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.