Argentina needed a win to progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup in New Zealand in their final group game against Austria and last night Humberto Grondona’s youngsters could only muster a frustrating goalless draw. A draw, which barring a miraculous set of results, sees the South American champions crash out in the first round without a win to their name and signals the end to the Grondona era.
Austria knew that a draw would see them progress along with Ghana and as a result retreated early and allowed Argentina to enjoy the majority of possession. Argentina had their chances and came close on several occasions but either poor finishing, bad luck or the impressive Tino Casali in the Austrian goal prevented them from finding the crucial goal.
When the referee whistled for full-time, Austria celebrated and Grondona and his side knew that they were heading home after yet another disappointing tournament. Two points from their three group matches puts Argentina in third position and they would now need New Zealand v Burma and Senegal against Qatar to also end in draws to sneak through as one of the best placed sides in third.
For a side that undoubtedly has talent in it and had aspirations of winning the tournament, this is a bitter blow. Gerardo Martino had already informed AFA when he took the national side job that he wanted control over the youth sides but had to compromise and allow Humberto Grondona to continue up until the World Cup. The team’s failure ultimately comes down on Humbertito and should now spell the end of his era in charge. It is time for Argentina to once again put the under-20 side back into the hands of an established coach, as they did with Jose Peckerman to such success in the late 90s and early 00s.