Saturday, September 02, 2006

More than a friendly?

Brazil and Argentina are due to meet in an international friendly at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon, and despite not meaning anything in a competitive sense, this match-up of arguably South America’s finest sides is meaningful in several ways.

First, the nature of the meeting itself is the result of international sports marketing becoming an overwhelming force in football and it’s ability to generate revenues for both clubs and countries.

Second, this match-up is crucial for Argentina and Brazil, both with new coaches attempting to forge their own respective tactical philosophies into recently underachieving sides.

Brazil was expected to cruise into the World Cup Final, but were held to a poor offensive performance against France in the quarterfinals.

Argentina started off their showing in Germany with masterful, attacking play against Serbia and Montenegro, only to bow out on penalties to the hosts in the quarterfinal stage.

Dunga, the replacement for Carlos Alberto Parriera, is the hardman defender that captained the 1994 World Cup-winning Brazil side. He will look to influence his side of superstars, instilling discipline and resolve that many critics of the team say was lacking when Parriera was in charge.

Alfio Basile takes over for Jose Pekerman, the mastermind behind Argentina’s extremely successful youth teams, and a large part of the current squad grew up and played together under Pekerman’s watch. Basile, unlike Dunga, has extensive coaching experience and led the Argentines in the 1994 World Cup, where they bowed out in the round of 16 to Romania.

Finally, the arrivals of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to the English Premier League means that this friendly should stand as a welcome to the league for fans, and Emirates’ proximity to Upton Park provide West Ham fans an opportunity for a first glance at the duo.

Julio Baptista, a new signing for Arsenal in a swap loan deal with Real Madrid for Jose Antonio Reyes, should receive a warm welcome, as he joins his fellow international Gilberto Silva at the North London club.

Unlike most friendly exhibitions, this one should present fans, critics and the media a basis on which to speculate on the future of football, both South American and European.

Match Report

Clash of the Titans Guardian Unlimited


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