Unless you live inside a Tupperware inside a cave in Tibet, you probably know that the Argentine national team will face a transcendental match for its aspirations to qualify to the 2018 Russia World Cup. At 8:30 PM tonight, the Selección will clash with its Peruvian counterpart in the Boca Juniors stadium, the mythical Bombonera, with the obligation to win.
There’s a lot at stake here: if we don’t make to the World Cup, Argentines will be mocked globally. Argentines will become the brunt of all footballing jokes for the next few centuries.
That Argentine could be you.
You could be in Buenos Aires or Beijing, enjoying a nice cold beer or a warm mate, and out of nowhere, someone pops reminding you how you didn’t make it to the World Cup, as if you personally were playing for Argentina, God forbid if they are Brazilian.
It is for this very reason, that every Argentine who loves football will be glued to a TV or at the stadium, rooting for La Seleccion tonight. Argentina, on paper, historically, and basically in every way (as far as football is concerned) is stronger than Peru. It should be an easy victory, especially if La Bombonera lives up to it’s fortress fame – We have only lost twice out of 27 appearances at the Bombonera.
However, this qualifiers have been unpredictable and international football results throughout the last years have shown us that Argentina can’t rely on the symbolic weight its jersey has over other theoretically inferior teams to beat them, even if it doesn’t play well.
The Current Situation
Argentina finds itself in 5th place, with 24 points. If things remain the way they are, Argentina will have to play against New Zealand in a World Cup Playoff to ensure a place in the World Cup. Such a game would be a dent to national pride, but far more importantly, it depends on how Chile play.
Chile have two tough games against Ecuador and Brazil, games they must win to get itself a ticket to Russia. Therefore, even the slightest complacency on the Argentine side, could prove to be fatal. However, a victory tonight, and a draw on the 11th in Quito would be enough.
A defeat on the other hand would be catastrophic, as, if results go Chile’s way, even in a victory in Quito would not be enough.
Changes to the Argentine Team
Sampaoli has decided to call up Pablo Pérez, with the Boca midfielder set to make his international debut if called upon. He has been joined by other Boca teammates Fernando Gago and Dario Benedetto. A firm fan favorite, Benedetto will start a game for the first time, if he is selected to the lead line tonight ahead of Mauro Icardi. It will be a tough callÑ both of them have been in lethal form this season so far.
The decision to call up Boca players, comes as no surprise. Boca has won all 5 of the games so far this season, and have won them impressively. However, it is fair to clarify that Boca hasn’t played against any serious opposition.
Furthermore, these Boca players will be playing in the Bombonera, and so hopefully, will be able to replicate their form, but as we all know football is not that simple. The brutal fact is that Argentina has gone 4 qualifier matches without scoring, despite having the best attack in the world. The stats don’t lie: the likes of Aguero, Icardi, Benedetto, Dybala and Messi have been in lethal form so far this season. When they are playing for their teams, that is.
Unfortunately, Aguero was in a car crash last week where he got one of his ribs cracked. He will be missing out tonight’s fixture.
Gonzalo Higuain’s international exile is set to continue, with the Juventus striker being overlooked another time.
There’s a lot at stake tonight, and fans the fans and especially the players know it. We’ll see how they deal with the pressure.