Category Archives: Argentina

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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