Solano keen to kill Argentina dreams

BUENOS AIRES - "Bad guy" Nolberto Solano hopes to lead cellar-dwelling Peru to an upset win over Argentina on Saturday that would put Diego Maradona's team on the verge of World Cup elimination.

"I want to play a great game against Argentina and go down in history, like the bad guys in the movies, for eliminating a great team," the Peruvian captain told reporters in Lima.

He added, however, that if Argentina go through to the 2010 finals in South Africa, "they will be favourites even though they have not had a great (qualifying) campaign".

Argentina, sitting precariously in fifth place in the South American Group, need to beat Peru then Uruguay next Wednesday to secure at least a playoff berth against a CONCACAF team.

Peru are bottom and out of the running but any points they take from Argentina will be good news for other teams fighting tooth and nail with Maradona's team to get to the finals.

Maradona ran into injury problems as soon as he had his full squad together on Tuesday.

Right back Pablo Zabaleta had picked up a muscle injury playing for Manchester City on Monday night and, with record 138-cap veteran Javier Zanetti dropped, had no recognised understudy in the position, fuel for critics of Maradona's selection policy.

Central midfield was also a problem area with captain Javier Mascherano doubtful with muscle fatigue and Juan Sebastian Veron suspended, although left wing Angel Di Maria is back from a four-match ban.


Pablo Aimar, who last played for Argentina at the 2007 Copa America, looks set to take the playmaking mantle and there could be debuts for striker Gonzalo Higuain and right wing Enzo Perez in an attack that has managed only one goal in their last three qualifying defeats to Ecuador, Brazil and Paraguay.

This could mean strikers Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero, usually starters in the six previous qualifiers under Maradona, being consigned to the bench.

Peru, who continue to overlook strikers Jefferson Farfan and Claudio Pizarro over disciplinary issues, will hope for goals from Hernan Rengifo, who handed his country the 1-0 home win over Uruguay last month that ended a run of eight defeats including friendlies.

Midfielder Roberto Palacios is doubtful with a recurrence of a knee ligament injury.

Maradona is seeking a first win over Peru after a defeat and a draw when he was a player in 1985. In the qualifiers for the 1986 finals in Mexico, Peru very nearly sent Argentina into a playoff, an equaliser nine minutes from time ensuring they won their group.

Maradona will be wary that the same man-to-man marking that kept him quiet in that draw, could be in Peru's plans for Lionel Messi on Saturday.

It was not the first time Peru troubled Argentina in Buenos Aires. In 1969, a draw sent a very good Peruvian side to the 1970 tournament in Mexico and eliminated Argentina, the last time they failed to reach the finals.