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 them. =================================== 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 scored. 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 nearby). 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.