BUENOS AIRES - Argentine coach Diego Maradona was granted the choice by football authorities on Monday to move September's World Cup qualifier against arch-rivals Brazil away from the River Plate stadium in Buenos Aires. Maradona criticised the River Plate pitch before and after Argentina's last home qualifier, a laboured 1-0 win over Colombia in June, and said players had asked to move the game to the more compact Rosario Central stadium in Argentina's second city.
The Argentine Football Association (AFA) said on its website (www.afa.org.ar) on Monday that world governing body FIFA had passed the smaller Rosario Central stadium as fit to host Argentina's qualifiers.
The choice of venue would be taken by Maradona and national technical director Carlos Bilardo, who as coach steered Argentina to World Cup victory in 1986, AFA president Julio Grondona told local media. "The main thing in this case it to please those who play," Grondona said on newspaper Infobae's website.
The tight Gigante de Arroyito ground in Rosario, 400km north of Buenos Aires, would bring local fans much closer to the goals than the River's Monumental, which has an athletics track around the pitch.
Maradona's row with River Plate, bitter enemies of his beloved Boca Juniors, has been in the news on and off since early June with the club upset by his criticism.
Reports have also said players are wary of playing at River Plate out of superstition, given the September 5 match will fall on the 16th anniversary of Argentina's only home defeat in a World Cup qualifier, a 5-0 humiliation by Colombia.
Argentina, struggling for form under Maradona, are precariously placed at fourth in the 10-nation South American group, five points behind leaders Brazil. Only the top four go through automatically to the finals in South Africa next year.
Argentina must face third-placed Paraguay three days after the Brazil match, then meetings with Peru at home and Uruguay away in October in a tough run.
The team finishing fifth goes into a playoff with the fourth-placed nation in the CONCACAF region for another berth.
River's secretary of football Mario Israel warned Argentina not to turn its back on history.
"I believe the national team's home is historically our stadium. It's a strategic mistake to spurn the Monumental," he told local radio, referring to the venue of Argentina's first World Cup triumph in 1978.comments