams, it does not make it a neutral
effect. In this case, this is magnified because of the style that El Adoquin
has chosen for Argentina. I won't go into details because I'm not about to
start publishing my tips on how to beat Argentina--except to say that the
current team relies rather excessively on running around like Dutchmen.

Sunday's game was one that required a more lethargic, skillful, thoughtful
approach. Naturally Adoquin puts that responsibility on Ortega, who failed
miserably. He must have taken close to twenty free kicks (e.g. corners), and
he fucked up on every single one of them. It got to the point that I thought I
was watching an MLS game. Morales was marginally better, but for all intents
and purposes just as useless. Almeyda is a strange choice, since there are at
least two superior choices for the 5 spot (Redondo, Mancuso), and several
equivalent ones that would at least leave the impression that the DT
understands that we have a problem at that spot. When your 10 is pissing
against the wind, your 5 has to step in and make an occasional Didi
impersonation. If Almeyda was doing that, he was doing the 1996 Didi.

So Caniggia and Batistuta did not really touch the ball. Even Simeone started
to fuck up as the game wore on, which was all I needed to see to conclude that
the altitude was messing with the boys. The loyal opposition was not looking
significantly better, except of course by the fact that they shot at goal once
every ten minutes. Over the course of the game, that difference was a
perfectly justified 1-0, which became a 2-0 in the 91st minute on a strong
counterattack by a Galactico of all people (Hurtado).

Two players that played well for Ecuador were Aguinaga, of course, and Souza,
a nationalized Brasuca who should probably be deported if there's any justice.
With 150 million of 'em, we could soon see three or four on just about every
team in the continent if we're not careful (I'd grab Mauro Silva right now for
Argentina). Whenever these two took a ball in the midfield, they did something
coherent with it, and the first gol began with Alex doing an oscillatory dance
on the right side before sending an accurate cross, which his teammate
proceeded to bungle with such accuracy that it bounced off somebody's forehead
and into the goal; although it was pinball time after Alex launched it, the
start of the play was nice.

I was fortunate enough to listen to the commentary by Diego and Menotti during
the first half, and a drunken Ecuatoriano in the second half (12 noon in case
you're wondering) whose sole comment was "no pueeede Argentina, no pasa
naaada" with much the same lucidity that the players were showing on the
field. I will not complain to the Fates, however, since he did not shower me
with his beer or other fluids as he jumped for joy when the second goal was

The other scores were Uruguay 0 Paraguay 2, a bit of a surprise but not by
much--I think Paraguay will qualify and possibly surprise a few unprepared
Europeans in France; Venezuela 1 Chile 1 and the visitors were ridiculously
fortunate to escape with a point; Peru 1 Colombia 1, which I did not see.

Subject: Havelange's agent strikes again 
From: Ariel Mazzarelli  
Date: Sep 2, 1996
[WCQ: Argentina v Paraguay]

Yesterday Argentina hosted Paraguay in an interesting WC qualifying match.
>From the very start, Argentina took control of the ball and the field, with
Paraguay not able to do much except defend. However, the attacks by Argentina
did not reach the goal very often. One nice attempt was when Bati received a
40-meter pass from the right side, and without allowing the ball to land, he
struck a chilena but the ball went slightly over the crossbar. A few minutes
later, Hugo Morales went dancing by a few Paraguayos until one of them fouled
him about 25 meters away from the goal, on the left side. Bati took the free
kick and slammed it into the opposite upper corner. GOLAZO.

Paraguay did their best to even up the score but they had trouble getting
anywhere. With a few minutes to go in the first half, a dodgy foul gave
Chilavert a chance from 30 meters, 5 degrees off the perpendicular. The wall
was set up to cover the inside post, so he kicked a bouncer to the far post,
where Burgos stood waiting. El Brasuca hesitated, unable to determine where
the ball would bounce next, and at the last moment he dove towards his right,
allowing the ball to bounce past him on his left.

The remainder of the first half was a blur of insults towards el Brasuca and
his representative agent el Adoquin Passarella. The second half was more of
the first, Argentina pressured, even came close on an outstanding free kick 
by Bati, but nothing came of it all. The game ended 1-1 and hopefully this 
will be the last we will see of Havelange's secret agent in Argentina's goal.

Subject: Re: A futbol calamity
From: Ariel Mazzarelli  
Date: Nov 26, 1996

Dustin Christman wrote:

>You should be overjoyed.  After all, it'll give Daniel Passarella one
>less thing to screw up.  There is always the chance, however, that
>Argentina will play Colombia, and he'll say to himself, "Hmm... Two of
>their best players played in that American league last summer.  How good
>can they possibly be?"

You commit the same error that Grondona made--you overestimate the abilities
of El Adoquin (Cobblestone, for those of you that don't have a dictionary 

Remember, this is the man that told his defenders to rely on a razor-edge
offside trap tactic with an Italian referee. Let's not even get into
the haircuts, earrings, sex life, Burgos, or losing to the USA.

So, like the aliens in 2001: A Space Odyssey that were able to perceive
our 3-d reality in many more dimensions, Passarella's reasoning and dialogue
is beyond our grasp. We can only guess. My best guess is that he wakes up
every morning with the purpose of innovating via the channels of surprise, 
outrage and embarrassment. Given the history of futbol in Argentina, with
everything from Mussolini stealing our best players to losing against
Czechoslovakia 6-1... as far as I'm concerned, it takes extraterrestrial
talent to pull that off.

Subject: Pasarella must leave
From: Ariel Mazzarelli  
Date: Dec 16, 1996
[WCQ: Argentina 1, Chile 1]

I've been sick with flu & stuff over the weekend, so I was not
able to go to the local watering hole to watch Argentina-Chile
over closed circuit. I hope that we will see a replay on Wednesday
on the Fox network. However, some comments can be made without
the benefit of having seen the game.

Passarella is an incompetent, as well as a pretty despicable
human being. There was a long tradition in the AFA of abusing
the trainer of la Seleccion, with political maneuverings that
would have done the Caesars proud. So, when Menotti took over
for the '78 tournament (the one that even FIFA agreed we had to
win), the new rule was adopted, that the trainer stayed on for
the whole cycle. Unfortunately, this rule is now exposed as a problem
because Pasarella could very well toss us out of the WC.

This situation is totally ridiculous. One glance at the local
championship shows an abundance of talent. Yet, when these players
put on the albiceleste, they play below their capabilities. Invariably,
if a player offers a challenge to Pasarella's judgement, of any type
(not just something said to the press, but even something like some
"harsh" words to a player that is one of El Adoquin's "favorites"),
that player is punished with the bench or outright banishment. So we
have an encouragement for cowardice and mediocrity, which might
possibly be ok in some teams (e.g. the ones that basically run around
a lot), but is definitely NOT ok when the players are supposed to be
creative and aggressive.

Add to that the fact that great players like Redondo are missing even
though it is plain to see that that is precisely the type of player
that the squad needs, and we get this.

Berti, Borrelli, Astrada, Altamirano, Gallardo, and Ayala are notorious 
failures that have been put on the team time and time again. Burgos is an
exceptional case--a choice so idiotic, so patently absurd, that one suspects
bribery or something along those lines (the classic % of the transfer fee).
For this game, the inclusion of Cavallero, Vivas, and Albornoz were bad,
and the exclusion of Balbo is unforgivable. Balbo... who is probably going
to break Van Basten's scoring record in Serie A in the next few weeks. Ugh.

Players that should have been included on the squad at various times
include Redondo, Diego, Gorosito, Garnero, Cardoso, Trotta, Caniggia,
Ibagaza, and any one of the many fine goalkeepers that had to watch in 
exasperation as various inferior choices were made instead of them. Now you
might notice that some of these players did actually play a few games, but
that is not the point--they should have played a lot more, and there were
many games with adverse results that could have been corrected with their
presence. Note also that these players share the characteristic of playing
crucial positions with great technical and leadership skills, such that even 
if the rest of the squad is fine, it is insipid without them. Unfortunately,
el Adoquin does not want leadership skills from the players, not unless they
adopt a neutered posture towards his errors (made all the more difficult by
their frequent and crucial occurrence).

For example, somebody should have told the squad that Passarella's idea to
play an offside trap on free kicks should be used with moderation, or not at
all, and CERTAINLY not during the last two minutes of a final with an Italian
referee. Of course, such a display would have sent that player off to the
Mexican leagues.

Now, this. Ok, so Chile played so viciously that even the English said
that we were done wrong. That is no excuse. We could have cracked some
shins ourselves. No, there is no real excuse for drawing yet another game,
and now genuinely jeopardizing the qualification chances. According to my
calculations, not only must we win every remaining home game (which includes
Colombia and Uruguay), but also, at least two, and possibly three on the
road--and that looks difficult right now.

Subject: The hour is near
From: Ariel Mazzarelli  
Date: Jan 11, 1997

Tomorrow we meet Uruguay again.

There have been so many meetings since the beginning of this
century that this might have caused the four-year pause in the rivalry 
to go largely unnoticed. When we combine its ancestry and the
accomplishments of both teams, it is arguably the most important
rivalry in futbol. Yet, it also has the air of a pickup game
between neighbors.

In this context, it seems as if every remark is old. Simeone said
that in order to take a game in El Centenario, the visitors should
enter clenching a knife between their teeth. Francescoli replied that
that advice might have been better interpreted had it come from a player 
like Ortega rather than Simeone. Batistuta hopes that the referee, 
Rezende (Brasil), will be fair and competent. Bengoechea expects his
next free kick to cause some nervousness in Nacho Gonzalez, but that
it would all be moot if he should kick the ball to the seats.

Although Pasarella has succeeded in muting our passion for the squad
to an extent not seen since the 70's, un clasico es un clasico, and
as the game approaches there is a sense that the match itself takes
over the souls of the players. In the end, it does not seem to matter
very much whether the current form of the squads is on a par or not,
there are too many memories of crucial defeats on both sides to take
much comfort in a certainty of the upcoming result. It is interesting
to note, however, that since the match in 1930, Argentina has not been
able to win one of these "real" matches in Montevideo. This will be
the last opportunity in this century for us, and it would be pleasant
to accomplish that which Brasil could not do in 1995--to celebrate
such an accomplishment in the century of one's birth.

Mostly, though, there is a familiarity that makes most remarks seem
superfluous, redundant. In a meeting between two old warriors, all
that is needed to read the tale is a glance at the scars that they
have traced on each other's features. Yet these old warriors also
share an alliance against all other armies in their common understanding
of the art of war. Only when they meet each other do they sense that
it is not really necessary to explain anything, that mere mention suffices.

[WCQ: Uruguay 0, Argentina 0]

Subject: Redondo moves and calls check
From: Ariel Mazzarelli  
Date: Jan 23, 1997
[Redondo refuses call-up for WCQ v Colombia]

Redondo's reaction to Passarella's nomination is understandable.
After all that has happened, the toughest game of the qualification
round comes up, and since Almeyda has accumulated too many yellow
cards, he "gets" the call. I say "gets" because apparently El Adoquin
did not actually bother to ask, he simply announced the upcoming squad
and included Redondo.

The fact that Batistuta was excluded may have been a factor. It does
seem like a failure waiting to happen, and it is not a very good
situation to make one's return.

There is another factor here, however, and that is that like it or not,
that is our Seleccion and one must do one's best. If we could play well
with Videla sitting in the VIP seat, stomaching El Adoquin is not much to 
ask for. However, one is not there, and it is not clear just what it is 
that Redondo would be risking if he accepted the terms of El Adoquin. 
So I'll temper my stock response to situations like these--i.e. that when 
the Seleccion needs you, you come and do your best no matter what--because 
one needs to be there in order to understand what these maneuvers mean.

If all this leads to a new DT, then Redondo is a genius. However, it is 
not clear that that will be what happens. Meanwhile, the qualification 
rounds pass by and we get more nervous.

The situation now has come full-circle to the pre-Menotti era, when the
Seleccion was a perilous place were reputations were buried, sectarianism
was the norm, and results were not what one had a right to expect. Most of
the responsibility for this lies with Grondona and El Adoquin, but it will
take the efforts of all argentinos to fix it. One man's share of that 
burden will be to quietly step aside; the rest of us will have to support 
his successor, come what may--and that definitely includes Redondo.

Subject: Two myths in one day
From: Ariel Mazzarelli  
Date: Feb 12, 1997

Colombia 0
Argentina 1

Maybe I'll get to see this one on Telemundo someday... ha!
The good news is that certain large mouths from a place that
never won anything will have to quiet down (again). The bad
news is that we're stuck with El Adoquin until we leave France.
Apparently the goal was a serious error by Mondragon, cashed
in by El Piojo Lopez. In the second half, Hernan Diaz (one of
the brilliant choices from El Adoquin) fouled Asprilla and gave
Colombia a PENAL, but Serna missed it.

So we beat them at home, using an idiot for a DT, giving them a 
penal, and requiring some vulgar blunder from their goalkeeper
to score at all. It's a beautiful day.

England 0
Italia 1

A pretty good game. Albertini and Zola played well, Maldini did
fine (don't know why so many say he's washed up). I liked Le Tissier
but OF COURSE the English manager took him out and brought in some
thug named Ferdinand (as if Ince and Shearer were not committing 
enough petty fouls). However what was particularly brilliant was
bringing in Wright when there were 90 seconds left in the match;
C. Maldini waited 30 seconds and then he made a substitution himself
and that pretty much took up the dying moments of the match.

The score came at 20' in the first half, Costacurta played a 
35 meter pass from the midline, Zola caught it behind Speedy Pearce,
tapped it brilliantly in midair off to the right side, caught up to it
and belted it first-time past the helpless goalkeeper inside the inside 
post. Golazo. After that we knew what we'd get--cattenaccio--and England
never really came close except for one play where Peruzzi came out
a la Schumacher WC '86 final and LeDiego headed it just wide with
the goal wide open.

Does anybody@england intend to give Mr. Ince a rulebook? He seems
to lack a basic understanding of what constitutes a foul. Maybe he
was playing by "Wembley rules", but it seems that with the bid for
the 2006 WC, England is going to rescind them for the time being.

Subject: Amnesty International requests oversight of Mondragon
From: Ariel Mazzarelli  
Date: Feb 12, 1997

Ten minutes after the game started in Barranquilla, el Piojo Lopez
took the ball about thirty meters away from the goal and five meters off
the left sideline, while facing the center circle. He planted his left
foot, spun and struck the shot with his right foot--by far his weaker
of the pair. As the ball trickled towards the post, one had time to
reprimand el Piojo in three different languages. Meanwhile, Mondragon
was busy filling out political asylum forms and he forgot that one
of his duties was to prevent that ball from entering the goal. He leaned
over its path like an old man without his cane, and in a bowling motion
he mentally guided the sphere just inside the outside post. GOLAZO.

Subject: Re: The weak argentina got lucky yesterday
From: Ariel Mazzarelli  
Date: February 13, 1997

V. LIMA  wrote:
>The only reason the little football team of Argentina won it was that
>stupid mistake by the Colombian keeper. The guy should be shot! Anyway
>Argentina will not qualify for wc 98. Brasil Campeao!!!!

(This is the sort of post what I was talking about, Irineu.)

Now, proceeding to the "reasoning" above... the ONLY reason Argentina
won was that the referee (Antonio Da Silva, Brasil) did not allow his 
proclivity for giving penales to the locals or red cards to the visitors 
to manually alter the final score. A performance that reminds us of
the final in Copa America '93, when Mexico got a gift penal to tie
the score 1-1 before Bati struck the winner.

We are becoming accustomed to creative refereeing performances
whenever a brasuca is involved either as a player or as a referee.
It is refreshing to be reminded that, no matter how old or jaded
one may be, futbol still reserves some unexplored nuance for us.

On the penal--perhaps the referinho was compensating for the previous 
matchup in Barranquilla between Colombia and Argentina, when a very 
obvious penal was not called by the brasuca; of course, THAT penal was 
inflicted on the visiting squad.

Finally we are reminded of how Lamolina was excluded from 
consideration in the late rounds of WC '94 because, in spite of top 
performances in the tournament (indeed, his whole career), there was 
some fear that he might lack objectivity when one of the squads on the 
field was Brasil. Perhaps it was another interpretation of "objective"
that FIFA had in mind... we should get a portuguese dictionary and settle 
this etymological conundrum once and for all. In the meantime, it is 
comforting to find yet another brasuca that hopes that SOMEBODY would 
PLEASE eliminate Argentina before it gets to a decisive game against
Brasil that would serve as yet another reminder that Brasil is THIRD.