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Brazil 3 Argentina 0

July 16, 2007 Leave a comment

 (man of the match Daniel Alves after Brazil’s win)

Well that’s it. The mouth-watering game between two of the world’s true greats never really hit the heights we expected of it, but we did at least witness a classy goal and some good build up play, if not the skill and excitement we had anticipated.

Brazil’s early goal was a hammer blow to Argentina. Julio Baptista chased down a beautiful ball over the top of the defence from Elano and brought it back inside to the left hand side of the penalty area where Roberto Ayala lay in wait. Ayala, struggling to keep up with the pace and athleticism of his younger, fitter opponent, stood off Baptista and as the Brazilian cut the ball back to shoot with his right, Ayala showed his age as he expected an earlier shot and allowed Baptista space to rocket the ball across keeeper Abbondanzieri, and into the far corner of the net. A classy strike from the late call up to the Brazilian squad, and Baptista finished with three very important goals during the tournament.

The early strike meant one of two things: (a) we were about to witness a goal feast with end-to-end non-stop attacking football, or (b) Brazil, in their new found style, were going to get tighter and tighter and frustrate any attempt from Argentina to get back into the game. We got option (b).

Argentina started to respond brightly and a beautiful move involving a cross from Lionel Messi, headed back into Juan Roman Riquelme’s path by Juan Sebastien Veron, but the midfield maestro’s powerful left-footed volley ricocheted off the crossbar and away to safety. After 35 minutes, Argentina had another good chance to level when the innefective Carlos Tevez ball made its way to Riquelme whose shot was clawed away by Doni in the Brazil goal, a vital save as Brazil were about to double their lead.

Elano’s unfortunate injury meant Daniel Alves had a chance to show what he could do and having been on the field for just six minutes, the Sevilla star found space on the right wing and sent in a dangerous cross that Argentina’s captain Roberto Ayala could only deflect past his own keeper. Although replays suggested the ball may have simply flown across goal, the pace and direction of the cross meant Ayala had to respond but with his keeper having come out to claim the ball, both watched in horror as it trickled over the line to the delight of Vagner Love who celebrated as though he had got the final touch!

A nightmare half for Argentina. None of their flair players were having the desired effect on the game and although Lionel Messi showed glimpses of his potential, he was bodychecked enough times by Brazilians that he could have been forgiven for being a little dizzy when he ran with the ball. Tevez’ role in the team seemed un-defined. Coach Alfio Basile betrayed his preferred method of an out-and-out striker due to Hernan Crespo’s lack of fitness, and Carlos Tevez got the call despite his similar style of play to Messi. Perhaps Diego Milito would have played the lone striker position better than his compatriot, but Tevez’ outstanding form in the run up to the final will have heavily influenced his coach’s thoughts on the team selcetion.

Pablo Aimar and Lucho Gonzalez were introduced in the second half but neither could instill the desired skill necessary to unlock Brazil’s assured defensive partnership of Alex and Gilberto. Argentina continued to push forward to try and get back into the game, but in truth, they never looked like scoring, and Doni’s goal came under less pressure in the second half than in the first!

With tenty minutes of the game remaining, Argentina were caught out at the back and as Vagner Love ran at Ayala, Daniel Alves (full of enthusiasm and one of the few Brazilians to treat the crowd to some ‘real’ Brazilian style football) saw space and received Love’s perfect through ball (sounds like a bad eighties song?) before firing in from the right hand side of the goal at a tight angle; a terrific first goal for Brazil from the daring full-back.

The Argentine players never looked like getting back into the game from that point on, if anything Brazil could have added to their lead, and a disappointing final came to its conclusion with Gilberto Silva, Brazil’s suspended captain, leading the celebrations from the middle of the pitch. It may not be the Brazil we’re all used to, but Dunga has created a very hard-working, well-organised team, qualities that are more necessary in today’s game than ever if Brazil are to reclaim the World Cup under their former Captain.

Man of the Match: A tough one to call as Alex had an outstanding game at centre back, Baptista put in his best performance for a long time, but thefc100’s vote goes to Daniel Alves. A huge influence on the game, creating the second goal, scoring the third, and terrorising Argentina’s left flank whenever he got the opportunity.

Turning Point: Riquelme’s tenth minute shot that cannoned off the post. Had the Argentine scored we would have witnessed a completely different game. As it was, Brazil didn’t need to attack, safe in the knowledge that they had scored, and Riquleme’s influence on the game dwindled.

Referee: Came across as extremely strict, unnecessarily so, a bit unfortunate perhaps that in order to get a handle on the game he needed to impose his authority straight away, which he did, however the fussiness didn’t subside once he had acquired the respect of the players, and this led to a stop-start game for ninety minutes, in turn leading to a disappointing finale to an otherwise entertaining competition.

So Brazil retain the Copa America with a win over their arch-rivals Argentina, but Argentina take the fans vote for their often breathtaking style of play and have much to be proud of over the course of their campaign. This squad has a core group of young players who will get better and better and this campaign will stand them in good stead for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Brazil have learnt to play some tougher football and under Dunga’s guidance have added organisation to their list of tricks. While purist Brazilians will not be best pleased with the slightly more negative tactics employed, they cannot argue with the fact that Brazil took Argentina to pieces last night. Not, perhaps, in the fashion that fans have grown accustomed to, but in negating their opponents attacking threat, and using their own attacking potential to its maximum potential.

Congratulations to Brazil and we look forward to the next Copa in four years time, after Copa America 2007 has been declared a resounding success. Perhaps Kaka and Ronaldinho will think twice before pulling out next time…..!

(thanks to atomacluis for putting the highlights on youtube!)


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Copa America 2007: Final

July 15, 2007 1 comment

 Estadio José Encarnación 'Pachencho' Romero Stadium in Maracaibo

Estadio Jose Pachencho Romero ,the location for the final of the Copa America 2007

Argentina V Brazil (KO. 10.05pm)

In a repeat of the 2004 edition of the Copa America, Brazil and Argentina square up in the final tonight in Estadio Jose Pachencho Romero in Maracaibo. These two South American footballing giants have proved themselves more than worthy of a place in the last two while defending champions Brazil suffer the ignominity of having the ‘underdogs’ tag. Argentina are 5/6 favourites according to the bookies while Brazil are being offered at 10/3. The final in 2004 was won on penalties by Brazil but the way the tournament has gone so far it seems that nobody will want to go to penalties and hopefullty they will simply try to out-score one another. This, at least, ensures that both teams will be trying to win the match in normal time but with the quality and desire of these two teams it is unlikely that we will see a dull contest.

Argentina have done more througout the competition than Brazil so it seems only fair that they go into the final as favourites. With 16 goals so far, Argentina have been entertaining the crowds in each and every game and this is something which has been missing untill Alfio Basile regained control of the side. It is all set up for Argentina to win their first major title in 14 years and, incidentally, Basile was in charge then too. He has said that he is proud of his team and not just their victories but the manner of their victories. They are playing with a sense of freedom and add this to the undoubted individual quality they possess in their ranks and you are likely to come up with the 4, 5 and 6 goal thrillers they have been partial to so far.  Cambiasso has been talking this weekend and has subtly tried to shift the pressure of the favourites tag and deflect some onto Brazil. “Brazil have a great side. One can’t underestimate Brazil just because they lack Ronaldinho and Kaka. It would be disrespectful to the other players. They were called up because they have the skills and play for the best teams in the world”. A significant boost for Argentina is that Crespo, who had been enjoying something of a revival earlier in the competition before suffering an injury that supposedly ruled him out for the rest of the campaign, has been declared fit and ready to play. This poses a slight, if not comforting, headache for Basile. Does he go with the player who wasn’t able to stop scoring in the first two games or does he go for Tevez who began the tournament on the bench before forcing his way into the first team with consistent performances and teamwork? Early indications are that Tevez will play but simply having the option of Hernan Crespo on the bench will be a huge asset to Argentina. Other than this, Basile is expected to stick to the side that beat Mexico in the semi’s.

Brazil may find that the fact that they are expected to lose tonight liberating in that for the first time in the tournament they can actually play without fear. In what has been descibed as the greatest Copa America yet, Brazil have often put in economical performances. Their 1-0 win over Ecuador to ensure qualification was not one to inspire the confidence of a nation and also their defeat at the hands of Mexico painted a rather grim picture for the Brazilians  in the early stages. The disappointment of a mis-firing squad (with the exception of Robinho) was tempered in the knockout stages with a 6-1 mauling of Chile  before another efficient, if not lazy, performance against Uruguay in the semi’s where they made it through on penalties after a 2-2 draw. By schoolyard logic, Brazil are due a performance tonight. The form of Robinho is one plus that has come out of this competition. After often being dismissed as not physical enough or up to standard as Brazil’s other strikers, the little fella has shone when given space. He is so fast that he could easily pose problems for ageing defenders Ayala and Zanetti while Heinze’s undeniable ability to flatten anything that moves faster than he does could well be an issue tonight. The top scorer of this competition will be hoping to cement the golden boot tonight with the likes of Riquelme just one behind on 5. Brazil are happy to confer the tag of favourites on their rivals. Brazil coach, Dunga, has given a fair assesment of both teams: “Both teams are competitive and used to winning. Argentina are mature, a team whose men know each other well. On the other hand, the Brazilian national team was mounted now, with new athletes in search of their own space”. While thefc100 is puzzled at Dunga’s turn of phrase not having a clue what “the Brazilian national team was mounted now” is supposed to mean, we choose not to linger on the man’s inaccuracies but instead look to his team-picking abilities. Tonight it should be a fairly similar and familiar looking Brazil. Gilberto Silva is suspended and the captain’s armband is likely to go to Juan while midfielder Josue keeps his place after breaking into the team at the quarterfinal stage. Elano will replace Gilberto Silva and Vagner Love is likely to partner Robinho up front.

Tonight’s contest promises to be a cracker with the two top scoring sides aiming to prevent the other from adding another trophy to the cabinet. While Argentina deserve to be considered favourites and possess a much stronger squad, Brazil will be pressure-free and aiming to make a huge mark as the team without the big-name players. Robinho has inflicted untold damage on other teams and tonight could be the same if protection isn’t found for Ayala in particular. The loss of Silva is a huge blow for Brazil as he is thier calming influence and most experienced player. The midfield will be severely tested by Argentina and it seems a battle they could well lose. Brazil’s back four will have to play out of their collective skin to keep out the marauding attackers of Argentina. All the signs point to an Argie victory but there is something deep in thefc100’s nether regions tipping Brazil. It’s illogical, it’s irrational and to be honest, it’s bloody well irresponsible but that’s football so here we go:

Prediction: Argentina 1-2 Brazil (An early goal for Brazil, Argie’s equalise before half time and Brazil get a late winner) 

Probable lineups:

Brazil: Doni; Maicon, Alex, Juan and Gilberto; Mineiro, Josué, Júlio Baptista and Elano; Robinho and Vagner Love.

Argentina: Abbondanzieri; Javier Zanetti, Roberto Ayala, Gabriel Milito and Gabriel Heinze; Javier Mascherano, Esteban Cambiasso, Juan Sebastián Verón and Juan Román Riquelme; Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez.

Thefc100 are off down the bookies to have a flutter on Brazil at 10/3.


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Ayala you cheeky monkey!

July 14, 2007 Leave a comment

Robeto Ayala has agreed to join Real Zaragoza on a three year deal for a fee of €6 million.

Not that shocking really, so why is he a cheeky monkey? Because in Ferbruary, Ayala agreed to sign for Villareal from Valencia after he was informed his contract would not be renewed. So Villareal stepped in and wrapped up the free transfer. Only now, Zaragoza, who recently lost talisman and captain Gabriel Milito to Barcelona, have placed a bid for the amount it took to trigger a release clause in Ayala’s contract and without having even kicked a ball for Villareal, Ayala is suddenly on his way to Zaragoza.

Ayala, who won two league titles at Valencia as well as leading them to two Champions League finals and winning a UEFA Cup under Rafa Benitez, is now 34, and is currently part of the Argentina squad preparing to face Brazil in tomorrow nights Copa America final.

Check thefc100 for a full match preview and a look back at the tournament tomorrow:


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The goals from Argentina’s semi-final against Mexico

July 12, 2007 Leave a comment

The goals from last night including Heinze attacking a goalkeeper and scoring a goal by mistake. Messi. Superb. Riquelme, bit cheeky.


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Copa America: Semi Final

July 11, 2007 Leave a comment

 

Too good a picture to pass up…

Argentina V Mexico (KO. 1.50am)

The second semi final takes place this evening and pits bookies favourites, Argentina against Mexico. Never one to gloat, thefc100 would just like to point out that we predicted these exact semi final pairings before the tournament and if Argentina win this evening then we will be on a roll (we also predicted Brazil to win outright and seeing as they are not favourites they could be worth a flutter NOTE: thefc100 in no way, shape or form endorses gambling or supports any gambling related enterprises. We just fancy it from time to time). Argentina will be expected by most to follow Brazil’s example from last night and progress to the final. This, however, will not be as easy as it sounds.

Argentina are in top form coming into tonights game as they have been for most of the competition. A 4-0 victory over Peru in the Quarters has brought them to touching distance of the final. Many have tipped Tevez, who turned the game against Peru on its head, to start after coming off the bench for most of the campaign but it may prove that he will have to wait until the final for his chance. It seems that Basile will prefer the pairing of Messi and Milito and hope to use Tevez as an impact sub if needs be. The rest of the squad should retain a familiar feel with Cambiasso, Masherano, Veron and Riquelme holding the midfield and the usual back four of Heinze, Zanetti, Ayala and Gabriel Milito protecting Abbondanzierri’s goal. The attacking players have been instrumental in Argentina’s fortunes so far with more goals coming from Mascherano and Riquelme than all the strikers put together. They will need to put on a performance to trouble Mexico’s solid defence and to create openings for the ailing strikers. Basile recognises tonight’s contest as a difficult one but is confident in the ability of his squad. “Mexico have a good team. It will be a tough match for both of us. But we have extraordinary players. I’m proud of them and not just because they have been winning but because of the way they have been playing”.

Mexico are also not short of form coming into the game. A 6-0 dismantling of Paraguay has given them the confidence they will need to face a team of Argentina’s stature. Although if any team in the competition would not be in awe of another side then it’s probably Mexico. A contrasting style to that of their opponents, Mexico are solid at the back, compact in the middle and are able to strike devestating blows through players such as Castillo and Bravo without having the supposed flair of some individuals in the Argie ranks. Mexico will be strong on the counter-attack and this is what coach, Sanchez, hopes will give them success. Sanchez is unlikely to make any changes this evening and the familiarity of the side should help to remove any nerves in the tentative opening minutes. Much of Mexico’s defensive solidity has been throught the fine form of their captain and talisman, Barca man Rafael Marquez. Mecixo will need all his experience this evening as they look to shut out the top scorers of the tournament. Mexico are in defiant mood and Marquez has fired a warning shot to the argies in a press conference before today saying “Argentina are a great team with quality players and a lot of options but they are not unbeatable. Mexico can win and reach the final. We want the trophy badly.” Sounds like fighting talk and aside from the double negative, it seems as if Mexico could have a surprise in store for the favourites.

Tonight’s contest will be fierce and won’t be the goal-fest we have seen in previous rounds. It may prove that as defensively good as Mexico are, they may crack under sustained Argie pressure.

Prediction: Argentina 2 – 1 Mexico

Probable lineups:

Argentina: Roberto Abbondanzieri – Javier Zanetti, Roberto Ayala, Gabriel Milito, Gabriel Heinze – Juan Verón, Javier Mascherano, Esteban Cambiasso – Juan Román Riquelme – Lionel Messi and Diego Milito. 

Mexico: Oswaldo Sánchez – Israel Castro, Rafael Márquez, Jonny Magallón, Fausto Pinto – Fernando Arce, Gerardo Torrado, Jaime Correa, Andrés Guardado – Juan Carlos Cacho and Nery Castillo ou Omar Bravo.


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Brazil scrape through to Copa America showdown with Mexico/Argentina

July 11, 2007 1 comment

Brazil have made it through to the 2007 Copa America Final after a dramatic semi-final with underdogs Uruguay. A bad tempered game saw Brazil twice take the lead only to be pegged back on both occasions, then miss a penalty, handing Uruguay the chance to book their final place. However, Uruguay choked, and it’s looking like Brazil-Argentina in the final unless Mexico can spring a surprise on the tournament favourites.

Maraicabo, Venezuela was the setting for the first semi-final and in the sweltering heat, Brazil got off to a flying start. A superb save from Fabian Carini wasn’t enough to prevent Maicon from toe-poking into the net from just inside the penalty area, following up Miniero’s shot to open the scoring for Brazil with just 13 minutes on the clock. That was clearly too much to take in the severe conditions so the lights failed for just under quarter of an hour.

After the restart, Uruguay upped the pressure on Brazil’s goal and Doni saved well from a point blank effort from Diego Forlan. Julio Baptista’s free kick went close for Brazil, however a short time later, Doni failed to clear Alvaro Recoba’s cross from the Brazilian goal and Forlan was there to level things up with his third goal of the tournament. A cracking goal from the in-form striker who has just signed on as Fernando Torres’ replacement at Atletico Madrid, and this kind of goal will help to ease Atletico’s fears after losing Torres.

Just before the break though, Brazil went back in front: Former Arsenal teammates Gilberto Silva and late addition to the  Brazil squad Baptista combined from a free-kick, and the latter gave the Samba boys the lead to take in at the half-time interval: A terrific ball from Gilberto to Baptista and as Uruguay’s defence pushed out hoping for an offside decision, Baptista volleyed home from close range.

It’s interesting how very often players make an impact on a squad despite not being named in the original panel of players for the tournament. Julio Baptista was very publicly distraught at not being named in the original squad, however the withdrawals of the likes of Kaka and Ronaldinho meant the Real Madrid player got his chance. Surely you would expect him to be last man in therefore one of the last to make an impression on the first team? Not so; the only game Baptista has not taken part in was the 2-0 defeat to Mexico and ‘the beast’ has started and scored in the last two games. It’s an interesting point to note that the newcomer to the squad so often gets game time ahead of those who were initially picked ahead of him in the original squad. The likes of Fred and Anderson must be kicking themselves on the bench. Perhaps it’s the excitement of being finally included that has a positive impact on the player’s training, perhaps it is just guilt on the managers part. Perhaps it’s just thefc100 thinking out loud….

There was more to come from Uruguay though, and they pulled level when Diego Forlan flicked on Cristian Rodriguez’ cross into the path of substitute Sebastian Abreu (on for Alvaro Recoba at half-time) and he scrambled the ball in at the far post. A lovely move from Uruguay on the left hand side saw Rodriguez played in behind the flat-footed Brazilian defence and Forlan’s headed attempt on goal fell perfectly for Abreu at the far post to steer home and spark wild Uruguay celebrations.

So, eventually to penalties. Three years ago Brazil had progressed at the expense of Uruguay on penaties at the same stage of the competition so Uruguay thought the worst when Diego Forlan missed from the spot with their first attempt, aiming straight down the middle and finding only Doni in the Brazilian goal. However when first Alfonso’s shot was saved, and then at 4-4 Fernando hit the post for Brazil, Uruguay could smell revenge and a place in the final. Pablo Garcia had the chance for glory but stepped up and repeated Fernando’s attempt, so when Gilberto scored for Brazil, Diego Lugano’s miss sent Uruguay packing in the same style as three years ago.

There was still time for a little fisticuffs as Brazil’s celebrations left Uruguay feeling slightly bitter. Understandably. Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez and his players left without commenting after the match as victorious manager Dunga stated to the press: To be a winning team, you have to know how to suffer. In the most difficult moment, you have to have posture, courage and fight until the end. Now why would Uruguay find that attitude hard to swallow. A regular poet that Dunga.

(unable to find commentary in English yet, but the action should speak for itself! Thanks to maxxxucio -no we’re not kidding- for posting the video on youtube)

 (Note: There will be a preview of the eagerly anticipated showdown between Mexico and Argentina later on thefc100. Mexico are 5/1. Just thought we’d mention it……)


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Argentina 4 Peru 0

July 10, 2007 Leave a comment