Irresistible Argentina power past Brazil

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Just like a sheet of paper from a page-a-day-calendar, Argentina ripped Brazil out of the stack, crunched it up, made a little paper ball, did a few juggles and then backheeled it into the trash. Everyone was anticipating this game as the final-before-the final in these 2008 Beijing Football Olympics, and boy were we not disappointed.

Three goals to nil are a fierce but realistic goal difference, and the two red cards earned by the Auriverde (frustrated by an immense Javier Mascherano) will provide historical evidence this was indeed a severe beating inflicted on their rivals by Argentina. At the very least, a sweet, sweet revenge from last year’s Copa America final, lost 3-0 in Maracaibo. Something tells us that in the next few hours, Dunga’s tenure as head of the Brazilian national team (already under severe criticism for poor performances in the World Cup qualifiers) will be severely at risk.

(From Gazzetta): EARLY INCANDESCENCE – As expected from a fixture like this one, Tuesday’s match took very little time to catch fire. In minute 2, Ronaldinho (bestowed with the usual playmaking duties alongside Diego) delivered an inch-perfect assist for Rafael Sobis, who (alas for Brazil) missed his control inside the box. With Argentina forced into their own half, it almost seemed as if this Brazilian team had abandonded their defensive focus à la sauce Dunga (this despite the three-defensive-midfielder line) and was back to the Samba-style footy everyone loves. Almost.

On the other end, Argentina had fielded 3 men behind lone striker Sergio Agüero, namely the always reliable Riquelme and Messi (on fire today, once again) and the little pixie from the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada, Ángel Di María (just recently signed on by Benfica). The Argentine winger was virtually everywhere on the field, almost causing Breno to an early own goal (min. 5) and then later setting up Agüero in perfect position to strike. The Atletico Madrid forward however, was quite evidently impressed by his “father-in-law’s” presence in the stands (he is dating Giannina Maradona), because his good dribble on Alex Silva was followed by a shot wide of the mark. No worries for Argentina though, “El Kun” would unwind in great style later in the game…

AURIVERDE STRIKERS NEEDED – Once again, Brazil was quite handicapped by the absence of a real striker up front (poor Rafael Sobis was trying his best to carry the weight of the attack by himself), and this rendered the good work of Rafinha and Marcelo down the wings, as well as that of Ronaldinho (almost playing the pass-without-moving “relay-man”) rather futile. In turn, the devastating runs of Messi were keeping the Brazilian defense very much on their toes, all the while the strong, physical work of Gago and Zabaleta were being met play-by-play by the (also strong) Anderson and Lucas Leiva.

However, Brazil were progressively forced to backtrack, so much so that in minute 52, a small step on the gas pedal was enough for Argentina to take the lead (and within minutes, to quickly transform it into a 2-goal advantage). Both tallies were the result of some good work by Di Maria, who first armed a powerful shot from the left side (deflected by Agüero’s torso into the net), then set up Lionel Messi for another devastating horizontal run, finalized by Zabaleta’s right-side cross to a wide-open “El Kun” (min. 58). 1-0 and 2-0 Argentina in the span of 6 minutes.

In addition of paying for their lack of initiative, Brazil were also dealing with considerable bad luck because just after the first goal, the bottom part of the Albiceleste post got hit by a Sobis long-range effort, shortly followed by a Ronaldinho free-kick. On the developments of the latter play Alexandre Pato (on for Sobis) finally found the net, but the goal was disallowed for offside.

BRAZIL SEES RED – The match effectively came to an end in minute 76, from the spot-kick, after a foul in the box by Breno on Agüero. Juan Román Riquelme did the honors, putting Argentina 3-0 up and virtually sealing the game for his team. Before the full-time whistle however, there was still time for Lucas and Thiago Neves to get sent to an early shower, as they earned a red for “use of excessive force” on Javier Mascherano.

Despite their two-man advantage however Argentina put on the brakes, probably out of pity for their now-defunct opponents. No doubt Brazil will very soon rise from their ashes but in the meantime, the Olympics remain the only tournament still escaping them. As for Argentina, they will have the opportunity on Saturday for an Atlanta ’96 re-match: indeed, Nigeria are the only thing left between them and a gold medal.

Asociación del Fútbol Argentino (Argentine Football Association) ARGENTINA-BRAZIL
[Match Highlights]
Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (Brazilian Football Confederation)
GOALSCORERS: 52′, 58′ Agüero (A), 76′ Riquelme (A)
ARGENTINA (4-2-3-1): Romero – Zabaleta, Garay, Pareja, Monzon – Gago, Mascherano – Di Maria, Riquelme (90′ Sosa), Messi – Agüero. (bench: Navarro, Fazio, Banega, Lavezzi, Acosta). Coach: Batista.
BRAZIL (4-3-1-2): Renan – Rafinha, Alex Silva, Breno, Marcelo – Hernanes (61′ Thiago Neves), Lucas, Anderson – Diego (77′ Jo) – Sobis (61′ Pato), Ronaldinho. (bench: Diego Alves, Thiago Silva, Ramires, Ilsinho). Coach: Dunga.


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