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Ecuador's defensive double act

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Tim Vickery | 08:00 UK time, Monday, 1 June 2009


Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand might not look back at the Champions League final with much pleasure, but a glance at Manchester United's goals against column this season highlights the importance of a great centre-back pairing.

It was Brazil who invented this concept - dropping an extra player into the heart of the defence to create the back four. Their first World Cup-winning side in 1958 featured the classic contrasting pair of centre backs.

Team captain Bellini was the towering presence who was at his best dealing with the aerial threat. Alongside him was Orlando, a defender of such quality that he later became an idol of Boca Juniors fans in Argentina. He supplied the class, the reading of the game, timing in the tackle and the passes out of defence.

Eight years later England won the World Cup with a similar double act, Jack Charlton and Bobby Moore. There is a modern-day equivalent, and one of the most successful and long-running partnerships in international football, at the heart of the Ecuadorian defence.

Ivan Hurtado fills the Bobby Moore role. It is a comparison made with all due respect for the West Ham legend, who was Pele's choice as the best defender he ever faced. Hurtado is not quite in that class. But he is a quality player whose record speaks for itself. He has been playing international football for nearly 17 years, and has represented his country on an extraordinary 159 occasions.

hurtado595.jpg

Hurtado (pictured above) has been nicknamed 'Bam Bam,' and seldom has a nickname been less appropriate. His defending has little to do with force and ignorance. Watching Hurtado win a tackle has often reminded me of an old fashioned school teacher gently correcting a wayward student - he comes away with the ball almost with an air of regret that the striker could not offer him a stiffer challenge.

His long-term partner cuts a very different figure. Gangling and ungainly, Geovanny Espinoza has none of Hurtado's grace. But he has the height to hold his own in the air, and an inspirational will to improve and overcome his limitations.

The two of them first paired up in the qualifiers for the 2002 Fifa World Cup. Hurtado was one of the first names on the team sheet, Espinoza was a reserve, getting his chance when the crude, burly Augusto Poroso was suspended. After Poroso's second red card, Espinoza was in, and, alongside Hurtado, played the last six matches of the campaign when Ecuador qualified for the World Cup for the first time. Come the tournament, though, Espinoza was seen as too vulnerable, and had to watch from the bench as Poroso was recalled.

Ever since, however, Espinoza has been in the starting line up - and now has 85 caps of his own. He was the only player in South America to play all 18 rounds of the 2006 World Cup qualifiers - Hurtado only missed the last game, when Ecuador had already made sure of their place in Germany.

This time Espinoza was not to miss out. In 2002 Hurtado produced a wonderful saving tackle on Alan Boksic to help ensure that Ecuador won a World Cup match (1-0 over Croatia). In their opening match in Germany Espinoza came up with the heroics, producing a last-ditch tackle on Soboloweski in the win over Poland that projected Ecuador into the last 16.

In addition to three Copa Americas and one World Cup, Hurtado and Espinoza have been in harness for a total of 35 qualifiers. They are approaching the end - Hurtado will be 35 in August, Espinoza turned 32 in April - but conceivably could still be operating together in South Africa next year. It would be a fitting climax to their international careers - but first Ecuador must qualify.

This is looking difficult. The team have struggled to replace their great goalscorer Agustin Delgado. Manchester City's Felipe Caicedo has some moments, but is not yet doing enough, especially in the air. In the last two rounds Ecuador dominated Brazil and Paraguay but had to settle for 1-1 draws both times - dropping four points at home leaves them seventh in the table (the top four go through automatically, the team finishing fifth go into a play-off) with time running out.

This Saturday the top six all meet each other (Paraguay against Chile, Uruguay against Brazil, Argentina against Colombia). It's an excellent opportunity for Ecuador to make up lost ground. On Sunday they are away to bottom of the table Peru.

It's a game they must win. And they will have to do it without Hurtado and Espinoza. Both the veteran centre backs are suspended - the first time since 2000 that Ecuador will play a competitive match with neither of them on the field. Worried about a lack of leadership in his defence, Ecuador coach Sixto Vizuete has been forced into a drastic decision - Marcelo Fleitas, a 35- year-old naturalised Uruguayan, stands by to make his international debut.

Comments on today's piece in the space below. Other questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) After the elimination of Boca Juniors from this years Copa Libertadores, leaving only Estudiantes in the last eight, I have come to the realisation that Argentinean football is in big trouble. All the big teams are struggling and have changed managers at
least once in the last 12 months. Fans, for their part, have unrealistic expectations, believing their team has a divine right to be successful and hence demand change when results do not go the way of their teams. The word 'continuity' is now extinct in footballing
terms. Is the future of local Argentinean football really bleak, so much so that things will get worse before they get any better?"
Sanjiv Karnik

A) I read an interesting interview recently with Ramon Cabrera, the coach who developed a good generation of youngsters at Lanus and who has just headed for Colombia. He was open about the decline of quality, and posed the question, "and what do most clubs do? Bring in eight or nine players on loan, give them just six months to adapt and it doesn't work. The championship ends and the process starts again - another eight or nine players, and never, ever forming a team."
Perhaps the short championships (two per year) have boosted the short-term mentality and lack of continuity that you have picked up on - and there are also fundamental issues of club administration. The model of a club being owned by its members can be one thing in theory and another in practice - open to abuse by inside groups, prone to political in fighting, and even at its best, with the difficulty of administering passion, with the perceived need to play to the gallery with populist gestures, like changing the coach too often. The immense history and tradition of Argentine football can indeed appear as a problem - in the unrealistic expectations and in the nationalistic refusal to accept reality. But it can also be a virtue - as shown in coach Angel Cappa's Huracan, where he has come in, tapped into that wonderful tradition of passing football and quickly formed an attractive side.

Q) Why hasn't Fabio Aurelio been called into the Brazil squad? He has had a great season, but he hasn't been called up and was passed over again for the Confederations Cup. Why is he being snubbed?
Sam Hines

A) A good point and one I can't really explain. I've long been a fan of his, and I thought that when he was one of Brazil's few plus points in the 2000 Olympics that he would be the long-term successor to Roberto Carlos. An awful run with injuries stopped it happening - but he's been playing regularly this season, and left-back is a problem position for Brazil. Marcelo of Real Madrid was dropped from the Confederations Cup squad - perhaps because he's been playing in midfield. The two included are both Brazil-based. Kleber has an excellent left foot, but lacks the physical quality to keep hitting the byeline, and has not looked convincing so far. And Andre Santos, called up for the first time, is powerful but perhaps lacking top quality. I rate Fabio Aurelio clearly better than both. I know he is anxious for a call up - the good news for him is that the place in next year's World Cup team is still up for grabs.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Super Blog as always Tim.
    Just wandering why Diego and Hernanes are not in the Brazil squad for the Confederations Cup? And how do you rate Brazil's chances of winning it.

  • Comment number 3.

    A solid central defensive partnership is a must for any team in the long term. So many things depend on confidence in your back central pairing. The full backs must know they can go forward without being scared of the counter attack overwhelming the remaining defence. The central midfielders must be able to push through the middle with confidence, knowing their centre backs will move with them without exposing the goalie too much.

    Brazil has produced a fair few who signify the best and the worst of this. I remember watching Lucio play with Roque Santa Cruz in the late 90's and marvelling at how solid one was and being amazed the other could make it into any international side, never mind Brazil's!

    It is perhaps, bearing all this in mind, that England haven't achieved more. We may be lacking a consistent right back but whatever your opinions of the rest we have two of the very best central defenders in the world and a left back who is at least one of the best. I realise entirely that the old (predominantly British) notion that South American teams have a tendency to be shakey at the back is nonsense but I look at some of the defenders who have achieved greatness with Brazil and Argentina, then I look at England's defence for the past ten years and I can't help than think there must be much more to a good defence than simply having top defenders.

  • Comment number 4.

    England haven't achieved much recently because we're not producing the creative players.

    In the last 10 years only two really top quality forwards have come through - Owen and Rooney. Compare this to other nations.

    Our one real 'playmaker' type is Joe Cole, and although he is a talented player he can't be compared to the best in the world. There is no english Ribery, no english Messi, no english Iniesta, no english Kaka.

  • Comment number 5.

    ...and please don't mention Gerrard and Lampard. They're the typical english box-to-box players, they're the current players in the line that includes David Platt, Bryan Robson, Gerry Francis, Alan Ball. They have a great shot, can score goals and jhave an engine but they don't necessarily dribble, have great technique or provide creativity- thats what you need to win games at the highest level.

  • Comment number 6.

    # 4 and 5 Subterranean

    I dont know how long you've been looking for a 'way in' to criticise the English players and the quality of playmakers produced recently, but a blog on Ecuador's centreback pairing is probably not the right place to do it...

  • Comment number 7.

    Your point about there being no english messi or kaka etc, is a good one but if we did have one of these players we wouldn't be english - our style is a physical one, and for many years will stay that way - changing the mentaliy of a country won't be easy.

    Our closest match would be germany and going onto your other point of a lake of quality forwards - that is what has lacked more than a dribbling superstar.

    I have no doubt that we would have achieved what germany has achieved in the last 10/15 years had we produced a proper number 9.

  • Comment number 8.

    If we had produced a proper number 9? Someone like, oh I don't know, Alan Shearer perhaps?

  • Comment number 9.

    #6 I concur!

    If I've inadvertently started a debate on the best England XI then I heartily apologise, my sole point was to look at teams who have varying supposed standards of defending on paper.

    Debates such as Gerrard Vs. Lampard are tedious in the extreme.

    Tim... Changing the subject back to Ecuador, I notice looking at the current Ecuador squad for upcoming matches that the squad only has THREE players under the age of 23 (Rojas, Caicedo and Montero.) Is this a sign that the team relies heavily on experience or more than there is a lack of new talent coming through to replace older players?

    Out of the aformentioned three, have you been impressed by the two still based in South America?

  • Comment number 10.

    Gerrard not a creative player? I don't know who you've been watching. Kuyt looks lost without Gerrard on the field to pick him out and Torres comes alive when he knows Gerrard is on the field to spot his runs. Gerrard's vision is second to none, he lacks the finesse and touch of Kaka but his passing is right up there with the best.

    England's problem is that we relied for too long on Beck's cross (which is the best in the world), needing players in the box we have gotten used to slowing play to let the strikers (and Lamps) get in there, which when we don't have a great passer like Becks and a mover like Shearer on the pitch means we're predictable. We need to develop a more dynamic approach and with Joe Cole, Walcott, Rooney and Gerrard we certainly have the players, we just need the mentality as when these guys are standing with their back to goal waiting for the ball to catch up they are nowhere near as effective.

    Personally I still think if he can maintain fitness Ashton is our best chance for a focal point of attack around which these players can move (more) freely.

  • Comment number 11.

    GErrard is not a creative player. Compare his passing ability and ability to spot a pass to Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregas. Then weep. All he can do is a crossfield ball. The same with all English players bar maybe Rooney who is more creative then him and he's not even a midfielder.

  • Comment number 12.


    9 - the age of the Ecuador squad is an intersting point. They've come a long, long way in a very short time -but now they start to face the problem that hit Peru and Colombia before them - how do you replace agolden generation?

    i have very high hopes of attacking midfielder Jefferson Montero - a real talent.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hurtado and Espinoza have been marvellous for Ecuador who have enjoyed the best 7 or 8 years in their history capped off with Ligas win in the Libertadores.They made a disastrous start to these eliminatorias and have recovered but now need 4 points from the Peru and Argentina games to keep momentum going.As to Argentine futbol declineing yhea right we are gone we have only won 3 out of the last 4 World sub 20 titles the last 2 Olimpics Its obviously hard times ahead.The only real problem with Argentine futbol is the disastrous reign of Aguilar in River who has brought the great club to its knees.However he will be replaced by year end and Enzo Francescoli will probably come in as genereal manager to guarantee transparency well then watch out cos Barcas youth scheme is nothing to Rivers

  • Comment number 14.

    I often wonder what national FA's in small countries do when they suddenly find themselves staring down the barrel of a footballing decline.

    Playing for your nation may be more of a calling than a job when compared to club football but there is still a business behind the scenes. The people who run the Ecuador FA will all be paid by the money that the national team generates from gate receipts, TV revenue and endorsements. That revenue is obviously reduced if you fail to qualify for major tournaments. If you do this more often than not then status drops, interest drops and suddenly your revenue stream is a fraction of what it was.

    Ecuador's FA, just like everyone in the world, will think of their jobs, their pay, bonus's and their significant amount of corporate hospitality when they play abroad. The prospect of a national team failing to replace a quality generation must be a frightening one. And for Ecuador the options are so much more limited than other countries.

    You can scour the clubs for more players with potential but a country with a population of less than 15m is less likely to have untold hidden talents hiding away in some lower league. You can look for players who can be naturalized as citizens as Spain and Portugal have but it's hard to believe many overseas players stay long enough in Ecuador domestically to get a passport without moving on to a bigger league or being called up by their native country.

    We in England may have had some duff teams in our day, some pretty average players have worn the shirt and we've missed out on occassional tournaments but we are blessed never to find ourselves in the world of the minnows.

    It must be pretty hard to see round the corner as an Ecuador football fan or Ecuador FA employee, I guess you hope for a miracle. Maybe right now the next Messi is playing in the streets of La Paz as a 12 year old.

  • Comment number 15.

    One thing you can say about Ecuador though Tim is that Sash produced a cracking song for them....

  • Comment number 16.

    Great piece on centre-backs, Tim.

    I was very impressed with the physical power of the Equador side on the last match against Brazil back in March. Altitude aside, they were so strong that if they weren't so poor in shooting on target they would have ripped Brazil apart. It was a memorable match for the in form goalkeeper Julio Cesar, outstanding performance.
    How so unfair was it when Julio Baptista came in from the bench and scored on his first action? Brazil was very lucky to go away with a 1x1 draw.

    I wish we had a defender like Bellini playing nowadays. People say he was not only very elegant but quite good looking too. We seriously lack good looking players in this Brazilian side. Lucio is a fantastic defender, but doesn't have a hint of Bellini's glamour.
    Perhaps I am asking too much.

  • Comment number 17.

    Hi Tim

    I was reading up about the World Cup for 2014 and it now appears that the only single country in South America that can host a World Cup is Brazil, unless the cut back the number of teams which is something FIFA will never want to do. How realistic would it be that the whole continent of South America host the event sometime in the future which would allow smaller nations such as Columbia and Uruguay to host some of the World Cup matches. After all if the US and Russia can host the event despite their sheer size then why cant whole continent? Moreover if Europe did the same thing, say for 2018, it would open the opportunity for nations such as Scotland and Wales to host World Cup Finals as well


  • Comment number 18.

    #3 Lucio playing alongside Roque Santa Cruz? You probably meant Roque Junior.

    Great article Tim. I think that the best pairing of centre backs in South American football was that of Celso Ayala and Carlos Gamarra for Paraguay. Together they were immaculate, playing in two WC (1998 and 2002). Paraguay still produces top quality players in that position: Caceres, Da Silva, and Veron.


  • Comment number 19.

    17. That is a rubbish idea. It won't be the whole of Russia hosting the event. All the cities involved will be West of the Urals. It is not like teams are going to pop over to Vladivostok for a game. I agree it is still a big area but that is Russia.

    Regarding Europe and South America you could have joint bids if one country alone does not have the facilities. For example Scotland and Wales, or South Korea and Japan. More than 2 countries would be ridiculous.

  • Comment number 20.

    Sorry, forgot to say. Great blog Tim. Always the first I read.

    What do you make of the number of South Americans that come to Russia? We've obviously had Jo and Wagner Love among others. Do you think it is a good move for them?

    From my point of view it gives them good exposure in the Champions' League if they go to a top club but sometimes the Russian League lacks quality. I can't compare it to South America but it is a long way behind England, Spain and Italy and on a par with France and Germany.

  • Comment number 21.


    17 - I thik there's a possibility that some time in the future Colombia will be able to stage a 32 team World Cup.
    Theproblem that South America in general has with this task is not one of area - it's huge - it's lack of development and lack of cities. The countries tend to be very centralised, dominated by a single city - usually the port through which the raw materials were exported and manufactured produce came in.
    The last World Cup in the continent was Argentina in 1978 - the last with 16 teams. It's very, very hard to see Argentina staging a 32 team competition - lack of cities.
    There is talk, though, of a joint Argentina-Uruguay World Cup in 2030 to celebrate the centenary of the competition - apart fro Montevideoand maye Maldonado, i think the ret would have to be in Argentina.

  • Comment number 22.

    Good article, getting the balance between steel and elegance at centre half is up there with striking options as the most important aspect of building a football team.

    One thing that always frustrates me about watching South American defending is the disciplinary aspect - referees seem to cut them no slack at all, although that's not to say that there isn't an uncanny willingness to clatter into attackers at a moment's notice. Maybe it's something to do with the footballing mentality in that part of the world.

    Perhaps my ideal South American centre half of recent times was the Uruguayan, Paolo Montero - strong, quick, supremely talented, a born leader: pity he used to get sent off all the time.

  • Comment number 23.

    #18

    You're entirely right, not exactly identical names are they?! My mind going faster than my typing I suspect and not bothering to proff read as I go.

  • Comment number 24.

    Yeah, Paolo Montero was a great player. I remember Menotti saying of him "the next Passarella," while coaching Penarol in the early 90s.

  • Comment number 25.

    A Chile-Argentina bid would be okay.

  • Comment number 26.

    #25 Can't see that happening for a long long time, surely as a reader on South American football you should know that Chile and Argentina don't get along very well? That's on ANY level BTW.

  • Comment number 27.

    At 6. I was responding to Joe Green's remark in post 3. where he began wondering why England fail at international level if we have top quality centre halves and a quality left back in Ashley Cole.

    I actually found that a more interesting topic than Ecuador's ageing centre halves, to be honest.

    At 10. I don't believe Gerrard is a creative player in the true sense. He plays well in the role he has for Liverpool, arriving late in the box and playing off Torres. Liverpool's most creative players are Xabi Alonso, and Benayoun/Riera from wide positions.

    At 22. and 24. I always thought Paolo Montero was an absolute liability.

    The best South American centre halves of recent times were without doubt Roberto Ayala of Argentina, Lucio of Brazil of course, and Carlos Gamarra of Paraguay.

  • Comment number 28.

    We (Birmingham City) are currently linked with Geovanny Espinoza (or so the papers say anyway...)

    Nice to see an article about him as i'd not heard of him before. Nevertheless, seems a gamble to me bringing him to the premiership for the first time at 32. Do you think he could cut it Tim?

  • Comment number 29.

    Tim,

    Great article. However, Hurtado is definitely two or three steps slower than he used to be and has not been able to keep his feet on the ground. As a Millonarios fan, I've seen him produce rare great displays but he's been mainly poor and conflictive this year. He gave away quite a few goals this semester and is likely to leave the team this summer. Personally, I didn't even want him to come back for this semester after he picked up an "injury" during international duty that kept him from going back to Bogota. The funny thing is that Ecuadorian doctors could not point to the exact nature of the injury and Millonarios' medical staff were not given access to the player. After a few weeks in Quito he came back miraculously cured. He's definitely overpaid and I can't wait to see him leave the team.

    On the other hand, I do see your point and, in his prime, he was one of the top defenders in South America.

    Re post 21 - Argentina may not have the number of cities, but the stadia is there. How many are there in Bs. As. alone? Colombia did try to bid for 2014 but it was a lost cause. The other 9 federations were behind Brazil's candidature, worldwide opinion's (including that of almighty Blatter) favored Brazil, and, sadly and honestly, the security situation is still not the best in Colombia -although it is much safer to be in Bogota than in Rio at night-. Colombia also earned the right to host the 1986 World Cup but internal politics made us give it up.

    At this point, and after all these years of great Lula leadership, there is no other country in South America better suited to host it then Brazil. However, I would not rule out a single-host tournament in South America in 2026 or 2030.

  • Comment number 30.

    Tim, I also can't understand why Fabio Aurelio haven't been picked, but what about Maxwell? I rate him a lot better than Kleber and Andre Dias, plays for a BIG european club and does very good! Why he has been overlooked by every brazilian coach?

  • Comment number 31.

    Great piece again Tim.
    I've been looking quite a bit of Bundesliga and Dutch Eredivisie for a while and I noticed that there is quite a large contigent of Brazilians that came from the lower leagues, i.e. Douglas Franco Teixeira now at Twente came from Joinville, Everton Ramos da Silve from Grêmio Barueri ,Caiuby at Wolfsburg and came from São Caetano, Cicero at Hertha from Tombense and Naldo at Werder. All these players came from relatively minor clubs in Brazil and have made a very good impression abroad. Do you think it would be worth for the bigger European teams to scout the lower leagues in South America for a bargain or two?

  • Comment number 32.


    30 - Maxwell is a strange story. He did get a call up - played the Under-23 Championships in 2004, the Olympic qualifiers - which is big news in Brazil.
    I was really looking to seeing him - and come the hour, he was awful - a joke, couldn't defend, couldn't attack. I remember sitting with the Brazilian press contingent, everyone shaking their heads saying ' he must be better than this.'
    He was the only left back in the squad, but he was so bad they had to drop him.
    Clearly his record in Europe shows that he is indeed better than that - for whatever reason we caught him at a bad time - but maybe his poor performances then have harmed his hopes of a senior call up.

  • Comment number 33.

    #14 - good points, but if the 12 year old was playing in the streets of La Paz, that would make him Bolivian, not Ecuadorean

  • Comment number 34.

    #26 That's what they said of Japan and Korea and you know how that ended.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hi Tim,
    I was just wondering what you make of Leonardo's promotion to be the new AC Milan manager, and whether you think he will be successful as a manager?

  • Comment number 36.

    What do you make of Brazils squad? few surprise inclusions and no diego. Do you think they can beat Spain? And why is there so many qualifiers for South American teams??

  • Comment number 37.

    There are so many qualifiers because every country got put in one group, home and away, so WC qualification has also become an unofficial South America international league tournament, almost making the Copa America redundant.

  • Comment number 38.

    Great blog, as always Tim, and I'm interested to see that Ecuador is undergoing something that Paraguay recently underwent too. I mean, between 2002 and 2006, Paraguay lost Francisco Arce, Carlos Gamarra and Celso Ayala, yet right now they not only are in first place in the qualifiers, but have the second best defense.

    So, is there still hope for Ecuador too?

  • Comment number 39.

    A joint bid between Argentina and Uruguay would be interesting, but the problem is that only one city is allowed to have two stadia elected according to the rules, so there would need to be a minimum of 9 cities capable of hosting World Cup games. Argentina is a huge country, the province of Buenos Aires alone is much bigger than the UK for example. A World Cup would need to be spread around the country somewhat, and flying between Buenos Aires and San Miguel de Tucumán would take 3-4 hours alone.

    In Uruguay, alongside Montevideo, Colonia del Sacramento would be a nice, picturesque choice, there is already an old bullfighting ring that could be converted into a stadium that could hold 30,000 and be rolled back to 15,000 afterwards. Punta del Este is a mainly tourist resort that could possibly do a job of hosting games.

    As for Argentina, I will assume Buenos Aires hosting two stadia as a given (Monumental and La Bombonera). There is also Rosario, La Plata, Santa Fe and Mar del Plata in relative proximity. Further away lie Cordoba, Salta, Jujuy, Tucuman and Mendoza, all of which have a strong football culture and are able to cater for large amounts of tourists. Also worth a mention would be Bariloche and San Juan.

  • Comment number 40.

    Back in April Tim you wrote an excellent article aboutPellegrini the manager of Villareal. Well he has been snapped up by Real Madrid their 8th manager in five years.

    Do you think he will bring some stability to Real Madrid, How did you rate Neymar? Never got the chance to ask you on WFPI did ask you about him Jan 2008 and you said to much pressure on a then 15 year old.

  • Comment number 41.

    good point on ecuador, tim. noticed that combination in germany at the world cup, but they were often overlooked and undervalued by most commentators. thanks for reminding us...

  • Comment number 42.

    Pellegrini is a superb coach and will handle the pressure at Madrid.He was superb at Villareal and did the business with San Lorenzo.At River he was good won a title but the lunatics here didnt realise the good job he was doing and forced him out and look where it brought us.
    Is it Nilmar you are talking about shotgooner the Internacional Player?

  • Comment number 43.


    40 - Neymar made his first appearance in the Maracana a couple of weeks back, when his Santos side beat Fluminense 4-1 - only came on for the last 7 minutes, but it was 7 minutes to make you droool - set up a goal with a superb pass after about 18 seconds, got a player sent off and set up another one with a shot the keeper couldn't hold. very, very exciting indeed. Looking forward to seeing more.

    As the recent blog made clear, I'm a Pellegrini fan. This is by some distance the biggest test so far - he'll find the political pressures of coaching Real madrid vastly different from Villareal.

  • Comment number 44.

    I saw the Santos -Corinthians game this weekend when this pibe came on.But I dont remember him from the Sudamericano sub 17 did he play?

  • Comment number 45.


    44 - no - he was called up, but Santos kept hold of him.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi, Tim.
    What do you think about Renato Augusto from Bayer Leverkusen? To me he seems to have all the attributes of a special Brazilian player. He's quick, skillful in the extreme, can score goals, is creative, and works hard. I thought he'd be in the frame for a call-up for sure. I also think he may be destined for a bigger club. Do you think he could make it, or is he another Mancini, another who can flatter to deceive when called up to the big teams.

  • Comment number 47.

    Hi Tim,

    Why was the likes of Gilberto Silva and Josue included in the Confederations cup squad ahead of Ronaldinho and Anderson? and please could you write an article the brazillian public opinion on Dunga's style of play and recent results.... Brazil are known to be the team with all the flair and tip tap passes but the evolution of the Spanish maestro in Iniesta, Xavi, Silva and Sienna have taken all attention away from Brazil as they have not been winning in style lately.. The Spanish national team is everyone's bet to win the confederations cup and world cup...

  • Comment number 48.

    Regarding Brazil, I think that whenever they arrive at a tournament with more doubts than certainties, they end up doing well. They won in 1994 and 2002 arriving quietly. We know what happened in Germany 2006.

    I think it does no harm to Brazil the fact that in everyone's opinion Spain is the main favorite to win next year.

  • Comment number 49.

    As a Brazilian, I'm rooting for Spain in the Confederations Cup.
    They're playing an amazing style of football, and Brazil doesn't deserve to win anything with this "coach".
    The reason for the constant calling of Gilberto Silva is an enigma for everyone in Brazil, same for Josue, Elano, Luisao and some others.
    I don't know if they will play, but you guys should watch Ramires (recently bought by Benfica) and Nilmar, great players, who will probably never come off the bench because of Dunga.
    As for Ronaldinho, he ins't playing at all in Milan, Anderson will undergo surgery, and Lucas (I know most of you from UK don't like him, but we think he has potential) hasn't been called since the Olympics.

    And Tim, Kleber of Cruzeiro is linked to a move to Liverpool. With his style of play, I think he will do well in the EPL. What do you think?

  • Comment number 50.

    Tim!

    Someone's already asked this but I'll ask again just in case you didn't see. Do you think Geovanny Espinoza could cut it in the Premier League? As a Birmingham fan I am most curious as we've been linked with him!

  • Comment number 51.

    Tim,

    The move of Ancelotti to Chelsea has obviously given the media the bait to now link pretty much every Milan player to a Premiership move but the one that most caught my eye was Pato.

    I feel almost certain that there's nothing to this unless Milan have financial problems they're not revealing as Pato has been nurtured by Milan and I understand his family came over with him. Presumably he's been learning Italian, along with his family and has been adjusting to the Italian way of European life. I've seen him play a few times, probably about 6 or 7 full games which I readily admit isn't enough to fully gauge his worth, but all the boxes are ticked as it were and he seems the complete striker package, his goal tally for one so young speaks for itself.

    You've written extensively about the cultural impact of players leaving South America too soon, I wondered what you thought about Pato potentially leaving Italy so relatively soon after arriving. Do players become adjusted to European life compared to South America only to find the differences within Europe (weather, food, culture) are equally defined and sometimes hard to cope with?

    I think many people in Europe stereotypically think Spanish speaking nations in South America are much of a muchness and wondered if players coming over to Europe ever make the same error.

  • Comment number 52.

    Re:37
    I know this is massively off topic, but I had this idea some time ago and haven't found the right forum to air it.
    Do you think that international football in Europe could/should be based on the South American system? What I mean is you could have 8/10-team divisions (with promotion and relegation obviously) played over a 2-year cycle to replace the 6-7 team qualifying groups. At the moment European teams only get 4-6 really competitive games (often less) outside of world/euro championships whereas the South Americans get at least 10 and more likely 14-16.
    Qualifying for WC or Euros could be automatic i.e. top 15 places in the league get to play or be held just as 2-legged play-offs.

  • Comment number 53.

    52 - Would that make a low co-efficient nation need 8 years to have the chance to qualify for a major competition? Not very fair I presume.

    South American system only works because we're in a small number of countries. Which is not the case of Europe.

    What could be done, and I've been wondering about it a long time, is some kind of World League, replacing the qualifying and the friendlies and with it's end culminating with the World Cup, which would lose it's group phase. Of course it would still take longer for a low co-efficient nation to get to the major competition, but that would be done in worldwide scale.

  • Comment number 54.

    Djalma Santos
    Nílton Santos

    Always good to have a Santos no lateral. Aldair and Garrincha too.......

    Plus Dunga saw André Santos at the Final of the Paulistão.


    The only Spurs supporter on the Tobogã

  • Comment number 55.

    found it funny some of your words about the tow defenders difference in style of play wa same as in the wikipedia explanation......
    But great blog as always...

  • Comment number 56.


    55 - not sure I fully understand your post, but if you are making an insinuation that I stole stuff from a wikipedia piece in writing this article then that insinuation is false and insulting.

    Nothing against wikipedia - but the total number of wikipedia pieces I read researching this article is zero - all my own work.

    If the same words crop up - and i have no idea which wikipedia piece you are referring to - that may have a lot to do with the fairly limited vocabulary that is often used to describe football - it can be hard to get away from sometimes. There's an excellent book on this - 'Football lexicon' by a couple of mysterious characters going by the names of Leigh and Woodhouse. I often read it and cringe about all the times in radio reports i've used the term "the visitors" to refer to the away side.

  • Comment number 57.

    Football writing is a funny old game, one might say a game of two halves. Some articles look strong on paper but lack something in the final third. I think you've got to write with your heart on your sleeve, treat each article like a cup match and avoid cliche's.

  • Comment number 58.

    On far-flung World Cup venues, Australia is bidding to hold a WC, which I think is mad. A continent-sized country with a population of 20 million, five hours flying time from Brisbane halfway up the East coast to Perth in the West. Association Football support lags behind AFL, rugby league and rugby union, the A-league is at best English Division One (which is the third English division) standard, crowds generally around 10,000, a massive cost for non-Australian fans to get here and travel between venues, and a very poor time-zone for most overseas tv spectators. The sheer passion for football of South America should put it way ahead of Australia, there are great stadia which will draw great crowds.

    The Aussie bid is supported by our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose only connection to football is that his head is round.

    And I know many have said this, but, yes, Tim, your blog is very interesting!

  • Comment number 59.

    Tim,

    Speaking of Ecuadorian players, please tell us all you know about Christian Benitez just signed by Birmingham City. Will he keep us up? Will he fire us to Europe?!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Tim,
    I'm a Birmingham fan too (see ppl752's point above), and also, obviously, hope that Christian Benitez is a good buy. Birmingham don't have an unblemished record in bringing over South American talent (Luciano Figueroa, Alberto Tarantini to name the 1st 2 that come to mind) & I'd be interested in your thoughts as to what it is - if there is any particular attribute - that determines whether a South American player succeeds in the UK. Figueroa didn't have it (or so thought Steve Bruce, and it increasingly appears that he knows what he's talking about): does Benitez have it?
    CR

  • Comment number 61.

    The notion of Conejo Tarantini failing at BIRMINGHAM is really mindboggling.Could I suggest that your tecnico at the time didnt know much about futbol

  • Comment number 62.

    lasaetarubia: Marangoni was a great player but he did not cut it in England either. So what is your point?

  • Comment number 63.

    Have there been a couple of players called Ivan Hurtado doing the rounds over the last few years? I'm sure one played for Hibs in Scotland. I also recall one nicknamed "the tank" who was an absolute bruiser who played up front or at centre half. Could have been the same guy?

    And while we're on the subject of South American centre halves I just felt I had to mention my personal favourite - Aldair. Strong, elegant, a good user of the ball. A fantastic, loyal servant to a Roma squad that was often mediocre, when I'm sure he must have had plenty of offers to go on to bigger and better things (and I say that as a Roma fan). I remember being especially happy for him when we eventually won the scudetto that he deserved.

  • Comment number 64.

    Hi Tim, great blog.

    I`m a first time poster on this and was wondering what you think of Man Utd`s argentine Rodrigo Possebon, i hear he is well thought of at utd but has`nt been given much of a chance

  • Comment number 65.

    Thank you very much for this blog Tim. I especially enjoyed the line about Hurtado, the "professor".

    A question that relates to my name:

    Do you believe that Argentina need (or have ever needed) a top class goalkeeper to win the World Cup again, and do you see much young hopes waiting in the wings?

  • Comment number 66.

    and #64

    i think you mean the brazilian Possebon!

  • Comment number 67.

    Catch S.American WC qualifiers on Sky Sports


    Uruguay vs Brazil 20.00

    Bolivia vs Venezuela 21.50

    Argentina vs Colombia 22.00

    Paraguay vs Chile 22.35

    Maradona has been moaning about the state of the River Plate pitch a couple of pop concerts been held there. Where they face Colombia,harder match will be next week when they face Ecuador away and the dreaded altitude problem at Quito.

  • Comment number 68.

    Great Article Tim

    I just set up a forum which is not just for Fluminense supporters, but people that follow Brazilian serie a, so check it out if you want to discuss anything about the Brazilian league or even Flu.

    http://fluminensetalk.socialgo.com/forum.html

    Cheers

 

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