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