Argentinian rugby puts pressure on football
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Argentina's sky-blue strip (AAP Image/AFP/Marty Melville)
The Pumas’ strong showing in the Rugby Championship has come at a time when Argentina’s reputation as one of football’s superpowers has been questioned.
Argentina’s rugby prospects are gleaming after they recorded a 16-all draw against the Springboks and pushed Australia to the limit last weekend.
The Wallabies trailed the Pumas by 19-6 with 25 minutes remaining but scored two late tries to escape Skilled Park with the four points.
Led by Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, the big and physical Pumas pack has proven they can compete against the three best rugby-playing nations in the world.
Argentina is the highest ranked South American team in eighth position, trailing European heavyweights England and France but above European stalwarts Scotland.
The Pumas have been fluctuating around rugby’s top 10 since 2007, where they reached their highest ranking of fourth place.
Argentina is one spot higher than they were this time last year and can spike back up the rankings if they perform well against Australia and South Africa at home.
But has the Pumas’ surge been at the expense of the Argentinian football team’s slide?
In Argentina rugby union takes a back seat to football.
The world game has enthralled South America with Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina dominating the international stage since the modern era.
Diego Maradona and now Lionel Messi are Argentinian legends who have become global icons amongst the football fraternity.
But in recent years the Argentinian football team has failed to deliver on the big stage, which has seen their status as a superpower plummet.
Argentina currently sits seventh in the FIFA rankings and continue to drop after topping the standings five years ago.
Friendlies and international warm up matches are hard to judge how a team is travelling in terms of form and results, however the World Cup and Copa de America are better indicators given the stakes are higher and teams need to win at all costs.
And Argentina has failed to get past the quarter-final stage of a World Cup since 1990.
Also, Argentina has not fared much better in the Copa America, having not won since 1993.
These statistics don’t tell the full story, but they show Argentina is no longer the force they used to be.
Rebuilding, friction, injuries; players and coaches can put whatever spin they like, truth is the Argentinian government funds millions of dollars into Argentinian soccer at the expense of a lot less for rugby union.
The sport dynamic is not going to shift but the recent good form of the Argentinian rugby side has magnified the disappointments of their soccer counterparts.
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