And That Was LFW On The 2007 Copa America!

And so after a great three weeks of football it is time for us to take a break and then get back to the day jobs and make some money.

Thanks to everyone who dropped by, we’ve really enjoyed meeting up here with so many other fans of Latin football and come the end of August we’d like to come back and keep it going.

So we’d like to ask if people out there would be interested in a more regular blog on football from South America and if so what kind of thing they would like to see in it – is there an interest in news and views on the club scene here or are people more interested in the international game and the World Cup qualifiers which kick off shortly?

Post a comment on what you’d be interested in and hopefully many of us can reconvene here again in a few weeks time.

Also it has been suggested that we send out an e-mail notifying people about when we are back up and running again. If you are interested in receiving this then e-mail us at: latinfootballworld@gmail.com
and we’ll send out an e-mail notifying you when we’re back again.

Goes without saying we’ll treat your details with total confidentiality and never share them with anyone else.

We’ll be in touch

Cheers

Andrew and Tom

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Adios Venezuela y Muchas Gracias

They said a Copa America wouldn’t work in “the country of baseball.” They said that political shenanigans would overshadow the football. And they said that the stadiums wouldn’t be ready.

They were partly right about the stadiums. The rest was nonsense. This Copa America has been the best in years. Not because of the goals, that goes without saying. Purely because the Copa got its mojo back.

For the longest time, Conmebol couldn’t decide how often the tournament should be held. There was a two-year break after Paraguay in 1999 and a three-year break after Colombia in 2001. The powerful nations came with under strength or under-21 squads – in 2001 Argentina didn’t even bother to take part.

This time all bar three of the teams were at full strength and Conmebol seems to have definitively decided that its place is every four years in the year following the World Cup. The Copa found itself. And in the unlikeliest of places.

Venezuelans love baseball but they developed a temporary crush on football. On Monday, that infatuation will wear off and they’ll go back to their one and only true love.

But that’s fine. A few have learnt to love the game and that can only be good. More importantly, that enthusiasm was an integral part of making the Copa a success.

I’ve lost count of the number of Venezuelans who told me their passion was baseball but that they were desperately pulling for la vino tinto. When the vino tinto weren’t playing they came to the stadiums and supported Brazil and Argentina.

I leave Venezuela having had a great time. I won’t be back any time soon. But I’ll be rooting for la vino tinto from afar.

Adios y muchas gracias.

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Why Brazilian Fans Should Not Be Celebrating Today

Once again Brazil’s success on the field will obscure another tragic defeat off it.

Ricardo Teixeira, the corrupt oligarch that has run Brazilian football since 1989, will be reelected for a 6th term as president of the Confederation of Brazilian Football (CBF) today.

He is a tax-dodging autocrat whose rule over Brazilian football has been dogged by scandal and accusations of enrichment and nepotism but his generous funding with CBF money of obscure backwoodsmen in the Brazilian Congress has allowed him to see off various investigations and to defeat any attempts to reform Brazilian football, labelled by one prominent critic one of the most reactionary and corrupt corners of Brazilian life.

Brazil have won two World Cups under his leadership but the national team has also become increasingly estranged from its public as he turns it into football’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters, playing meaningless but lucrative friendlies abroad and only bothering to return and play in front of its own fans when it is absolutely obliged – these days essentially World Cup qualifying. It is telling that of all the teams that participated in the last World Cup Brazil is the only side not to have since played a game back at home.

As Brazilian great Tostão wrote in Folha de S.Paulo this weekend Brazil under Teixeira is increasingly a team of CBF (ie Teixeira) and the businessmen and sponsors gathered around him and less and less so of the people.

Teixeira owes his rise to power to nepotism. He met and quickly married the daughter of João Havelange, his predecessor and FIFA president. He gave his first son his father in law’s surname and this loyalty was rewarded when Havelange engineered his takeover of CBF. He has since left his wife.

Teixeira’s new term runs until 2011 but he is expected to try and run for FIFA presidency in 2010. For the good of the world’s game it is to be hoped that in that at least he never succeeds.

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The Goals That Won the Copa – Last Night’s Highlights

We can argue endlessly about which were the Copa’s best goals, but these are the ones that counted the most in the end:

Brazil 3-0 Argentina: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2a1NZzbCBTQ&mode=related&search=

And here are the goals from the 3rd place play-off:

Uruguay 1-3 Mexico:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6hiLuZNUpM

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Robinho Named Copa America’s Best Player While Riquelme’s Enigma Grows

Robinho was named the Copa America’s best player and also finished as top scorer with six goals, one ahead of Juan Roman Riquelme who today merely embellished his reputation for being one of football’s most enigmatic stars.

Speaking after the final whistle Robinho recognized that Brazil had not exactly shone through the tournament.

“This was a group that worked and fought loads and knew that we had to get better. We achieved our objective. He had problems since the beginning. We knew it was going to be difficult but we achieved our objective.”

While Robinho was fundamental in getting Brazil out of the group stages many will argue that he was not the tournament’s best player. Javier Mascherano who battled bravely and vainly right through the final has a claim to that distinction and Riquelme had an even stronger one going into the final.

Up until then he was the Copa’s best player and his performances had football purists around the world – and nowhere more so than in Brazil – applauding in admiration.

But Riquelme is frequently referred to as enigmatic for a reason. Many Argentines have long worried that he is someone who disappears when the pressure is on in the biggest games. This is unfair on an player who has led teams to Copa Libertadores titles but it contains a grain of truth. Today will have provided more ammunition for his critics as he had no answer to the tough marking of Josué and Mineiro.

And while Riquelme is Argentina’s best player and greatest threat he can be their Achilles Heel. If he is not on form, the team – designed around him – loses its sense of itself. In the final the previously slick Argentine machine looked disjointed.

So today’s final will only have added to the great mystery that surrounds this amazingly talented player. Of course blame cannot be laid exclusively at Riquelme’s boots. Argentina have been blowing crunch matches for more than a decade now and soon it will not just be Brazilian fans who mock them as chokers.

Basile deserves credit for trying to win the tournament playing beautiful football. Dunga has been vilified by much of the press at home for trying to win ugly. But maybe it is Dunga, the novice, rather than Coco the old hand, who understands best the sad realities of the modern athletic game.

The World Cup qualifiers later this year will provide us with the first clues of how both nations digest the lessons of tonight. Tostão feared before the game that a Brazil victory would lead to the marginalization of players like Ronaldinho and Kaká in favour of the midfield battlers Dunga built this victory on.

For Argentina they must ask if this defeat means they must adapt or abandon their dedication to their short passing game in the search for something that wins titles rather than praise.

We will have early indications of the answers to those questions by the end of the year.

For fans who have long looked to South America for attacking flair with their football this Copa was great to watch and an antidote to the dullness of the last World Cup and much of the current international game in Europe in general.

But for many who fear that athleticism and tactical conservatism are squeezing the beauty out of football the wrong team will have won today, no matter how deserved that victory was. And that is why for all the goals and attacking intent this Copa will have ended in a question mark rather than a great affirmation of all that’s good in the game.

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Quick Reaction From Back Home

“Brazil humiliates Argentina, scores three and conquers second consecutive Copa” – O Globo, Brazil

“Argentina suffer a nightmare against Brazil” – Clarin, Argentina

“Another defeat which hurts the soul…… Brazil deserved it.” – La Nacion, Argentina

“Brazil relive 2004, pass Argentine by with ease and conquer the Copa America.” – Folha de S.Paulo, Brazil

“Sadness without end” – Olé, Argentina

“Brazil hammers Argentina and is bicampeão” – Lance, Brazil

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Brazil Campeão! A Seleção Sees Off Argentina 3-0

Julio Baptista 4th

Ayala o.g. 40th

Daniel Alves 69th

Brazil! Even when not their old selves beware. They’re still Brazil. Fancied by few before the game A Seleção turned Copa form on its head and showing guts and a killer instinct saw off the tournament’s best team with increasing ease as the game wore on.

Football purists will lament this result but on the day there was no debate. Brazil put it up to Argentina and they had no response. Mineiro and Josué asked continuous penetrating questions of Juan Roman Riquelme – until now the Copa’s best player – and he had no answers. With their most creative outlet stuck in traffic, Argentina were going nowhere fast.

Messi went into the game with everyone including the man himself making comparisons with Diego Maradona but as the match wore on his limited influence became more peripheral. Tevez’s had never been more than that to start with.

Argentina had chances. Riquelme hit the post, drew a save from Doni and fired over several times. But it was nothing compared to what went before in the last weeks. If both sides created chances Brazil’s always seemed more likely to end in a goal. Three times it did.

They owe this victory principally to the limitless appetite for work of Josué and Mineiro, the latter as the second half wore on doing an increasingly successful man-marking job on Riquelme. Their tactical discipline left Argentina without the spaces in which to weave their previously hypnotic football.

But there were big performances elsewhere. Doni and Alex picked the right day to turn in their best performances of the tournament. Julio Baptista gave his side the vital advantage of an early goal, brilliantly dispatching a cross field pass in the 4th minute and thereafter occupied Verón and Zanetti for long periods of the game when they were needed to help out a swamped Riquelme further upfield.

Elano’s exit following a tackle on Verón midway through the first half only increased Brazil’s attacking threat with the introduction of Daniel Alves. His cross late in the first half was turned in for an own goal by Ayala and he popped up mid way through the second to round off with a beautiful strike across Abbondanzieri a lightening counter attack orchestrated by Robinho and armed by Vagner Love.

As Argentina increasingly pushed up desperate for a way back into the game Brazil were able to break in numbers and space. Desperate covering and over-elaboration kept the score respectable. The introduction of Aimar for Cambiasso in the search for more stealth and Lucho Gonzales for Verón in the hunt for more hustle made no difference. Today even Basile’s trusty bench had no answer to Brazil’s questions. The surprise was that with his attackers making no headway why we did not see Crespo. Maybe reports of his recovery were premature.

And so Argentina’s honours drought goes on. Their football of the last few weeks did not deserve this. But if Brazil were lucky to be in the final, there was nothing lucky about the way they won it.

It was a clásico after all. Not in the sense of a classic game of football but because it was a proper derby – that fact alone flattened out many of the previous differences in form and quality.

And Brazil were up for this. Argentina were too and the Brazilian players would likely take umbrage at the idea that a final against their great rivals was not motivation enough.

But one cannot help having the impression that they played like they were out to prove that despite all the criticism and claims they were impostors, that on this day they were worthy of the shirt.

And they were.

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