You could barely see anything when Martín Palermo scored the winner against Peru in the 93rd minute. As the manager of his beloved Argentina, Maradona manufactured another epic chapter of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers by bringing in the 35-year-old Titán in the second half to save La Albiceleste’s qualifying chances. Only soccer in South America can deliver this.
That stormy spring night in Buenos Aires had everything. Argentina, the two-time World Cup champion, was fighting to save face. Peru, already eliminated, was competing for pride and a chance to upset a giant. A late winner from a legendary figure like Palermo and the now-iconic slide-in celebration on the flooded pitch from Diego, and you have the kind of quality drama that makes for great memories.
Fútbol in South America evokes nostalgia. It is an imperfect, brilliant game. The players’ level of talent, plus the passion of a very outspoken crowd, recalls a bygone era unlike any other place in the world.
In celebration of a new round of 2022 World Cup qualifiers, we asked four South American journalists to give us their favorite memory of soccer in South America.
Buckle up, and take a trip down memory lane with soccer in South America memories.
“My best memory is a 4–0 Colombia win against Uruguay for the 2014 qualifiers in Barranquilla. Of course, defeating La Celeste is always a milestone, but living it in your hometown with thousands of our fans is truly unforgettable.
Hearing an Uruguayan colleague blaming the loss to the Caribbean heat was also a sweet moment to enjoy. Later on, he recognized the kind of quality team we were. Again, a memory I will carry with me through family generations.”
—Julieth González, Deutsche Welle (DW)
“The first World Cup Qualifiers process I followed was South Africa 2010. Paraguay beat every country at least once to qualify for their fourth straight World Cup, where they reached the quarterfinals.
My favorite game was a 1–0 win at home against Maradona’s Argentina. Nelson Haedo Valdez scored the memorable goal that would seal the ticket to South Africa.”
—Roberto Rojas, beIN Sports
“One of my favorite soccer in South America stories I remember was Richard Morales as the unexpected hero against Australia in 2001 to return to the World Cup after 12 long years.
In March 2016, I had the privilege of broadcasting for beIN Sports the much-anticipated return of Luis Suárez for Brazil-Uruguay, a powerhouse duel in Recife. Unfortunately, the Celeste team lacked its four starters in the defensive line and was two goals down on the scoreboard after just 25 minutes of action.
A stunning combination of speed, skills, and heart allowed the Uruguayan side to tie the score, dominate the second half, and almost win the game with a late shot by Suárez.”
—Jorge Ottati, Ottati Sports
“Without a doubt, Colombia’s 5–0 win over Argentina during the 1993 qualifiers is my favorite World Cup–qualifying memory. I was a sophomore in high school back in my home in Cali, Colombia. I had never experienced a celebration in the streets quite like it.
Brazil’s 2–0 win over Chile in 1989 is the tournament’s most iconic and infamous moment. I was a kid at the time, but I’ll never forget seeing Chile’s goalkeeper Roberto Rojas’s bloodied face as he was carried off the field by his teammates.
After appearing to be injured by a flare tossed onto the field, an investigation soon revealed that Rojas had faked the injury and cut himself with a razor blade that he concealed in one of his gloves. As a result, Rojas was later banned for life.”
—Felipe Cardenas, The Athletic
Main Image: Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo