(Reuters) - Atletico Tucuman truly represented Argentina when they overcame a delayed flight, postponed kickoff and lost kit to win a Copa Libertadores preliminary round match in Ecuador in shirts borrowed at the last minute from the Argentina national team.
Without their kit on arrival at Quito airport, the players changed in the bus rushing them to the stadium having been lent shirts and boots from the under-20 Argentina team playing in the South American under-20 championship in Ecuador.
Tucuman - whose blue and white striped home colours match the national team’s - won Tuesday night’s second round match against El Nacional 1-0 for a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Tucuman players had the right shirt numbers but the names of Argentine under-20 internationals on their backs when they took the field for the match, which kicked off 90 minutes late, and they won with a 63rd minute goal by striker Fernando Zampedri.
The delayed flight that left Tucuman and the verge of forfeiting the tie in their first ever participation in South America’s top club competition was from Guayaquil at sea level to Quito, 2,500 metres up in the Andes.
“I told the lads we were starting the match at a disadvantage,” coach Pablo Lavallen was quoted as saying in Argentine media on Wednesday.
“We didn’t take anything to combat altitude sickness. The emotional sometimes plays more (of a part) than the physical. The lads gave a show of courage against everything and everyone.”
Lavallen said he and his team had not been given clear reasons for the delay in Guayaquil, with one rumour being that the charter did not have its papers in order.
“The airline did have permission, otherwise we wouldn’t have left Ezeiza (Buenos Aires international airport),” he said.
“Something strange happened... But let them try stopping us now,” added Lavallen, with his team needing victory in one more qualifying round to get into the group phase against Colombian side Junior.
Meanwhile, the under-20s recovered their kit for Wednesday’s key match against arch-rivals Brazil, which they need to win to secure one of fourth South American berths in the Youth World Cup in South Korea in May.
Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Dominic Evans