SK Flashback: When Peru coach Ricardo Gareca scored the winning goal for Argentina against India
When it comes to South American teams, football aficionados in India celebrate the success of Brazil and Argentina. Seldom do they look beyond the two powerhouses of Latin American football. At the ongoing World Cup as well, the opinion is divided between Neymar and Lionel Messi, Coutinho and Sergio Aguero.
However, for those few fanatics in the country with a nose for history, Peru's participation in Russia is big news. Because, however minute, it has an India connect.
For the uninitiated, Ricardo Gareca, who is the coach of the Peru national football team at the World Cup, was a part of the Argentine squad that visited India back in the 1980s. Not only that, he also scored the solitary goal that decided the match between India and Argentina.
It was back in 1984, and Argentina, albeit without Diego Maradona (he was injured), had travelled to Kolkata to take part in the Nehru Cup, a tournament which used to attract quality in its early years. As many as six teams – India, Poland, Argentina, China, Vasas Budapest and Romania U-21 – were participating in the tournament. After all the teams played each other in a round-robin format, the top two teams would meet in the final.
India, coached by the Yugoslavian, Milovan Ciric, began their campaign with a narrow loss against Poland before facing Argentina in their second match. Despite the defeat against Poland, Biswajit Bhattacharya and Co. started the game on a positive note.
They did not let Argentina dictate possession, neither did they allow them to create any major chances. The defence, marshalled by Manoranjan Bhattacharya, produced a resilient performance and the match was tied 0-0 until the 79th minute. However, just when it was looking that India might eke out a draw, Gareca managed to find the back of the net.
Here's a video of the goal:
The Argentines were left frustrated with India's defensive showing and by the latter part of the second half, they had started resorting to long balls. The goal that Gareca scored was nothing but a result of the long ball policy adopted by the Carlos Bilardo-coached side.
Following a corner, the Indians had failed to clear the ball properly and the visitors were just lobbing the ball into the penalty box in an attempt to create an opening. One such ball fell to Gareca who took it down with his chest, before taking a shot from an awkward angle. The sheer power in the shot clubbed with the precise placement, left India's goalkeeper, Atanu Bhattacharya, with no chance.
Remembering the match, Biswajit Bhattacharya, forward of the Indian team who had scored in the 1-2 loss against Poland, told Sportskeeda, "It was an exciting match. We were playing well and so were they. Argentina had quite a few players who were World Cuppers and definitely, it was tough for us."
"Nevertheless, we had at least 5-6 opportunities to score but in the end, we lost due to Gareca's goal. As far as I remember, he had a brilliant tournament, scoring three or four goals," he added.
Incidentally, Gareca finished the tournament as the joint top-scorer (alongside Roman Wójcicki of Poland) with three goals, one against India and a brace against Vasas Budapest.
"Gareca, back at that time, was one of the more presentable figures on the football pitch. He was tall, had a long mane and until now, he has maintained his appearance, which is incredible. As Peru's coach, he has done wonders. Under him, the team has been playing quite well," Bhattacharya further said.
Surprisingly, the Albiceleste failed to make the cut and it was Poland and China who fought it out in the final. Two years later in 1986, though, Argentina, with several players from that team, would go on to win the World Cup. However, Gareca, who was was in and out of the national team and played only 20 matches, was not a part of the World Cup-winning squad.
Gareca’s coaching career started two years after he retired as a player in 1996. He managed several clubs in Argentina, Spain, Peru and Colombia. In 2014, he was appointed as the coach of the famed Brazilian club Palmeiras and one year later, he was named the head coach of Peru.
During his short tenure so far, the 60-year-old has already helped Peru reach the Copa America semis and qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time in 36 years. In the opening match of the World Cup, however, Peru suffered a disappointing defeat to Denmark as Christian Cueva squandered a penalty before Yussuf Poulsen scored the winner following a trademark counter-attack.