Argentina sinking `like Titanic`, say Copa critics

Buenos Aires: Argentina`s faltering Copa
America campaign was compared to the doomed Titanic, with
coach Sergio Batista struggling at the helm of the
under-performing hosts.

Batista should have been on to a good thing when he
replaced Diego Maradona after the World Cup.

After all, had not Maradona`s men laboured to qualify for
the finals in South Africa in the first place, losing 6-1 to
makeweights Bolivia, before, once there, being flattened by
Germany in the quarter-finals?

Maradona`s trials and tribulations and personality
clashes with powerful Argentine Football Association (AFA)
president Julio Grondona, who finally forced him out, were

But the star of Argentina`s 1986 World Cup win did bring
one thing to the table that Argentina sorely lack on the basis
of their Copa America draws with Bolivia and Colombia: passion
for the cause.

"They don`t really seem to have a leader with a leader`s
personality," former international goalkeeper Carlos Bossio
observed on Thursday as hungry media picked over the debris of
the horror show against Colombia.

"He is leading the Titanic towards the iceberg," was the
brutal assessment of Spanish sports daily AS.

On the plus side, there was a clean sheet, unlike in
their 5-0 drubbing by Colombia in a 1993 World Cup qualifier
that marked the start of an 18-year trophy drought at senior

And there were no missed penalties, unlike Martin
Palermo`s hat-trick of spot-kick blunders in the 1999 Copa
against the `cafeteros.`

Yet something was missing in a team that on paper should
be world beaters with Lionel Messi at its hub.

Striker Carlos Tevez admitted candidly that "the booing
hurts" after the Santa Fe crowd gave free rein to their
frustration, while defender Gabriel Milito added: "It hurts,
but we have to deal with it. We know we are not living up to
expectations. We have to get a grip.”

"But we have another game to win," he added of Monday`s
now vital final Group A encounter at Cordoba.

Santa Fe`s Brigadier Estanislao Lopez stadium is known as
the `elephants` graveyard` owing to several domestic shock
results there in the past.

And if a major improvement is not forthcoming against
Costa Rica, then Argentina are likely to find their hopes of a
record 15th Copa title prematurely buried.

However, given that the two best third-placed sides in
the competition will progress another draw may just prove

Batista must wonder what he has done to displease the
footballing gods, and fans shouting for Maradona`s return in
the final minutes of the Colombia game clearly have a view on

Bureau Report