Argentina began their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualification campaign with a 2-0 defeat of Chile in Buenos Aires. Then, their headlines and goals - both sumptuous free-kicks - were claimed by Juan Roman Riquelme.
Such was the impact of the enigmatic attacking midfielder, who was playing his first match in three months, that Albiceleste coach Alfio Basile hailed him as "a phenomenon with magician's feet".
Riquelme's wizardry was again in evidence on Saturday, when his inch-perfect cross was headed home by Lionel Messi en route to a 2-1 victory over Uruguay. But if that was the zenith of the No10's performance in the Estadio Monumental, its nadir arrived in the form of a booking that will rule him out of Wednesday's trip to Santiago to face the team he undid one year ago yesterday.
"Of course it is a big loss for the national team," Javier Zanetti said of Riquelme's suspension. "He is a player who can make a difference at any moment. With a dead-ball situation he can make things easier for the team, that is for certain."
The Argentina captain, his country's most capped player, nevertheless believes they can cope with Riquelme's absence against Chile. "We possess players with the capacity to replace him. , because whoever plays will do their best for the team," Zanetti added.
Carlos Tevez will also sit out of Argentina's tenth South Africa 2010 qualifier after collecting a yellow card against Uruguay. "I know I will miss the next match, but the important thing was to achieve the victory," he said after the success at the Estadio Monumental.
Basile reacted to the Manchester United forward's suspension by handing Jose Sand his maiden call-up. The Lanus striker tops the Argentinian Apertura 2008 scoring chart. "I've worked very hard for this moment - arriving at the national team is a major step for me," said the 28-year-old.
Argentina are third in the South American standings, behind Brazil on goal difference and Paraguay by four points. Chile rest fourth, three points behind their forthcoming opponents.
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