Argentina buy time for improvement

MONTEVIDEO - Having seen Argentina through to next year's World Cup finals coach Diego Maradona has eight months to identify and correct the many mistakes of an error-riddled qualifying campaign.

Juan Sebastian Veron was not afraid to speak his mind after qualification was secured on Wednesday with a 1-0 victory over Uruguay at the Centenario.

"Everything (was done badly) from top to bottom... We must change things to see a competitive Argentina, that we can enjoy, not suffer," Veron told reporters.

"This is an important step but we mustn't sweep things under the carpet. We must analyse things from the inside, from (Argentine Football Association president Julio) Grondona to the last player."

Whether Maradona sees and admits to the same errors that his many critics have witnessed this year will keep the media he despises and fans preoccupied during the run-up to South Africa 2010.

Maradona has appeared deaf to the criticism but there is hope that he listens to an outstanding player like Veron, who led Estudiantes to their fourth South American Libertadores Cup title in July.

Argentina, playing conservatively, had one of their better performances under Maradona on Wednesday if only for the relative cohesion of the team with Veron busy in midfield and Martin Demichelis strong at the back.


When Argentina were crushed 6-1 in Bolivia in April and 3-1 at home by Brazil in September, Maradona, an inexperienced coach, appeared clueless and it was only the quality of the players eking out wins against Colombia, Peru and Uruguay that avoided greater embarrassments.

Surprising selections, more than 70 call-ups for 12 international matches including friendlies and relying on some players on the brink of retirement to try to save Argentina's skin with little apparent tactical work in practice pointed to a lack of direction.

The emotional Maradona, under medication to keep his stress levels in check, looked more than anything a player frustrated at being unable to come onto the pitch himself to try to resolve matches.

"It wasn't easy, it ended up as it started - complicated. Qualifying... sometimes is easier, at times more difficult which is how it went for us now," the 34-year-old Veron said.

"Now we have the necessary time for the coach to work to find the team that will go to the World Cup," said Veron, who is in line for a third finals having missed out in 2006.

Veron was part of Daniel Passarella's quarter-finalists in France in 1998 and Marcelo Bielsa's side who in 2002, having sailed through the qualifiers and arrived in Japan as favourites, were dumped out in the group stage.