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Uruguay-Argentina at the Centenario: both teams under enormous pressure
by Paul Kennedy, August 30th, 2017 11:08PM
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TAGS:  men's national team


Uruguay-Argentina is one of the great rivalries of the world. Thursday's World Cup qualifier at Montevideo's famed Estadio Centenario is made all the more dramatic because neither team -- both two-time world champions -- is assured of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

The match is made special because of the possible meeting between Barcelona teammates Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.

The problem is, Suarez has an injured right knee and was initially ruled out of the game. But he still flew to Montevideo from Barcelona and could play. That made Uruguay national team trainer Alberto Pan the man of the moment at the Uruguay press conference.

“I’d never rule out Suarez,” Pan said.

Suarez joined his teammates for training, and the knee appeared to be OK. The key will be how it reacts before Pan can say whether Suarez will be able to play. Without Suarez, the Celeste would still have Edinson Cavani, South America's leading scorer in  qualifying with nine goals.

But Uruguay is desperate for points after losing its last three qualifiers and falling back into the pack. Instead of being a sure bet to qualify, Coach Oscar Tabarez's team is now tied for third with Chile just a point ahead of Argentina and three ahead of Ecuador.

Four games remain in the South America marathon that will send the top four teams to Russia and the fifth-place team -- currently Argentina -- into a playoff against the Oceania champion.

Thursday's game will be the first qualifier since Jorge Sampaoli took over as Argentina coach.

Edgardo Bauza replaced Tata Martino -- now Atlanta United coach -- as national team coach after the 2016 Copa Centenario, but he didn't last a year. He was fired in April after Argentina's 2-0 loss at Bolivia, which has won only three of 14 qualifiers.

Sampaoli’s big move was to bring in Mauro Icardi for Gonzalo Higuain. The Inter captain, who played all of seven minutes for Argentina before Sampaoli took over, should play up front with Messi and Paulo Dybala behind him.

    commented on: August 31, 2017 at 10:26 a.m.
    latest fifa rankings a joke-DFB worse than Brasil and one up on the Gauchos after our b side beats Chile? und Schweiz? wirklich?
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: August 31, 2017 at 4:58 p.m.
    Very interesting day for international qualifiers. Compare UEFA matches vs CONMEBOL. UEFA with plenty of blow-out matches vs minnows, and CONMEBOL matches are closely contested every game (maybe with the exception of Bolivia and Venezuela).
    commented on: September 1, 2017 at 8:34 a.m.
    it's all about fifa votes, R2

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