It hasn’t been a good couple of days for Argentine sport, losing in both the football and tennis world. The U-20 football team received yet another blow in the South American cup’s hexagonal — which grants a spot at this year’s world cup to the first four teams — and saw its chances to qualify narrow with it. The Davis Cup team, on its end, lost an incredible series against Italy, after almost staging a comeback that would have been even more incredible, and now will have to defend its spot at the world group in the playoffs later this year.
Let’s begin with tennis: The start of the Davis Cup (the World Cup of Tennis) hasn’t gone at all to plan. After coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the cup’s round of 16, Argentine Guido Pella lost a five set battle against Fabio Fognini today. Even more heartbreaking for the Argentine team is the fact that Pella won the first two sets of the game, but couldn’t seize the advantage and ended up conceding the match. This thrusts Italy into the quarterfinals and guarantees them a spot in the top tier for next year.
What does this mean for Argentina? 2017 Davis Cup victory dreams are over early. A big contrast with last year, when they won it for the first time in history. They will now have to win a playoff series to keep their spot in the world group for next year. In the case they lose, they will then have to play the American group — something that last happened in 2001 — in order to get a spot in the playoff. You can see a full breakdown of how the Davis Cup works and the fixtures here.
The recent match was won three sets to two by Fognini. Despite Pella’s strong start winning the first two sets (6-2, 6-4), Fognini made an impressive come back with a three set roll (6-4, 6-2, 6-3) earning his victory. Coach Daniel Orsanic still doesn’t know who Argentina will face in the Play-offs, but it more than likely the team will count with two of its strongest players who didn’t take part in this series, Federico Delbonis and especially Juan Martín Del Potro.
— Sebastián Torok (@sebatorok) February 6, 2017
Football-related news are not much better. The under-20 team suffered a howling defeat against Ecuador. It was so bad, the only the Argentine squad got in the stats chart was a yellow card. After a redeeming 2-1 win against Colombia last week — which included a last minute winner — things were looking hopeful for the squad. However, this unexpected defeat against has left the team needing to pull their socks up in the next few games if they want to take one of those four spots for this year’s U-20 World Cup.
This defeat plunges the Argentine team into fifth place out of six in the final hexagonal stint of the tournament. Against the cosh, the squad faces rivals Brazil (currently third) on Wednesday and Venezuela (currently second) on Saturday. Although there is still a chance they can make it into the qualifying four for the World Cup in South Korea its a thin tightrope.
A Quick Rundown
The first nail in the coffin arrived just passed the half hour mark, when the referee called a penalty Lisandro Martínez earned a yellow from a handball in the box. Ecuadorian striker, Pervis Estupiñán slotted a confident penalty down the middle and put his team one goal ahead before the break.
Fifteen minutes into the second half Argentina were two goals down, thanks to a stretching conversion from Jordy Caicedo, after a cross that sliced up the Argentine defence left him a near open goal. Within twenty minutes the goal bell rang again for Ecuador, putting the game beyond redemption. A lofted ball over the Argentine back four followed by a decisive touch and calm finish from Bryan Cabezas put the game out of reach.
With two games left, Argentina will have to step up its game and get at least a win if it wants to secure a spot in the World Cup, to be held in South Korea in May this year.