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.



Filed under Argentina, Brazil

11 responses to “Robinho Named Copa America’s Best Player While Riquelme’s Enigma Grows

  1. What really hurts is that an entire generation of some of the most talented footballers on the planet which includes Crespo, Ayala, Zanetti, Riquelme, Cambiasso etc have not won anything worthwhile for more than a decade.

    And i hope Albiceleste dont lose heart and will prove the world that style and substance can go hand in hand even in this current day modern athletic sport. I shall pray for that moment in earnest though there is evidence only to the contrary.

  2. It was simply heartbreaking.
    It’s a pretty known receipe how to play against Riquelme, you have to play 2 defensive midfields who limit his space and attack him early. Barca did it 2 seasons ago with Motta and Edmilson in midfield and for the first time in 3 years, Riquelme didn’t do a thing against them. Germany and Mexico sort of did it against him in the World Cup, and he was not there.Brazil did it in Confederations Cup Final too. And yesterday, the same thing happened.
    I wonder why no one ever had that idea in a Copa Libertadores final.
    And what a sad day to see the great Roberto Ayala, the man who is usually just the perfect center back without any mistakes, have that type of game.

    Also, at some point it was pretty obvious that Argentina needed a target in attack, someone who could hold the ball, to play the ball to. I wonder…

    oh well.

  3. andyelbolso

    Robinho player of the tournament?? Dear oh dear – vastly overrated before, and now even more so. I suppose they figured they couldn’t give it to an Argentinean as they lost. For goals scored at crucial moments, I reckon Baptista could have had a shout.

    Or if you don’t want to cause any arguments, why not give it to a Uruguayan? I never realised Christian Rodriguez was that good until this tournament. Told you I was biased.

  4. Shoghi

    Brasil played some ugly futebol for the most part in this tourney. Argentina on the other hand was a shining example of how futbol should be played, they had quality everywhere on the pitch. Usually I would be rooting for the verde-amarella all the way (except against Ecuador) but I couldn’t stomach Dunga and his tactics. If futebol is only about results then why are matches broadcast worldwide and held in stadiums full of screaming passionate people? Because futbol entertains, or at least it is supposed to. That is what people like Dunga and Mourinho don’t understand, you are playing for those people in the stands not your paymasters.

    At the end of the day though Brazil won the final playing, for the most part, better futebol than their opponents. Pity Argentina, Riquelme looked like he didn’t even want to be there!!

  5. Sanchodavila

    I am a great Riquelme fan and it hurts to see him disappear in big games at crucial moments. I agree that the way to stop him is to have two defensive midfielders limit his space and time. But fortunately not every team plays with two defensive midfielders but this anti-football will be on the rise as long as it brings the results. It is therefore quite sad that the nation that has brought us jogo bonito is playing with two or three defensive midfielders and leaving any creativity on the bench. Brazil deserved their victory and the game developed like they had written the script but I have to critisize Basiles reaction. All game long the Argentinians were trying to break Brazil down from the middle. Why didn´t they try to stretch them a little by using the wings and bring on Crespo to battle for crosses in the box. It would have given Riquelme more space and more options. Instead he was like a buffalo being attacked by a group of hyenas.

  6. pondwatching

    Robinho disappeared in both the semi and final … prior to these games, however he was the player that got them the opportunity to take the Cup, so fair dues.

    Andyelbolso … C Rodriguez was certainly a standout … I’ll be looking out for him from now on, and I’ll be following Guardado’s new career in Spain … he was another resounding success, probably the most consistent player over the three weeks – this does not surprise me, as he was probably Mexico’s best player in the Gold Cup immediately prior to this competition.

    I think, had Mexico brought both Pardo and Salcido with them, then they might have overcome Argentina, and would have been a better match for Brazil.

  7. luke

    yes anti-football has even infected Brazil:what hope is there now? Argentina stand alone in international football as the last bastions of the game that was once called beautiful.
    It was a sad-but predictable- result that will only strengthen the desire for win at all costs tedium. Soon players like Riquleme will be long forgotten: relics from a lost age where skill and flair was central to football.
    Dunga, Jose M, Rafa B, etc please go, take the try-hards with you and go play rugby. Football is for artists too and i believe the public should vote with their feet until the magic is allowed to return.

    Also, well done to argentina u20’s for winning yet another WC and in the correct manner too. Maxi M, i fear for you. He makes Saviola look like Drogba, yet has such wonderful skills. I doubt he will ever make it to europe in the current climate. In fact in europe he would never have played football such is the relentless desire for giants.

    Dunga should be ashamed for this team and this style. Brazil is the world’s premium footballing nation with a huge population, yet now they play like greece or scotland. I feel sick inside.

  8. Tony

    I have no idea why the whole world thinks that Brazil has abandoned the beautiful game. How much more beautiful can it be than all the three goals we have witnessed: the long pass and the clinical finish of the first goal, the buildup to the second goal, the pass and the execution of the third goal….Are you telling me that is not Joga Bonita. If that is not Joga Bopnita, what is?

    Let’s face it. Copa America is for the most part a race between Brazil and Argentina. The rest of them mostly are there to make up the numbers. If Argentina plays Joga Bonita, they have to play it against Brazil, against Germany. Whatever they did with Montenegro, Peru etc….doesn’t count. It is like me playing with kids. I can do Joga Bonita with kids but likely not with my equals.

    Brazil hasn’t abandoned the Joga Bonita. It had added a new layer to it making them even more dangerous than ever before. In the past, Brazil had demonstrated that they can control the game when they have possession. This Copa America has shown us a new layer of Brazil. Now they can control the game even when they don’t have possession.

  9. kanah

    masherano was the best player for argentina in the final andalthough he wasnt as exciting as messi i think he was a majoor key for them and i say he was their most consistent if not best player in the tournament

  10. edward whitfield

    i think robinho is the best young player on his tame and in his contry i play soccer and i plan to be nice like he is my best player for life .im living in america im african from liberia who really wants to be like you.

  11. Mark

    Yes Tony, I am telling you Brazil did NOT play the beautiful game in that final. Argentina just didn’t turn up as usual against Brazil.

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