Monday, July 16, 2007

We Were The Best Team There, But All We Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

Well, what is there really to say? If you saw the Copa America final, you know how and why things went down the way they did. While I was sad for Argentina, kudos to Brazil and it's head coach Dunga, I feel that he has his team on the right track for South Africa in 2010.

If anything, the match showed the evolution of the 5-time World Champions. Dunga laid out a great game-plan: attack Argentina where they're most vulnerable, the back line. It boils down to soaking up pressure and launching counter-attacks at speed, as illustrated by Julio Bautista's opening goal. How Roberto Ayala lets Bautista cut back to the middle on him, I'll never know.

That being said, the game was still in diapers, with plenty of time to even things out. And I would say that things where moving in that direction, as well as with the possibility of a completely different outcome, if Roman Riquelme had put away either of the two chances he had in the first half (off the post in the 9', Doni save in the 35').

But then this takes me back to Dunga's tactics. Playing three defensive midfielders killed Argentina's rhythm and flow, especially Riquelme's. He had little time, let alone space, to turn and develop much of anything. Thus, neutralizing the No. 10 meant stopping most of the service to Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi. That's why I thought Juan Veron had a pretty decent spell after Brazil scored their first, he had the room to move that was being denied to Riquelme.

Once Ayala steered the ball into his own net, the game was over. But looking back on it, everything turned on Bautista's goal. I reckon that Brazil would have played the same pragmatic game had they scored or not, it just made it easier to carry out that plan once they were one goal up. After Doni's save on Riquelme, I got the feeling that Argentina had run out of ideas, with a bit of panic setting in after Ayala's own goal.

What this bodes for the future is pure speculation, but you'd be hard pressed to deny that it's nothing but full steam ahead for Brazil. They'll cruise through World Cup qualifying, be favored to win the Confederation's Cup in 2009 and install themselves as one of the favorites to win it all in South Africa. Throw in the stars who skipped out on this tournament (Kaka and Ronaldinho) and you've got a team that can defend resolutely, win the battles in the middle of the park and counter-attack with speed and efficiency.

As for Argentina, I'm at a loss. I adored the way they played in Venezuela, but how different was this result to the one that saw them bow out at the quarterfinal stage of last summer's World Cup? Great free-flowing soccer stopped in it's tracks by a team that knows how to defend: Germany last year, Brazil yesterday.

Alfio Basile's squad shouldn't have many problems qualifying for the upcoming World Cup, but a keen eye has to be turned toward the next generation of players. My guess is that we might have seen Roberto Abbondanzieri (age 34), Ayala (34), Javier Zanetti (33), Veron (32), and Hernan Crespo (32) play their last match for Argentina. Additionally, Gabriel Heinze (29), Riquelme (29), Pablo Aimar (27), and Diego Milito (28) will all be on the wrong side of 30 in three years time, so who knows what kind of team will line up in South Africa. But this group, the one that lost yesterday, was arguably Argentina's most experienced/balanced squad since Basile's 1993 Copa America winning-side.

Maybe that's why it hurt so much to see them lose.



linda said...

(Brilliant post title.)

Ayala's just announced his retirement from the NT. I hope no one follows him right away.

"Maybe that's why it hurt so much to see them lose."

Yeah. I think you're right.

Anonymous said...