El Monumental, Buenos Aires by Jimmy Baikovicius / Flickr
Argentina vs Colombia
7 June 2013
World Cup Qualifier
El Monumental, Buenos Aires
With the arrival of summer, attention can begin to turn away from domestic football towards international competition – and particularly the Unofficial Football World Championships. Argentina are the reigning UFWC champions, having taken the title from Sweden in February and successfully held off challenges from Venezuela and Bolivia. And the next UFWC title match sees Argentina play Colombia on Friday 7 June.
The match is also a CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier. Argentina currently top the South American qualifying group, but Colombia are just five points behind with a game in hand. Argentina have won 6 of the last 10 matches between the two sides, including the previous World Cup qualifier in November 2011. Taking home advantage into account, the online betting sites make Argentina odds-on favourites. But Colombia can’t be written off, and could cause another UFWC upset.
The domestic season in Argentina won’t finish until the end of June, when the winners of the Torneo Inicial (Vélez Sársfield) and Torneo Final (most likely Newell’s Old Boys) will meet in the championship final to decide the Super Champion. As a result, Alejandro Sabella’s Argentina squad doesn’t contain a single domestically-based player. But the squad still looks incredibly strong.
The likes of Maxi Rodriguez of Newell’s Old Boys and Fernando Gago of Vélez Sársfield miss out, but in come replacements such as Ezequiel Garay of Benfica and Fabricio Coloccini of Newcastle United (who is being strongly linked with a move back to Argentina with San Lorenzo). Star names that retain their place in the squad include Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
The headline-grabbing name on Sabella’s squad list is that of Lionel Messi, who is included despite being sidelined due to a hamstring injury. However, Messi has recovered rapidly from previous injuries, and few will be surprised to see Sabella take a gamble on his highest-profile player returning to fitness in time for the match.
Colombia’s star player is Atlético Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, who is on the verge of a £50 million move to Monaco after a brilliant season in which he scored 32 goals in 36 games. Falcao is Colombia’s key danger man, but Argentina will also need to be wary of his fellow-strikers Teo Gutiérrez and Jackson Martínez. Jose Pekerman’s team is captained by veteran Milan defender Mario Yepes. Midfielders Fredy Guarín of Inter and Macnelly Torres of Atlético Nacional are also worth keeping an eye on.
Los Cafeteros (The Coffee Growers) beat Bolivia 5-0 in a World Cup qualifier in March, but then lost 1-0 to Venezuela a few days later, so they look to be an unpredictable opponent. As far as the UFWC goes, they’ve won 8 UFWC title matches – compared to Argentina’s 52. Colombia’s last UFWC win was way back at USA 94 – a World Cup tournament that was followed by the horrific murder of Andrés Escobar. Colombia didn’t play another international match for seven months, and were then beaten in controversial circumstances by South Korea. Can Colombia regain the UFWC title some 18 years later?
Whatever the result of this match, another round of World Cup qualifiers will provide us with another UFWC title match just four days later. On 11 June, Argentina travel to Ecuador, and Colombia host Peru. Both potential challengers have reasonable UFWC form. Ecuador have won 2 UFWC title matches, while Peru have won 7 – just one less than Colombia.
Argentina play Colombia at the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti in Buenos Aires on Friday 7 June. Kick-off is at 19:05 local time (23:00 BST). Will Argentina retain the UFWC title? Or can challengers Colombia win in Buenos Aires and become Unofficial Football World Champions? You can make your prediction or post your comments below, and we’ll provide full coverage of the match right here.