Football: Stakes are high for Montevideo match

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The Independent Online
Uruguay and Argentina renew one of international football's oldest and most bitter rivalries in Montevideo tomorrow when they meet in a World Cup qualifying match for the first time.

The stakes, always high when the old foes come face to face, have been raised even further by the indifferent form of the two teams in the South American World Cup qualifying group.

Only a few years ago both would have been expected to waltz through the nine-team group in which the top four qualify for the World Cup finals. But this time they find themselves slugging it out with the likes of Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay for a place in France - and neither can afford any more slip-ups.

Argentina are third but only three points separate them from eighth- placed Bolivia. Uruguay are level on points with their neighbours but two places below on goal difference.

Both sides are eight points behind the group leaders, Colombia, who do not play tomorrow. Argentina have already lost to Ecuador and been held at home by Paraguay and Chile. Uruguay have lost away to Chile and at home to Paraguay.

The Uruguay coach, Juan Ahuntchain, who took over after Hector Nunez was sacked in the wake of a 1-0 defeat in Chile, said he had still not decided on the team. The veteran Enzo Francescoli, a survivor of the 1986 World Cup, is likely to play even though he is not fully fit.

"The only thing that interests us is to win," the striker Daniel Fonseca, who plays for Roma, said. "If we do it playing well, that's well and good, but the only thing that really matters for Uruguay at the moment is the result."

A sell-out 70,000 crowd is expected at Punta del Este's Centenario stadium, the venue of the first World Cup final in 1930.