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

32 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Venezuela

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Brazil

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay

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.

11 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

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.

5 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

HT Brazil 2-0 Argentina

Julio Baptista 4th

Ayala o.g 40th

Argentina have it all to do in the second half if they are to turn around the final having fallen behind to a thundering early strike from Julio Baptista and an own goal from their captain Ayala who turned into his own goal a Daniel Alves cross in the 40th minute.

The tournament’s best team have found it difficult to find their passing rhythm as their great rivals have marked tightly and choked the space out of their game. But it is not all hustle and bustle from Brazil. While it is still not a great vintage it has been their best game of the tournament. How the adulation being heaped on Argentina before the game must have rankled.

They got off to an ideal start when Julio Baptista collected a long cross field pass from Elano and found himself one-on-one with Ayala. He stepped inside the captain and fired a rocket across Abbondanzieri into the far corner.

It was Brazil’s first attack and Argentina’s came shortly afterwards and almost resulted in an equaliser. Messi found some space on the left, crossed and Verón knocked down for Riquelme to send in a shot which came back off the post.

Unlike against Uruguay Brazil did not look to just defend their slender lead and when not choking the life out of Riquelme’s game they looked to get forward. They’ve carved out half chances such as a charge and cross by Gilberto which Heinze scrambled over the bar for a corner but Robinho’s been subdued and Vagner Love’s been more use in defence than attack.

Meanwhile Riquelme has found it hard to get into the game. There have been moments such as a shot that drew a good save from Doni but he is not the man all eyes and balls automatically wander towards as in previous games. Verón has sought to pick up some of the workload but he’s also had to be on hand to help Zanetti contain the handful that has been Julio Baptista.

The best return so far for Argentina’s attack has been Messi, supported by Cambiasso and Heinze look to infiltrate the areas patrolled by Maicon and Alex. But Dunga’s men have been clearly warned – whenever he gets the ball yellow tops swarm onto him. Even Love has been back to help out. Tevez meanwhile has been quieter than he’s been all month.

Brazil lost Elano after a challenge on  Verón in the 33rd minute but if anything it only served to boost their attacking threat with Daniel Alves coming on and combining well with Maicon to provide more attacking threat down the right-hand side. In one move he scampered down and fired in a cross which Ayala, overly worried about the presence of Robinho and Love, turned into his own net.

It leaves his team with it all to do. 45 minutes to go.

2 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Tevez Starts, Elano In For Gilberto Silva

Argentina start with the same team that defeated Mexico in the semi-final, with Tevez keeping his place despite Crespo’s return from injury.

For Brazil Elano comes in for suspended captain Gilberto Silva, with Juan wearing the armband in his absence.

The teams:

Argentina:

Abbondanzieri

Zanetti – Ayala – Milito – Heinze

Verón – Mascherano – Cambiasso

Riquelme

Tevez – Messi

Brazil:

Doni

Maicon – Alex – Juan – Gilberto

Mineiro – Josué – Elano

Julio Baptista

Robinho – Vagner Love

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Tostão Lets Rip At Brazil

As well as being a Brazilian legend for his part in that golden Mexican triumph of 1970, Tostão is now one of Brazil’s most perceptive – and hence most respected – football analysts. With an economy that would shame his colleagues around the world, twice a week he gets right to the heart of footballing matters for readers of Folha de S.Paulo.

So when he lets his former team have it with both barrels in a column on the morning of a final against Argentina, one should sit up and listen to what he has to say.

With typical forthrightness he identifies a growing feeling in Brazil that A Seleção is increasingly no longer the people’s team:

“There is disgust and indifference or disillusion among many fans with the players and the Brazilian team (not just this one) which seems more a team of CBF, of businessmen and sponsors than it does of Brazil.”

For Tostão the proof of that is the feelings of many Brazilian fans ahead of the game today:

“In other times, if a Brazilian fan said he would support Argentina he’d be locked up as crazy or exiled. Times change. Many now say they are going to cheer that Brazil loses because it would do justice to the best team in the Copa America, Dunga could leave…..Others want to cheer against Brazil but it feels wrong. The fan is confused.”

Tostão’s big fear is that if Brazil wins Dunga will feel vindicated in his philosophy that the team who wins is good and this will lead to Brazil starting the World Cup qualifiers with three holding midfielders and leave one of Kaká or Ronaldinho on the bench, heresy for one of the game’s great attacking midfielders.
What is clear is that Tostão has little or no time for Dunga:

“It is lamentable the lack of value Dunga and other coaches have for the quality of football – they only think in results – and the aggressive relationship of the coach [Dunga] with the press. Dunga confuses weakness with rudeness.”

But while Tostão lets Dunga’s team have it he has a word of caution for Argentina:

“Argentina have more individual quality [for Tostão Brazil only have to craques: Robinho and Juan] but they also have their problems. The passing and patience of Argentina, widely praised, could be interpreted in a defeat as slowness. Also, Josué and Mineiro, excellent markers, are going to make difficult this passing game.”

How interesting it would be to watch the game with Tostão on the sofa beside you!

2 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Footballing Success In The Land of Béisbol

The Miami Herald‘s Phil Gunson hails the success of the Copa America in the land of béisbol.

Leave a comment

Filed under Venezuela

“For us, football is tragic, but for them it isn’t”

“We use (the ball) to achieve an objective, they use it for their personal pleasure. And that has to do with the way of seeing life. For us, football is tragic, but for them it isn’t.”

So said Argentine defender Roberto Perfumo who played in both countries during his career. LFW’s own Andrew Downie, looks at how the tables have turned here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

The 5 Match-Ups That Could Decide Today’s Final

Doni -v- Argentina’s Attack

Doni was considered something of a flop in Brazilian football wandering between clubs before to the surprise of everyone he fetched up at Roma. Another surprise was the fact Dunga named him in his starting 11 when everyone expected him to be on the bench. He’s been at fault for several goals already and many Brazilian fans will be nervous at the thought of him facing the full force of Argentina’s attack.

Alex -v- Tevez & Messi

Alex is good in the air but you do not expect Argentina to ping high balls into Tevez and Messi. Playing their fast intricate game along the ground could expose the frequently cumbersome football of the former Santos man and Argentina are likely to target him instead of the more mobile Juan. How he lives up to the challenge could decide the game.

Josué & Mineiro -v- Riquelme

Josué and Mineiro are old São Paulo colleagues and know each other’s game inside out and it will be their responsibility to work together to stop Riquelme drifting around to pick up the ball and arm Argentina’s attacks. Problem is they can catch him as Riquelme is slow by today’s standards but doing that is no guarantee you will rob him of the ball, so good is he at shielding it.

Elano -v- Heinze

With Gilberto Silva suspended Elano looks set to get another chance following his demotion to the bench after the first games. He was the player who unlocked Argentina in the friendly last year in London and while we will have to wait and see exactly how Dunga plans to use him, if he is given license to do his customary hard running on the right of midfield he will look to test just how complete Heinze’s recovery is from his post-World Cup dip in form.

Ayala -v- Robinho

Argentina’s captain is one of the wiliest central defenders in the world, but relies on his positioning to make up for lack of pace. Robinho still looks the unfinished article despite being Brazil’s key man this Copa but one thing Brazilian fans know is that his speed and trickery can torment defenders. He’ll need that today as despite what Blatter says Vagner Love does not look a striker ready to overly trouble Argentina’s back four.

5 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Argentina-v-Brazil: The Big Match Preview

Argentina and Brazil meet in the final of the Copa America in Venezuela today and the football press is marveling at the role reversal of Argentina playing the silky football and Brazil’s turn as the dour defensive team packed with scrappers.

Of course there is some amnesia involved in all this. Sunday will not be the first time Brazil have ditched their footballing heritage and looked to win ugly (1994), a tactic in the past that has resulted in violent slasher movies (World Cup 1974) that should make anyone pause before declaring Brazil the guardians of all that is good in the game.

And to declare Argentina the ugly duckling that has suddenly turned into a swan is to overlook some of the world’s greatest footballing sides – while Brazil were winning ugly in the USA, Basile’s buccaneers were going down playing some of the best football of the 1990s.

But it is true that in the tactically cautious and over-athletic moment the world game is battling through Argentina’s current elevated version of toco y me voy (pass and go) is bound to have football purists purring at this increasingly rare treat, in sharp contrast to the reactions generated by Brazil’s shameful novelty of fielding no less than three holding midfielders for much of the tournament.

As a result Argentina by a pretty wide consensus go into the game as favourites, a broad based movement headed by Brazilian coach Dunga even if some of his players have dissented.

But the Argentina camp has played down such talk. Today is a clásico and Argentina is the spiritual home of the genre and so its players know that in such games anything can happen and form frequently goes out the window.

After all, in Peru three years ago they came with the stronger squad, went into the final as favourites, outplayed Brazil for most of the game, and then lost on penalties. There are plenty of survivors of that day on both sides who will clearly remember the lesson.

But having made all the caveats time to face facts – Argentina are playing some sparkling stuff, not just in terms of this Copa but in the context of the international game over much of the current decade. What a shame Basile was not in charge during the last World Cup. What a pity we have to wait three more years for the next one.

They are the form team, winning all five of their games and scoring a tournament high 16 goals. They brim with midfield bite and attacking verve and have overcome the recent personality clashes that split the squad to bond around the goal of finally ended a 14 year honours drought.

“We’re doing things the way I like them to be done,” Basile said after his side beat Peru 4-0 in the quarter finals. “Not just winning…but beautiful football. It makes me proud to win this way.”

Argentina’s success is also partly thanks to having some of the very best players in the world on their team. The enigmatic midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme is back from his brief international retirement after a brilliant June in which he took Boca to their fourth Copa Libertadores win of the decade.

He has quickly translated his Libertadores form to the Copa America scoring five goals and being the creative hub of his side. He has been given the platform to work his magic thanks to the excellence of Esteban Cambiasso, Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano and the recalled Juan Sebastian Veron behind him.

Up front, Argentina lost Hernan Crespo to injury in just their second match but Carlos Tevez has stepped in and with Lionel Messi they have ripped into defences with their pace and determination.

Messi’s performances have been such that Diego Maradona paid him the ultimate compliment last week when he said, “He is the one that is most like me.”

But if Argentina are playing football worthy of Maradona, their opponents have nothing to compare with Pelé. The Brazilians have stumbled though the competition, with an ultra-defensive formation that has been heavily criticised at home as one of the worst Brazilian teams of all time.

While Argentina have the hugely experienced Basile in charge, Brazil arrived with the novice Dunga whose first ever competitive match as manager was Brazil’s Copa America opener against Mexico.

The Brazilian FA wanted a disciplinarian in charge after their lackadaisical performance in the World Cup and decided the rugged midfield was the man to instill it. Dunga has done that and the side does not lack for fight and determination. But in doing so he has stripped the side of the qualities that made Brazil the most loved and admired side in the world.

They lost that first game to Mexico and won their next two thanks almost solely to Robinho, who scored all the goals in the 3-0 win against Chile and the 1-0 triumph over Ecuador. And the opening goal in both games came from dodgy penalties.

The lack of creative flair has been evident and Brazil’s players acknowledge they face the rare situation of going into the final as underdogs. But they are optimistic that their new look team will take the day.

“Everyone is saying that they are the favourites because they have been playing together longer,” said Julio Baptista. “We’ve been playing together for less time but we’re good enough to get to the final. If we get there them we must be doing something right.”

But will it be enough to overcome the world’s form side? Answers later this evening.

5 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Mexico beat Uruguay 3-1 To Finish 3rd

Mexico came from a goal down to clinch third place in the Copa America for the third time after they beat 10-man Uruguay 3-1 in Caracas this evening.

Abreu opened the scoring for Uruguay in the 21st minute but Mexico equalised when Blanco scored from the spot in the 35th minute as Uruguay were reduced to 10 men with Lugano given his marching orders for the penalty incident.

Los Charrúas held out for a further half hour but Omar Bravo and Guardado scored mid way through the half to wrap the game up for the Tri. It was the first game of the tournament staged in the capital Caracas, which lost the right to hold one of the semi-finals because of “security concerns” over the Olympic stadium.

14 Comments

Filed under Mexico, Uruguay

Tevez To Start Final; Crespo On Bench

Argentina will start tomorrow’s Copa America final against Brazil with Carlos Tevez alongside Lionel Messi in the same starting 11 that overcame Mexico in the Wednesday’s semi.

Basile said Tevez would start in prefence to Hernan Crespo, his first choice striker who is fit again after a muscle injury sustained against Colombia in his country’s second match of the tournament. Basile said Crespo was fit but hadn’t trained, while Tevez had come in and played well and deserved to keep his spot.

“Crespo has worked hard with our medical team an is ready to play,” Basile told reporters. “But he hasn’t trained for 12 days while Tevez has come in and done well. Crespo will be on the bench and who knows, he could come on for 15 minutes in the second half.”

Basile gave his starting 11 as: Abbondanzieri; Zanetti, Ayala, Gabriel Milito, Heinze; Mascherano, Cambiasso, Verón, Riquelme; Messi and Tevez.

Brazil are yet to name their side with the big doubt being who will replace captain Gilbert Silva, who is suspended after receiving two yellow cards. Elano is the favourite to fill his role in midfield but manager Dunga could also shuffle things about and include either Diego or Anderson, both of whom have featured in his Copa line ups.

2 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Blatter Loves Love

FIFA President Sepp Blatter thinks that Vanger Love was the best player of the Copa America.

Blatter said Love, along with Argentina’s Lionel Messi, were his personal favourites from the tournament.

It would be hard to take Blatter seriously were he not so brilliant at holding onto power at such  an influential and powerful organisation as FIFA.  He is clearly an intelligent man whose considerable personal charm are rivalled by his ability to mainpulate. But statements like this show just how little he knows about football.

Vagner Love is a decent enough centre forward. But he was not the outstanding player for Brazil, never mind of the whole competition.

5 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Elano Favoured To Replace Gilberto Silva

Elano is in line to replace the suspended Gilberto Silva in Brazil’s midfield for tomorrow’s Copa America showdown with Argentina.

The Shaktar Donetsk utility man took over in Gilberto Silva’s midfield role during Dunga’s training session on Friday. The first team chosen by Dnga for the run out lost 1-0 to the 11 reserves.

Elano’s inclusion would not be a surprise as he had, until the start of the competition, played in every one of Dunga’s games in charge. The Manager is a big fan of the former Santos player’s running on the right hand side of the midfield.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil

Argentina And The Heat of Maracaibo

Maracaibo – where tomorrow’s final will be played – is the hottest and most humid of the Copa’s host cities providing a factor that might work against Argentina.

Sunday’s game at 18:05 will be the earliest kick-off they have yet faced and that after one day’s less recovery from their semi-final than the Brazil squad has enjoyed.

Temperatures in Maracaibo can touch 40° C and the coolest prediction for tomorrow’s game is 28° C. This will provide a new challenge as so far all of Argentina’s five games have been played at night, the earliest so far being the 19:50 kick-off in Barquisimeto against Peru. Otherwise they’ve played most of their football after 10pm.

Argentina are a side clearly in peak physical condition saving much of their best play for the second half of games – when they’ve scored 11 of their 16 goals. But as right-back Zanetti cautioned yesterday “we’ll have to take care that the heat doesn’t affect us.”

2 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

The Five Reasons Mexico Is Going For A Sorry Hat-trick

Today’s game against Uruguay will see Mexico trying to win the third place play-off for the third time, having won one of the most dispiriting games in football already in 1997 and 1999.

Mexico’s El Universal goes over the five reasons why the Tri ended up once again in tonight’s game and not tomorrow’s final:

1.

The inclusion of Oswaldo Sánchez in goal, who was gravely at fault for the first Argentina goal and caught out for the second.

2.

Guardado’s shot off the post in the 34th minute of the 1st half. Just 10 minutes before Argentina’s goal, had this gone in it could have changed the course of the game.

3.

The taking off of Torrado and Cacho at half-time. The team were 1-0 down but they had a stability that was lost with the withdrawal of these two players.

4.

The entrance of Medina and Omar Bravo. The latter leaves much to be desired while the former was involved in the disastrous Gold Cup and didn’t do enough to justify his inclusion in the squad.

5.

The injury to Nery Castillo. He was on from the start but he was still absent.

Mexico came into the Copa in disarray with coach Hugo Sánchez under pressure after the disastrous showing in the Gold Cup and Sánchez showed up pleading for patience from his critics in the media. The rancor was quickly forgotten when Mexico beat Brazil in their opener and and went on to top their group and stroll to the semi-finals.

But of the five reasons El Universal cites above for the defeat to Argentina – all mentioned elsewhere in the Mexican press – three are direct criticisms of Sánchez’s tactics and it looks like the pressure is now back on the coach.

1 Comment

Filed under Mexico, Uruguay

Still Bitter, Uruguay Prepare For 3rd Place Play-Off

Uruguay face Mexico this evening in Caracas in the 3rd place play-off still bitter about their elimination by Brazil in a penalty shoot-out in the semi-final.

Uruguayans claim they were let down by the refereeing on Tuesday night which should have ordered their final penalty kick be retaken as Brazil’s Doni was several strides off his line. Doni saved the spot kick of Uruguay’s captain Diego Lugano to dump out Uruguay.

Now the president of the Uruguayan Football Association Dr. José Luis Corbo has sent a letter to the refereeing committee of CONMEBOL, the region’s federation, demanding that Tuesday’s referee, Colombian Oscar Ruiz, no longer officiate any games involving Uruguay or Uruguayan club sides.

Uruguayan football officials say that Tuesday night was not the first time that Ruiz had prejudiced their sides and that they are within their right in making the request.

3 Comments

Filed under Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay

Selection Headache For Basile As Crespo Passed Fit

Argentina striker Hernan Crespo was passed fit by team doctors today. He is now available for selection for Sunday’s final against Brazil.

While good news for Argentina it leaves coach Coco Basile with a selection headache. Carlos Tevez had seen off competition from Diego Milito to replace Crespo since he pulled a thigh muscle in Argentina’s second game, the 4-2 victory over Colombia.

Tevez has shone since, coming off the bench to set up three goals in the victory over Peru as well as teeing up Messi for his goal in the semi-final against Mexico. In one poll conducted by a Buenos Aires newspaper Tevez was the overwhelming favourite to partner Messi even if Crespo was available.

But Basile is known to favour a more traditional target-man, having first turned to Milito to fill the gap left by Crespo. No word yet on who will get the nod on Sunday.

2 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Tango-v-Samba

Argentina’s own Marcela Mora y Araujo is blogging on the final over on Football Unlimited here.

1 Comment

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

The Copa’s Best 11?

It has been a cracking tournament and a very open and attacking antidote to the cautious sterility of the World Cup last summer. So cheers to all 12 teams for making a go of it. But who are the tournament’s best players? Here’s our best 11. We’d be interested in hearing your thoughts:

GK: Ochoa (Mexico)

Very unlucky to be dropped in favour of Sánchez after some fine performances in the earlier games especially his brilliant performance against Brazil. Now that game is remembered for Castillo’s opener and a limp showing from Brazil. But if Ochoa had not been on top of his game it could all have been remembered somewhat differently.

Defence: Zanetti (Argentina) -Lugano (Uruguay) – Juan (Brazil) – Gilberto (Brazil)

Argentina’s central defence has not been properly tested yet and we suspect Ayala is vulnerable to pace. Lugano is more mobile and despite being younger has mastered the dark arts of his position. For us Juan has been Brazil’s most consistent performer for several years now. He is also a leader on the pitch and when you look at the price Barcelona paid for Milito we believe Roma have done a very clever bit of business here.

There have been no great left-backs in this tournament but Gilberto has tried to inject some attacking intent into a conservative Brazil. Zanetti is one of several Argentines enjoying a wonderful swansong. Safe, consistent but eager to get involved further up the pitch.

Midfield: Torrado (Mexico) – Mascherano (Argentina) – Cristian Rodriguez (Uruguay)

At times Mascherano has looked like he could play in a midfield of one behind an attack of five. He is, as La Nacion put it, an octopus and lion all in one. But we put him alongside Mexico’s Torrado because Torrado deserves his place and they will provide the platform for the more attack minded players we surround them with to get forward. One of these is Cristian Rodriguez on the left who tormented Brazil in the second half of the semi-final.

The No. 10: Riquelme (Argentina)

Not much more to say really. For us the tournament’s best player, the creative force of its best team and already has five goals of his own. He is a joy – and endlessly fascinating – to watch. A pity this type of player is increasingly a rarity in football these days.

Strikers: Messi (Argentina) – Robinho (Brazil)

Castillo came close in getting a place here but he did not do enough over all of Mexico’s five games and was unlucky to be hindered by injury in the last of them. On the other hand Robinho has almost single-handedly got Brazil into the final, scoring six goals along the way. His dive against Ecuador was a stain but without his sparkle you suspect Dunga’s men would already be on holiday. Messi pushes Riquelme close in the vote for best player overall. He has sublime close control aided by a centre of gravity that might defy the laws of physics, great speed and the happy habit of scoring some beautiful goals.

Coach: Coco Basile

Has got his stars working in harmony for the greater good and has made wise use of his subs to swing tight games his way. He has not been stubborn when it has come to rethinking his plans as in the way he overcame his desire for a more traditional target man when it became clear that Diego Milito did not deserve to keep out Tevez (another close candidate for our starting 11).

Maybe not surprisingly all our players come from the semi-finalists, the tournament’s four best teams. Several of the Ecuadorean squad impressed but their fragility told against them. They did after all lose all their games. Countrywise our team is made up of:

Argentina – 4
Brazil – 3
Mexico – 2
Uruguay – 2

So what are your thoughts? Comments please!

21 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela

Fantastic Copa, Shame About The Driving

Maracaibo is filling up for the final and the traffic is destined to get even worse than usual.

The thing that has surprised me most about Venezuela is the driving. My colleagues and I used to argue over which country had the worst drivers: Brazil or Argentina. Both have unenviable rates of traffic fatalities. The correct answer, however, is Venezuela.

The traffic in the cities I’ve visited has been horrendous. It can take hours to get anywhere because of the congestion. Accidents abound. In the four hour trip from Maracaibo to Barquisimeto I saw two bad crashes. The trip back from the stadium into town the other night took hours because a lorry had hit a car (and because the roads weren’t finished). Colleagues report similar horror stories.

Part of the reason is that so many Venezuelans drive clapped out old cars. The two-car family is the norm among all but the poor.

They can afford it because petrol is so cheap. Unbelievably, laughably, ridiculously cheap. How cheap? Less than two and a half pence a litre. Or by another measure, almost 40 litres for a pound. Or for Americans, 80 litres for a dollar.

And that’s at the official exchange rate. At the illegal exchange rate from the guy on the corner you can almost double the rate (from 2150 Bolivares per dollar to 3700 Bolivares per dollar).

I’ll be glad to get back to Brazilian drivers. I never thought I’d ever say that…

1 Comment

Filed under Venezuela

Revenge? Of Course, Says Messi

A final against Brazil is exactly what Lionel Messi wanted. He said it before the tournament even started and he repeated it yesterday: “I said it before: I wanted to play in the final of the Copa America against Brazil. I’ve been wanting to play them since we lost 3-0 against them in September last year at Wembley (actually it was at the Emirates Stadium). I still haven’t been able to put that friendly behind me.”

Messi revealed that his teammates are also up for the game and not just to even out that friendly hammering. They also want revenge for their loss in the Copa America final three years ago in Peru. Argentina were superior over the piece in that game but a last minute goal from Adriano took  it to penalties that the Brazilians won.

Messi made such feelings plain in a brief interview with Clarin.  Here are a few excerpts.

– And how do you see a game like this, and in the final?

“Playing against Brazil is always different. At youth matches I won more than I lost but haven’t done so well at senior level. But every match with them is special.”

 – This time, you’re the ones on form…

“Maybe but Brazil always has great players. Finals and derbies are always different. And this match combines both. How we reached this stage isn’t really relevant but I hope that it is us who lifts the cup.”

 – What has changed since that match in England so that history doesn’t repeat itself?

“First, there are a lot of different players involved. But basically with Basile we know ourselves much better. We understand what he wants. We are doing well and the idea is not to trip up now.”

Messi didn’t exactly bear his soul but his revelation that he and his teammates do see this match as a way of getting revenge for their recent losses to Brazil is unusual. At this level, players rarely express such sentiments, even if they feel them.

It also shows how much they want to win. The Brazilian players didn’t seem nearly as up for it when I spoke with them yesterday. They were chilled and very laid back, almost as if it was just another game. Which is very Brazilain of course. Tomorrow we’ll see whether those impressions meant anything.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil

Venezuela’s Baseball-v-Football Divide

Part of CONMEBOL’s reasoning for awarding this year’s Copa to Venezuela was to speed the advance of football in a baseball-mad country. But what’s the reason behind baseball’s supremacy over football in this corner of a football-obsessed continent? Find out here.

7 Comments

Filed under Venezuela

The Ten Keys To Argentina’s Copa Success

This morning’s La Nacion in Argentina identifies the 10 reasons behind Argentina’s Copa success:

1.  Superiority over its rivals:

In terms of possession, chances at goal, mentality, individual responses, collective support.

2. Patience and ability to wear down its opponents:

The team has always projected serenity and belief in its abilities and resources, even when going behind or when the game was tight.

3. Group Spirit

The squad has not let pass an opportunity to show that there is a commitment to getting Argentina back to winning titles after a 14 year drought.

4. The team’s spine:

Ayala (with Milito not far behind) – Mascherano – Riquelme – Messi.  Normally a good spine includes the keeper but Abbondanzieri has not had much to do.

5. Self-Control:

When teams – Mexico and Colombia – sought to knock the side out if its stride with some strong-arm tactics it always kept its head and showed great self-control.

6. The Individuals:

Messi & Riquelme – enough said.

7. Mascherano – Octopus and Lion:

Before the Copa many thought the No 5. shirt belonged to Gago. Now no-one doubts that it’s Mascherano’s, an indispensable piece in the structure. A battler, a wall in the middle of pitch he has great anticipation in the tackle and quick distribution and has popped up to score twice.

8. Changes off the bench:

Basile knows his starting 11 but if he needs to change he can find what he wants on his bench. Aimar was fundamental against the US, Tevez has won a place from the bench in the starting 11. With only three regular starters the team beat Paraguay.

9. Experience:

Many of the players have experienced success already with the clubs, many in Europe.

10. It is popular

Even though not in front of its own fans the team can feel the love and support. It won the backing of the public by bringing its best players and for its generous football. It is not just about the results but also about football as something joyful, ambitious and with a commitment to spectacle.

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina

Brazilian Judge Orders Jail For Tevez Agent

The legal murk that surrounds the affairs of Argentina striker Carlos Tevez deepened further today.

A Brazilian judge has ordered the arrest of Tevez’s agent – and probable owner of his rights – Kia Joorabchian as well as the president and several directors of his former Brazilian club Corinthians.

Also ordered arrested was Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, the financial backer of MSI whose money brought Tevez to Brazil from Boca Juniors in the most expensive deal ever within South American football. Berezovsky lives in exile in London.

They have all been charged with money laundering and forming a criminal gang.

It follows an investigation by Brazil’s federal public prosecutor into the financing of the deal between MSI and Corinthians signed in 2004 which made the club the richest in South America, allowing it to buy Tevez and other stars.

They went on to clinch the Brazilian championship in 2005. But Corinthians and MSI never explained where the money came from or gave a clear indication of how they planned to make a profit in cash strapped Latin football.

The judge also ordered the freezing of all Corinthians bank accounts linked with its MSI partner, a major blow to the cash strapped club. No arrests have yet been made and Kia and Berezovsky are not in Brazil. The deal between MSI and the club has since turned sour with MSI believed to have turned off the cash supply and overseen the exit of nearly all the stars bought in early 2005.

The most high profile to leave was Tevez who moved with Javier Mascherano to West Ham last year in a deal that could still land the London club with a points deduction and relegation to the second division.

West Ham payed nothing for the players and Kia continued to hold their registration. This was deemed illegal and to avoid a points deduction Kia handed the club Tevez’s registration without West Ham receiving a fee – Mascherano having already moved to Liverpool.

Since then Manchester United have bid for Tevez but the authorities have made it clear that West Ham will be punished if they do not keep most or all of any Tevez fee.

This would rob Kia of his investment and Tevez – reportedly very close to Kia – has asked for West Ham to rip up the remaining three years of his contract to facilitate the move to United.

But the league indicate this would undermine the spirit of the agreement to transfer Tevez’s registration to West Ham and result in punishment which would almost certainly land West Ham a points deduction and relegation in place of Sheffield United.

4 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

The Difference Between Brazil And Argentina

I just got back from speaking with four Brazilian players. Julio Baptista, Doni, Vagner Love and Juan met with reporters before the afternoon training session.

The most interesting thing about the encounter was that it confirmed all the stereotypical differences between Argentina and Brazil. The Argentine press conferences take place regularly and feature two players chosen on a rotating basis from the squad. There is a room set up specially and the player sit at a table and answer as many questions as are posed to them. It’s orderly and civilised.

The Brazilian press conference consisted of herding the press into a big room. About 15 minutes later the door opened and the four players appeared. The press ran to each of the players and pushed and shoved for the best vantage point. Everyone shouted their questions over one another. It was chaotic and the one who could push hardest or shout the loudest or find some way to outwit their rivals got the best material.

The talk from the players themselves was nothing new. The Brazilians seem to be aware that they are not favourites in Sunday’s final and they all pointed out (as if coached) that the Argentines have been playing together longer and thus have an advantage.

“They’ve been playing together a long time so they know where they are going to be without looking so we’ll need to keep our eyes on all of them,” said Juan. “We’ll need to mark well. (But) we came here to get to the final and we managed that and I think we have what it takes to win.”

I got the distinct impression that the Brazilian players would have delighted in being the underdog for once if only it didn’t mean talking up the Argentines.

6 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Abreu, Riquelme, Zidane….and Antonin Panenka

I watched the Argentina-Mexico game last night in Maracaibo with some Argentine and Mexican colleagues and after Riquelme’s chipped penalty and we got to talking about the inevitable – how one day a goalkeeper is going to stand still and the penalty taker will end up looking like a fool.

The Mexican colleague told us it already happened in Mexico, and believe it or not to Sebastian Abreu, the same man who successfully tried the stunt against Brazil the night before last.

Apparently Abreu, who played for Monterrey, tried to chip in a penalty against Chiapas and the keeper stood his ground. (Unfortunately we can’t find any video of it.) Abreu looked like an idiot but they don’t call him El Loco Abreu for nothing and he wasn’t afraid to try it again on a much larger stage on Tuesday night. (What cojones!)

We also got to talking about the origins of such cheeky penalties. The first guy we can ever remember pulling it off, or even trying it, was Antonin Panenka, who beat the great Sepp Maier in the penalty decider of the 1976 European Championship.

Back then it was a novelty. Now it seems to be gaining in popularity. Riquelme’s last night was lovely, as was Abreu’s against Brazil.

But goalkeepers or goalkeeping coaches would do well to follow the lead of German keeper Jens Lehmann, who researched how opponents hit their penalties. That research helped him keep out the Argentines in the quarter finals last year.

Of course, the way to beat even that system is to do it a la Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup final and not chip it into the middle of the goal but into the top corner. Like this.

If anyone else has stories of particularly special Panenkas – or even better, unsuccessful ones – then drop us a line. We’d love to hear them.

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Some Past Argentina-Brazil Match-Ups

It is one of – if not the – most glamorous games in football featuring the two nations that have done most to enrich the world’s game and who just happen to be neighbours and fierce rivals. Some highlights from the past:

1982: Brazil 3-1 Argentina: World Cup second group round – Brazil blow Argentina away.

1990: Argentina 1-0 Brazil: World Cup second round – Eight year’s later it’s Diego’s revenge.

2004: Brazil 2-2 Argentina (Brazil win 4-2 on penalties): Copa America final – On Sunday Brazil will be out for a repeat, Argentina revenge.

2005: Argentina 3-1 Brazil: World Cup Qualifier featured a screamer from Riquelme.

2005: Brazil 4-1 Argentina: Confederations Cup final – A year too soon this was Brazil’s false dawn.

9 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Some Argentina-v-Brazil Copa History

Sunday’s games between South America’s two powerhouses will be the second Copa final in a row disputed between the two sides, after 2004’s 2-2 draw in Lima with Brazil winning the title on penalties.

For most of its history the Copa used a group format which in 1937 required a play-off between the two sides which Argentina won 2-0 in San Lorenzo’s mythic old stadium the Gasómetro in Buenos Aires.

In the early years of the competition Argentina held a clear advantage in victories over Brazil but the last 10 Copa meetings between them resulted in 5 wins for Brazil, 3 for Argentina and 2 draws.

Sunday’s match will be Brazil’s 5th final appearance since the Copa moved to a knock-out format in 1993. They won in 1997, 1999 and 2004 and lost to Uruguay in 1995.

It will be Argentina’s first appearance in a final since the first one in 1993 when they beat Mexico 2-1.

Highlights from the Copa finals since 1993 are here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrBlEXjEex8

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Brazil

Today’s Headlines

“Messico 86: The Maradona of the 21st century scores one for his anthology: the genius of Messi, the class of Riquelme (penalty a lá Zidane), even Heinze scored a golazo! We thrash Mexico 3-0 and now the final of the Copa is with Brazil” – Olé of Argentina reports last night’s win with characteristic restraint

“Hugo gets his tactics wrong and serves up the game” – El Universal of Mexico on coach Hugo Sánchez’s decision to take off Gerardo Torrado and Juan Carlos Cacho when 0-1 down. “We lost the middle of the field and became marooned in attack.”

“Basile: What Messi did was the work of a genius” – Infobae of Argentina

” A team with a special aura” – La Nacion of Argentina

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Mexico

Messi Wondergoal & The Rest Of Last Night’s Action

Messi’s Golazo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fegJUGRLI9w
(For technical ability Chile’s Suazo might argue that his goal against Brazil was better but his was a consolation prize in a game long dead. Messi did this to seal a place in the final.)

Full Match Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy_Qt8Co-MM

Three more goals last night to add to the four Brazil and Uruguay served up to make it a grand total of seven in total for the semis. This confirms it has been one very attack minded and highly entertaining tournament, and we get a Brazil-Argentina match-up in the final. After the ultimately unsatisfying experience of the last World Cup many footie fans will feel we needed this!

2 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Mexico

Argentina Dump Mexico With Messi Wondergoal

FT: Argentina 3-0 Mexico (Heinze, Messi, Riquelme, pen)

Argentina cruised into the final of the Copa America tonight after a comprehensive win over a luckless Mexico in Puerto Ordaz.

Argentina took the lead from a Gabriel Heinze flick just before the break and then doubled their lead on the hour mark through a marvellously deft chip from Lionel Messi. Juan Roman Riquelme cheekily made it three from the penalty spot five minutes later after Carlos Tevez threw himself to the ground after a Rafael Marquez challenge.

The scoreline was trifle harsh on Mexico, who hit the woodwork twice. However, although they battled hard and never gave up running Hugo Sanchez’s men were no match for the more experienced Argentines.

The win means that Argentina will face Brazil in the final here in Maracaibo on Sunday. It also leaves Argentina as the only team to win all five of their matches.

Nevertheless, the victory was not achieved with the same ease as their previous wins. Argentina struggled to reproduce their characteristically flowing football as the eager Mexicans harried them at every turn and prevented them from getting into their stride.

Mexico could have taken the lead on several occasions in the first half, with Andres Guardado hitting the woodwork after wrong footing two defenders. Mexico had Nery Castillo playing up front after an injury scare but he did not look as fully fit and he did not trouble the Argentine rearguard.

Heinze’s opened the scoring after dreadful goalkeeping by Oswaldo Sanchez but just moments after the break Mexico hit the wodwork again, this time when Castillo steered a left foot shot against the bar.

That was the closest Mexico came to scoring, however, and as the game went on Argentina, with Cambiasso working hard on the right, gradually took control. Messi scored the decisive goal in 60 minutes with a sublime chip from the edge of the box after a nice through ball from Tevez.

That deflated the youngsters and the game was effectively over five minutes later when Riquelme scored the third from the spot. Manager Alfio Basile made three changes, taking off Juan Sebastian Veron, Juan Roman Riquelme and Carlos Tevez and replacing them with
Fernando Gago, Pablo Aimar and Rodrigo Palacio.

10 Comments

Filed under Argentina, Mexico

HT: Mexico 0-1 Argentina

It is advantage Argentina as right before half-time Riquelme floated a free-kick to the far post where Heinze had slipped past three defenders to be on hand to knock in.

It was a finely balanced 45 minutes that restricted clearcut chances for both teams. Before Argentina’s goal Mexico came closest when Guardado stepped inside three Argentine defenders and saw his shot clip the outside of a post.

A lively Tevez wasted two good chances when he got a clear sight of goal, once shooting wide, once straight at the keeper. Combining well several times early on with Riquelme, Tevez and Messi looked keen to pick up from where they left off against Peru as Argentina started on top. They were joined in the 12th minute when Zanetti waltzed into the box but shot straight at Sánchez.

But Mexico increasingly exerted their own influence on proceedings, and while it would be too much to say the half swung one way and then the other they will be disappointed to go in a goal down at half time.

Nicely poised, lets hope it explodes into life. 45 minutes to go.

1 Comment

Filed under Argentina, Mexico

Tevez Starts Against Mexico – Full teams

As expected Carlos Tevez starts against Mexico, replacing Diego Milito. Otherwise Argentina unchanged from the team that started against Peru:

Abbondanzieri;

Javier Zanetti, Roberto Ayala, Gabriel Milito, Gabriel Heinze;

Juan Sebastián Verón, Javier Mascherano, Esteban Cambiasso;

Juan Román Riquelme;

Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez

Mexico line-up with:

Osvaldo Sánchez;

Israel Castro, Rafael Márquez, Jonny Magallón, Fausto Pinto;

Fernando Arce, Gerardo Torrado, Jaime Correa, Andrés Guardado;

Juan Carlos Cacho and Nery Castillo

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Mexico

Castillo Back In To Face Argentina!

Mexico’s star man Nery Castillo is after all to start tonight against Argentina in what is a huge boost to his team’s chances – providing he is fully fit. He has just been cleared to play in the last hours before the game.

He had been doubtful since injuring his knee in Sunday’s 6-0 victory over Paraguay and earlier today the squad’s press secretary Mauricio Zavala had said he was definitely out.

1 Comment

Filed under Argentina, Mexico

Chile Slap Six With 20-Game Ban

The six Chilean players accused of running amok in a hotel room after their match against Mexico last week have been banned from representing their country for 20 games each, the country’s FA said.

Jorge Vargas, Pablo Contreras, Rodrigo Tello, Jorge Valdivia, Reinaldo Navia and Álvaro Ormeño were accused of attacking employees in the hotel restaurant, throwing food and insulting female guests. They are banned for 20 games, will not receive any bonus payments due from this Copa America and they can never captain their country, the FA said in a statement.

An official later said the players could appeal to reduce the punishment after sitting out 10 games. 

The Chilean players were given time off to relax on July 5 after their 0-0 draw with Mexico ensured them a quarter final tie against Brazil. However, things got out of hand and the hotel lodged an official complaint at the players’ behaviour.

Worst was to come for the Chileans on the field as Brazil humiliated them 6-1 and knocked them out the competition.

The news was particularly harmful to Reinaldo Navia. Chilean news reports said his club Colo-Colo had decided not to renew his contract because of the incident and were looking for a replacement in Argentina.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Castillo Out Of Semi

Mexico’s lightning quick striker Nery Castillo will miss tonight’s semi final against Argentina.

The Olympiakos forward has failed to shrug off the knee injury he picked up in the 6-0 quarter final drubbing of Paraguay, according to the team’s press secretary Mauricio Zavala.

His absence will be sorely felt by the Mexicans, who have relied on his pace to undo defences. Castillo, 23, has been one of the stars of the Copa America, scoring a memorable goal in Mexico’s opening match against Brazil and notching two more since.

His place will likely be taken by either Omar Bravo or Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

10 Comments

Filed under Mexico

Gabriel Milito Moves To Barcelona

Argentine defender Gabriel Milito is on his way to Barcelona from Real Zaragoza for a fee that could eventually top 20 million euro. The 26-year old has signed a four year contract.

Milito first came to prominence when he won Argentina’s Apertura championship with Independiente in 2002. In 2003 he was on the verge of signing for Real Madrid but the club claimed he failed a medical.

Zaragoza stepped in and in four years he has become a huge favourite of the fans, leading them to a Copa del Rey victory over Real Madrid in 2004 and becoming a fixture of the Argentina national side.

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina

Some Mexico-v-Argentina Stats And Highlights

Mexico and Argentina have faced each other on 24 occassions with Argentina having won 9 times and Mexico 4, with 11 draws in all.

The last time Mexico’s Tri defeated tonight’s opponents was in the 2004 Copa America in the group stages thanks to a goal by Ramón Morales.

But since then the two sides have played each other three times, drawing a friendly in Los Angeles while Argentina knocked Mexico out of the 2005 Confederations Cup on penalties and then beat them in extra-time in last year’s World Cup the occasion of Maxi Rodriguez’s wonder goal.

Tonight is Mexico’s fifth Copa semi-final since they were first invited to participate in 1993. They’ve twice reached the final, losing to Argentina in 1993 in Ecuador and then to hosts Colombia in 2001. Argentina have won the Copa 14 times.

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Mexico

Tevez Set To Start Tonight Against Mexico

The overwhelming choice of Argentina’s hinchada Carlos Tevez will start tonight upfront alongside Lionel Messi in the semi-final clash with Mexico in place of Diego Milito.

Tevez came off the bench to replace Milito in the quarter-final against Peru and quickly led his teammates through the Peruvian rearguard. Within minutes of taking the field he set up Riquelme for Argentina’s opener and set up two more as well as seeing a header come back off the crossbar.

Since then the calls for his inclusion from the start have reached a crescendo and now coach Coco Basile is finally prepared to abandon his preference for a more traditional target man – Milito was the replacement for the injured Crespo – and go with two small but extremely mobile front men.

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Mexico

Mexico To Wait Until Very Last For Castillo

Mexico will wait until two hours before kick-off before deciding whether to risk their striker and star-man Nery Castillo in tonight’s semi-final game against Argentina.

Castillo, who has caught the attention of fans, press and scouts alike after several scintillating performances, injured his knee in Sunday’s 6-0 drubbing of Paraguay. The Mexican medical team still say it is unlikely Castillo will be ready, which would be a huge blow for his country.

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Mexico

Today’s Headlines

“The Copa dream dies with penalties” – El Pais, Uruguay

“Lugano bumps into Doni, and Brazil beat Uruguay” – Folha de S.Paulo, Brazil

“Brazil in the final after much sweat” – Lance, Brazil

“The same story: As in 2004 Uruguay eliminated on penalties by Brazil” – Observa, Uruguay

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil, Uruguay

Last Night’s Game

It was intense and close like semi-finals often are but that didn’t stop the goals going in. We cannot find a decent link that has highlights of the whole game so excuse the multiple links.

URU 0-1 BRA: Gol de Maicon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK7WEGhS4F8

URU 1-1 BRA: Gol de Forlán: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3huicO_cH3A

URU 1-2 BRA: Gol de Julio Baptista: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QC1mfT2LkQg&NR=1

URU 2- 2 BRA: Gol de Abreu: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1z6b_mc-nw

The Penalty Shoot-Out: Starts here……. and the ends here

(El Arbitro still feels gutted for Uruguay)

16 Comments

Filed under Brazil, Uruguay

Mexican Guardado Signs With Deportivo La Coruña

Mexican midfielder Andres Guardado has signed for Spanish side Deportivo La Coruña in a 7 million Euro deal that makes him Mexico’s most expensive ever player.

A deal to take the youngster to PSV Eindhoven broke down after the Guadalajara club received a better offer from Spain, said the president of Guardado’s club Atlas.

“There were negotiations with PSV but there were even more recent negotiations with Deportivo,” said Fernando Acosta, confirming that although a deal had been struck the final paperwork would not be signed until next week.

Guardado has been one of the bright young things in Hugo Sanchez’s dynamic Mexican side and is expected to line up in tonight’s much-anticipated semi-final against Argentina. Acosta said Deportivo had got a bargain and said if the player had been Argentine or Brazilian he would have sold for much more.

“He wasn’t expensive,” Acosta said. “I think they got him for cheap given the player that Andres is. He’s an international, a key player for his club side and I am sure that if he was from another country he would be worth up to 5 million Euros more.”

5 Comments

Filed under Mexico

Angry Uruguayans Dodge Press After Exit

An angry and disconsolate Uruguayan squad boycotted the post-match press conference and shunned journalists in the mixed zone after their nail-biting Copa America exit tonight.

No one from the Uruguayan squad appeared in the press room as is normal and the players studiously ignored the hundreds of reporters who had gathered outside the dressing rooms to talk with the teams. The Uruguayans instead headed direct to the team coach where they sat dejectedly until it was clearedto leave; several of them held their heads in their hands.

The angry scenes came after squabbles erupted on the pitch after the final whistle. Some of the Uruguayan players may have been angry at keeper Doni’s march from the goalline before the final spot kick was taken and the referee’s refusal to have the kick retaken.

But others may also have misinterpreted overtures by Brazilian players to Lugano, the former Sao Paulo player who missed the decisive kick. Some Brazilian players apparently approached Lugano to console him – Josue, Mineiro, Julio Baptista and others played with him at Sao Paulo – but some Uruguayans may have decided the gesture provocative and taken action.

Only the swift intervention of the Brazilian backroom staff prevented the scuffles from getting out of hand.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil, Uruguay

Penalty Heartbreak for Uruguay As Brazil Reach Final

FT: Uruguay 2-2 Brazil (Brazil win 5-4 on penalties)

It was semi-final heartbreak for brave Uruguay as Brazil won a penalty shoot-out to end an absorbing semi-final in Maracaibo tonight.

Uruguay were themselves one sudden death penalty away from Sunday’s game but the excellent Pablo García hit the post, one of several players to rattle the woodwork during the shootout.

Gilberto put his away and then Uruguay’s captain Lugano shot weakly straight at Doni to deny La Celeste what would have been a famous victory. The match ended with both squads squaring up to each other as Uruguay correctly pointed out that Doni was well off his line. Ironically for Uruguay it was two of their most influential players whose penalties left most to be desired – like Lugano’s, Diego Forlán’s was weak and straight enough to aid a first Doni save.

That Uruguay brought the tie to penalties was the result of their famous garra. They came out for the second half 2-1 down after a brave first-half fightback following an early Maicon goal was undone by a vicious in-swinging free kick from the full back that deceived the Uruguay defence and was put away by Julio Baptista.

In between the Brazilian goals Diego Forlán had lashed in a fisted Doni clearance during a period of sustained pressure orchestrated by Recoba.

Injury forced Recoba off at half-time and Uruguay clearly lacked his skill to turn possession into chances as they launched their second fightback. But they kept probing a Brazil who seemed content to defend in numbers, protect their lead and look for something on the break.

In place of Recoba it fell to Cristian Rodriguez and Forlán to try and break down the massed Brazilian ranks and it was a chance by Forlán, put away by Abreu that finally brought the sides level.

Too late Dunga started throwing on attacking players in Diego and Afonso, but still with a hint of caution – making way were Vagner Love and Julio Baptista. It was no last ditch all out assault.

So it went to penalties and Uruguay will feel wretched at having come so close only to fail at the last. What they have achieved is to bury the embarrassing memory of the group stages with two performances in the knock-out stages of guts and no little skill that bode well for the World Cup qualifiers later this year.

Brazil meanwhile are in the final but they can count themselves lucky that they were not made to pay for Dunga’s decision to spend nearly all the second half protecting their one goal lead. Brazil might be used to finals, but rarely will they have reached one playing such conservative football.

13 Comments

Filed under Brazil, Uruguay