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Uruguay V Argentina. More Than Just A Game.
Charrua74 (Tottenham Hotspur) 7 years ago
Derby DAYS - Uruguay v Argentina: Tonight the near neighbours and close rivals will meet for the 175th time, easily handing the fixture the record for the most international matches between two countriesOTHER countries have their history, Uruguay has its football. Or, at least, so the saying goes. What is certainly true is football owes Uruguay - long term, and big time. Though it has long since stopped making repayments. While Uruguay may not be included in any list of the most skilful and free-flowing footballing nations, when the country burst on to the sporting scene in the 1920s and '30s, in relative terms at least, that is exactly what they came to be known as. After winning Olympic gold medals in 1924 and 1928, the small South American country was the obvious choice to host the first Fifa World Cup finals.

With the country celebrating the centenary of its independence, the Estadio Centenario was built especially for the 1930 event, with the Montevideo stadium staging the inaugural World Cup final between the hosts and Argentina and, fittingly, also the scene of tonight's crucial clash of the near neighbours and even closer rivals.

On the morning of July 30th, 1930, the port of Montevideo was so overwhelmed many boats arriving from Buenos Aries had to turn around and so never got near the stadium. Still, there were 93,000 witnesses, almost all of whom were inside the ground at least four hours before kick-off.

With violence on the streets, at least one player receiving a death threat, and the referee demanding a pre-planned emergency escape route, feelings before the game were high enough for match officials to concede to a demand to play one half with a ball supplied by the Uruguayans and the other with one from Argentina. In the match itself, Uruguay recovered from going in at the break 2-1 down to claim the inaugural World Cup Trophy - presented by Jules Rimet who would later give his name to the cup - by four goals to two.

The Uruguayan government declared a national holiday.

In Buenos Aires, a mob attacked the Uruguayan consulate.

At least neither side has ever had to wait long for a opportunity to gain revenge for a defeat. Tonight they will meet for the 175th time, easily handing the fixture the record for the most international matches between two countries. In fact, by 1916, Uruguay had played 30 international games - 29 of them were against Argentina. Their more recent World Cup meeting came in Mexico, when Argentina were captained by the man whose managerial job is on the line tonight - Diego Maradona.

On June 16th, 1986, in the first knock-out round, Pedro Pasculli scored the only goal to put the Argentinians through to what would be an infamous meeting with England on the way to a second World Cup triumph - thereby emulating Uruguay.

Tonight, in one of the oldest international rivalries in any sport, qualification for the 2010 World Cup finals is on the line. A win or draw will ensure automatic qualification for Maradona's team, but if they lose they will take the humiliating play-off route - playing the fourth-placed finisher in concacaf (either Costa Rica or Honduras) - with Uruguay getting the last direct flight ticket to South Africa.

There is the added complication of another team in the mix, with Ecuador - who were beaten by Uruguay, thanks to a penalty converted by Diego Forlan with the last kick of the game on Saturday - still in the play-off race, which they can take from Uruguay should Argentina win in Montevideo and Ecuador put Chile to the sword.

Still, everything centres on tonight's game in Montevideo between two teams which are polar opposites. While Uruguay are worth more than the sum of their parts, Maradona's side have been stumbling blindly through the qualification process relying on individual moments of brilliance to see them through. Last weekend it was the turn of Martin Palermo, who provided the injury-time goal against Peru that led Maradona to call the 35-year-old a "miracle maker".

Nevertheless, Uruguay won't stand back tonight. Forlan, Aris Thessaloniki's Sebastian Abreu and Ajax's Luis Suarez have scored no less than 17 goals between them in the qualification ties to date. The three failed to hit the target during Uruguay's visit to Buenos Aires a year ago, with Messi and Aguero scoring for the home side and Lugano grabbing a consolation in a tense affair that featured 10 yellow cards shared evenly between the teams.

With Juan Sebastian Veron - who was suspended for the Peru match - likely to go straight back into the starting line-up tonight, under- fire Maradona's team selection will be closely watched, especially after he turned to Palermo at the weekend, leaving Aguero and Manchester City's Carlos Tevez on the bench. A high-risk strategy in a local battle of such high stakes. .

Whatever football owes Uruguay will be repaid 10-fold if they qualify for the finals automatically at the expense of their traditional foe. Uruguay v Argentina Montevideo ......Derby of the year.

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