Sunday, 6 September 2009

Argentina 1 - 3 Brazil

In the end it didn't really matter, it didn't matter that the crowd were closer to the action, it didn't matter that the playing surface was perfect, it didn't matter that Argentina were slick and incisive going forward (at least until they ran into Brazil's defence), what did matter was the home side's glaring inability to defend and in particular mark the opposition players at set pieces. Argentina's attacking prowess merely highlighted their defensive failings - Brazil held the line, stuck together and formed a wall of yellow to blunt the frequent forays forward. In contrast Argentina were pulled to pieces by Brazil's counter attacks.

For the first two goals (Luisao's header and Luis Fabiano's strike) Argentina's defence were so far away and their reaction so tardy they may well have been back in Buenos Aires. At 2-0 down the fans admirably stuck with the players. Very much like the first half Argentina started the second half well although all of their efforts were concentrated through the centre where they slammed into the Brazilian wall. Midfielder Jesús Dátolo provided a small window of hope when on 65 minutes he shot fast and straight from long range as Brazil stood off him. Dátolo's celebration was a lot more restrained than that which followed his goal in Moscow, a indication of the seriousness of the situation. Less than a minute later the counter attack which finally killed off the game - Kaka's run and pass through to Luis Fabiano to chip at an angle over an advancing Andujar, as cool as you'll ever see. Game over.

And what of Messi on the return to the city of his birth? He worked tirelessly and searched for openings, made probing runs and was a constant threat without any notable support - his second half jig into the penalty area was only halted by accurate Luisao tackle. The main talking point will be Maradona's decision to throw the inexperienced Velez Sarsfield pair of Sebastián Dominguez and Nicolás Otamendi into the into the defence for such a high profile game against the arguably the best team in the world.

Brazil have secured their place in South Africa, for Argentina the battle is only just beginning. Can Diego win this fight?

Off to Paraguay on Wednesday.

Hasta luego!