Argentina faces Australia tomorrow (3) for the round of 16 of the World Cup in Qatar. The match at 4 pm (from Brasilia) is the cue for the neighboring rescue of the unusual stories involving the meeting of the two countries for the Play-off of the Qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup.
The two matches were played between October and November 1993. And then the sphinx named Diego Armando Maradona entered. Like a die-hard fan, he had been at Monumental in their 5-0 defeat by Colombia, wearing a blue and white 1986 shirt; he suffered and cried with defeat, helpless in his seat, like thousands of Argentines.
At the end of the match, he heard the desperate screams of the mass, clamoring for his return: “Maradooo! Maradooo“, according to the book “Copa Loca”. Launched in Brazil in 2018 by Garoa Livros, the work details all Argentine participation in World Cups.
Four days after the defeat for Colombia, symptomatically, Maradona got a contract with Newell’s Old Boys. In the sequence, the selection doors would be wide open for his return. In about 45 days, the ace melted almost fifteen kilos. The star was back.
With him on the field, the Argentines managed a draw in the first leg of the intercontinental play-off against the Australians, 1-1, on October 31, in Sydney.
Two weeks later, in the duel in Buenos Aires, the playmaker was the reference of tranquility in the most nervous game of the Argentine national team in decades.
The qualifying goal came 15 minutes into the second half, in a Batistuta cross that deflected off the marker, gained height and made a parabola to cover the goalkeeper Zabica🇧🇷
Relief: Argentina and Diego Maradona were in the 1994 World Cup, but the World Cup ended badly, with Argentina’s elimination in the round of 16, to Romania, and with a doping positive for Maradona, sidelined in the third game of the first phase for the use of ephedrine.
Diego, over the years, nurtured the thesis of an alleged pact between him and João Havelange, the head of FIFA, who never carried out Maradona’s version.
The Argentine number 10 said that the agreement came precisely in the play-off against Australia, at the end of 1993, when Argentina was on the verge of being out of the World Cup — something that would represent a significant loss to FIFA and its sponsors.
The ace would have been hastily called back to the selection with the guarantee that he would not need to undergo any type of anti-doping test. This obviously implies that Diego has been under the influence of illegal substances since that time.
(Concretely, just the fact that no doping tests were actually carried out in the two matches between Argentina and Australia —a highly unusual practice in competitions organized by FIFA and which remains unexplained to this day.)
In May 2011, Maradona himself tried to add more fuel to the fire when he said that, in the two games of the repechage, the AFA (Argentine Football Association) provided Argentine athletes with a “fast coffee”.
“Grondona told us that there would be no anti-doping control. They put something in the coffee and with that you ran more. You have to be really stupid to believe it. They do ten exams, and in the match that counts for classification, there is no anti-doping”, said Diego then.
Another very vivid memory of that Argentina v Australia match in Buenos Aires was the celebration of the crowd at the Obelisk.
The city center was simply destroyed after the fierce riot that involved a pitched battle against the Buenos Aires police. According to the newspaper “clarion” at the time, no less than 23 people were injured and 43 were arrested.