Category Archives: Argentina

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:

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

Uruguay 1-3 Mexico:


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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.


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

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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.


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.


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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:



Zanetti – Ayala – Milito – Heinze

Verón – Mascherano – Cambiasso


Tevez – Messi



Maicon – Alex – Juan – Gilberto

Mineiro – Josué – Elano

Julio Baptista

Robinho – Vagner Love

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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!


Filed under Argentina, Brazil