Argentina aim to end the drought
Exactly three weeks ago, Argentine football had double cause to celebrate after beating eternal rivals Brazil in Buenos Aires to secure their qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany.
Tonight in Frankfurt, however, Jose Pekerman's side have the chance to write another chapter in their country's illustrious footballing history if they can beat the Brazilians again and lift their first major title in 12 years, the FIFA Confederations Cup. With less than a year to go before FIFA's flagship event in 2006, the significance of the showdown has been lost on nobody.
The last time the Albiceleste picked up a trophy was back on 4 July 1993 in Ecuador, when Alfio Basile's side beat Mexico 2-1 in the final of that year's Copa América to retain the continental crown they had lifted two years earlier in Chile. Nobody could have predicted in the midst of those celebrations, that there were storm clouds on the horizon for Argentina, or that they would stay around so long.
Time and again, Argentina arrived at international competitions among the favourites but time and again they flattered to deceive. Particularly disappointing was their ignominious first-round exit at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, a wound that has yet to fully heal. Pekerman knows only too well that if he breaks the cycle tonight then his special place in Argentine footballing history will be assured.
'A different story'
Losing streaks aside, Argentina know that this is a special game. With silverware at stake, the German setting, and Brazil providing the opposition, this should be an electric-charged evening. "Everyone wants to take part in these games. All the players have that motivation that comes with facing opponents who deserve the utmost respect," said the ever-diplomatic Pekerman.
The Argentina coach was speaking from experience as it was victory over the Verdeamarelha that earned him his first FIFA World Youth title in 1995, and another win over them that sent them on their way to retaining the title two years later in Malaysia.
But it is not necessary to go that far back to find examples of Albiceleste delight at the expense of their neighbours. On Tuesday in the Netherlands, an U-20 side inspired by Lionel Messi won their semi-final duel with Brazil at the FIFA World Youth Championship. Three weeks earlier in a South American qualifier for Germany 2006, Pekerman's charges downed the world champions 3-1. Remarking on that memorable triumph, the coach said: "That victory could have an impact (tonight) to a certain extent, but in football lightning doesn't always strike twice."
So what kind of match are we in store for? "It will be a great game with world-class players lining up for both sides," replied the coach. "Both teams can pass and control the ball well, and are more than capable of creating and finishing their moves."
But behind his unshakeable diplomacy, Pekerman is well aware that opportunity is knocking for his side tonight. "We came to Germany to find some answers and to continue to experiment with the squad. But make no mistake about it - we want this team to achieve everything they can. Our history demands it."