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Can Estudiantes redress balance of power between continents?

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Tim Vickery | 21:47 UK time, Sunday, 13 December 2009

One of football's strongest characteristics - often a blessing, occasionally a curse - is that the best side does not always win.

One example of this weekly phenomenon came 10 years ago, when Manchester United met Palmeiras of Brazil in the annual match then played in Japan between the champions of Europe and South America.

A moment of Ryan Giggs magic set up the only goal for Roy Keane - one of the very few chances United had. Palmeiras created many more, but the only time they got the ball into the net the goal was disallowed.

veron_blog.jpgVeron was a key figure in Estudiantes Copa Libertadores success

A glance at their line-up shows why the Brazilians gave United such a hard game.

The team included little left-footed midfielder Zinho, a World Cup winner in 1994, as well as centre-back Junior Baiano and midfielder Cesar Sampaio who had played in the previous year's World Cup final, and future world champions in goalkeeper Marcos, centre-back Roque Junior and left-back Junior.

Plus the wonderful Paraguayan right-back Arce and the great Colombian striker Faustino Asprilla. And the jewel in the crown at the time, the highly talented midfielder Alex, who is still playing top class football with Fenerbahce.

It was Alex who gave Mark Bosnich the most problems in one of the best games of his short spell in the United goal.

Bosnich, of course, was from Australia, and the side also included Mikael Silvestre, Jaap Stam and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. But overwhelmingly, United were a British team.

Ten years on and a lot has changed - especially the balance of forces between the two continents.

The South American clubs have become resigned to losing their stars and potential stars at an ever younger age (there are early signs of a reaction in Brazilian football, but that is a topic for another time).

There are no clubs in the continent currently able to count on the depth of quality and experience that Palmeiras paraded that day.

And the European teams have become global concerns. So now when the holders of the Copa Libertadores come to contest Fifa's World Club Cup, they find that the best South Americans are now playing against them for the winners of the Champions League, as well as the best Africans and, of course, the best Europeans.

This imbalance of forces has been quite clear in the short history of Fifa's newly expanded competition.

This is the fifth year in which all the continents have been represented. So far the score stands at two wins each for Europe and South America. But the manner of the wins speaks volumes.

The only South American team audacious enough to go toe-to-toe with the European champions were Boca Juniors against AC Milan three years ago. Unable to handle the thrust of Kaka, they were beaten more comprehensively than the 4-2 scoreline would suggest.

The two South American winners, Sao Paulo in 2005 and Internacional the following year, attempted nothing so bold. The Brazilian pair were not set up to take the initiative - for this reason both of them struggled in their respective semi-finals against Asian and African opposition.

Come the final, Sao Paulo's against Liverpool, Internacional's versus Barcelona, both took the field in the knowledge that they were outgunned. They fought from a trench, hit out with a single counter-attack, and hung on like grim death for the final whistle.

They were tactical triumphs, examples of the fact that in football the better side can be beaten. Given the chasm in financial resources between the finalists, these wins, even if unlikely to warm the heart of the neutral, were magnificent achievements.

Can Estudiantes of Argentina pull off something similar in this year's tournament, which kicked off 9 December? They are backed up by the tradition of a club accustomed to pulling above its weight, and they also hold an advantage in detailed planning.

They have been thinking about this tournament for months, whereas for Barcelona it is more of an afterthought following big domestic games and the battle to get through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

The Argentines also count on the leadership and playmaking talent of Juan Sebastian Veron. He has an interesting supporting cast in midfield - Rodrigo Brana to hold, the promising Enzo Perez down the right and the sweet left foot of Leandro Benitez on the other flank.

But it's not a lot with which to take on Barcelona. Since little Pablo Piatti was sold to Almeria last year there is a lack of attacking pace - someone to latch on to Veron's raking diagonal balls as Claudio Lopez used to do for the national team.

estud.jpgEstudiantes have been preparing for Fifa's World Club Cup in Abu Dhabi

And, crucially, there might be problems at the other end.

Former Leeds and Sheffield United schemer Alejandro Sabella did a wonderful job making the side more compact after taking over as coach earlier this year.

After he took charge Estudiantes won the Copa Libertadores conceding just two goals in 11 games.

But since then they have lost giant centre-back Rolando Schiavi, who was on loan from Newells Old Boys, while international goalkeeper Mariano Andujar has moved to Italy to join Catania.

Where the Europeans typically strengthen their squad after winning the Champions League, the Libertadores winners normally say goodbye to some of their best players.

Before focusing their attention on Barcelona, Estudiantes need to ensure they don't take South Korea's Pohang Steelers too lightly in Tuesday's semi-final.

On the evidence of Friday's win over TP Mazembe, the Asian champions look a well coached and organised adversary.

And Estudiantes' dreams of a crack at the European champions will be foiled if Barcelona go down on Wednesday to Atlante of Mexico - though that might be taking a little too far the idea that in football the best team does not always win.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. 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) Following the debate about Brazil's central midfield not being a patch on Spain's for passing and creativity, I was reminded of earlier this year Sao Paulo's Hernanes being labelled as the £100m man.

I don't remember him standing out during the last Olympics but he's said to be a dynamic midfielder with two good passing feet and plenty of talent. Could he be the one to lift Brazil's midfield?
Philip Reed

I'm a fan. He is indeed versatile and technically gifted, with quality in both feet. But football is not just technique. In the midfield especially it is ideas - when to pass short, when to pass long, when to keep it simple, when to up the pace. When I've watched him this year I've been disappointed with his lack of progress in this direction. He should be the hub of central midfield - instead I think he's trying to play the killer ball too often, not working his opening with a succession of little give and goes, sucking in the opposition and then slipping the pass that splits the defence.

I usually bang on about players leaving South America too early. In his case I think he would benefit from a move.

Q) I was wondering if you could shed some light on the fascinating case of Argentine Luis Zubeldia?

How does one come to be head coach of a first division club at such a young age, and what has the reaction been to his managerial career thus far?
Toby Millard

He was a central midfielder good enough to represent Argentina at Under-20 level, whose career was quickly wrecked by injury. So he dusted himself down and devoted himself to coaching - and was lucky enough to be with Lanus, a well run club with a firm commitment to developing their own. He picked up experience as an assistant, and then took over as head coach and he's still a couple of years short of 30!

It helps that his appointment is totally in line with the philosophy of the club and that a lot of the players are youngsters who have also come up through the ranks. Results have been good and so the reaction has been positive.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I think you put it well; the chances of Estudiantes are the same as of Sao Paulo and Inter in past years: depending on a lucky kick to score a goal and then fully retreat to secure the victory.
    I happened to meet Mineiro, the man who score Sao Paulo's goal in 2005 - a very nice guy. He had not done much before that goal; he was rostered for the World Cup 2006 thanks to that goal; he never made much after that goal.
    Few of the best Brazilian players perform in Brazil today; the few ones who play in Brazil and might go to South Africa are usually the same old ones: Adriano, Ronaldo, etc.

    http://www.worldcupbrazil.info/2010/flamengo-brazilian-champion-2009/

  • Comment number 2.

    I have been following the K-League for about 8 years now and have to say that the Pohang Steelers manager, Sérgio Farias has impressed me more than any other manager in the Korean game. I note that he coached the Brazilian u-20 and u-17 squads before heading to Asia. He has done incredibly well with a club from a relatively small city (by Asian standards).

    I am being told that he has expressed hopes of coaching Brazil at a World Cup one day. I, and many others wish him well but is this a realistic target for someone who has ended up coaching in Asia (even though the K-League, along with J.League are the top two divisions in the Far East)? Would he need to prove himself in Europe first?

    Certainly, if Pohang defeat Estudiantes then he will be back on people's radar. His work at Pohang certainly deserves attention.

  • Comment number 3.

    Estudiantes can win it, because I jinxed Barca by predicting they'll win. ;)

    But seriously, this time around, Barcelona should have too much for their opponents. Unbeaten in La Liga, going for a clean sweep of trophies in 2009, determined to add that missing piece of silverware and, crucially, taking the competition seriously. While I've never accepted the excuse of seeing the club world cup or intercontinental cup as a glorified friendly, the reality is that on many an occasion, the European contenders haven't always played as if the highest honour in club football is at stake. Yes, I am aware the CL is more lucrative, more difficult to win and has a higher overall standard. The same goes for Copa Libertadores. Nevertheless, Sunday's winners will be WORLD champions.

    I'd love to see an "upset" (despite Barca being favourites, it's not like Estudiantes are a pub team and I am reluctant to use the word upset as if some non-league side knocked Man Utd out of the FA Cup), but I reckon the chances of that happening would've been a lot better had the competition been played in the summer, when both sides were on an absolute high.

    Club World Rankings.com

  • Comment number 4.

    Tim,

    Another fantatsic article! You really need to replace McNulty as the chief sports writer!

    Anyway, you make a good point, but why cant brazil hold onto its players until even a bit later? They have 180m people and are mad about the game, surely the reoures can be found from somewhere. The points about state championships you made a few months ago, is this the answwer, to abandon these and go a permier league way?

    I do feel for the big south american clubs. Im a rnagers fan and curse the fact hull adnd fulham can now outbid and outpay us, so I wonder how the likes of boca juniors and the big brazilian clubs feel about a situation that sees a new generation grwoing up relying on the stories of seeing the likes of romario play domaestically, wiht no hope of really seeing that situation again in the near term.

  • Comment number 5.

    With no disrespect intended to this interesting article, this little statement "there are early signs of a reaction in Brazilian football, but that is a topic for another time" (regarding European teams hoovering up the Brazilian kids at younger and younger ages) caught my attention.

    Tim - pushing the limits of reader liberty to the maximum, it would be great to hear more on this in a future article. This is a subject that is interesting and obviously close to your heart. The combination of those two factors could make for a very good read!

  • Comment number 6.

    hi timm. please could you tell me why Alex failed to establish himself amongst europes's elite, has he quite obviously has/had the ability to ahieve this. Instead he has performed outstandingly for fenerbache in a league that is far below par compared with the top leagues in terms of competition. also he played at one point with regularity for brazil, and did well there also.

    could have been another bit of a rivaldo

  • Comment number 7.

    Another excellent blog Tim, but I have a few questions about something else... (Don't worry I'm not asking for your scouting report for someone I like in Football Manager)

    So between the World Cup Draw and Estudiantes in the Club World Cup, there's no room for a blog about the fantastic last day of the season in Brazil; with Flamengo coming back from 1-0 down to win it while Inter and São Paulo each banged in 4, yet it wasn't enough? And the scenes at the end of the match in the relegation show-down between Coritiba and Fluminense? And Botafogo managing to stay up, meaning that all 4 big Rio teams will be in Serie A next season?

    Obviously as a Flamenguista (Brazilian gf and her football-loving family) I would have loved to hear your opinions on the fact that I believe Flamengo were all the way down in 14th after 19 or so games of the season and yet won the league? I don't have access to much Brazilian journalism here in the UK but it seems to me that no one seems to be talking about it. Do you think it will be a one-off? Will they be able to hang on to Adriano, and will Dejan Petkovic be up to the challenge next season as he approaches 38? Personally I think Adriano shouldn't go anywhere but would Mengo actually sell?

  • Comment number 8.

    Tim, interested and delighted to hear of the resurgence of Veron since his return to South America. Do you feel that he could / would have been a success at United if we had built our midfield around him and his style of play rather than expecting him to adapt to our standard 4-4-2 or was he never right for the high tempo English game?

  • Comment number 9.

    Tim, interesting article as always. Do you believe that the pressure to move to Europe early will mean that South American teams will boast few stars of past, present and future compared to some previous entrants in past World Club Cups?
    I understand such competitions are important for international club football, but unless this trend for the Eurocentric pooling of talent changes (and taking into account calls to ease fixture congestion) they could become defunct.
    Also, I don't mean to be a pedant, but do you mean 'punching' when you say Estudiantes has a tradition of 'pulling above their weight'? I've never heard your version before and thought the phrase came from boxing.

  • Comment number 10.

    Barcelona are a fine fine team. It will be some task to derail them for Veron and Co. There was a nice piece in World soccer magazine about this very subject and a complete club profile on Estudiantes which I recommend to all world football enthusiasts.

    Barcelona in full flow are almost unstoppable, witness their destruction of Manchester United in the champions league final, but they can be beaten if you can upset the apple cart a little. Rubin Kazan beat them in the Nou camp of course and they were taken all the way to penalties in the super cup final in August. I wish Estudiantes luck in their semi final against Pohang, which they should win. Scoring the first goal in he final will be critical for them if they make it of course.

  • Comment number 11.

    Tim, I know you think many South American players leave for Europe too young, but what are your views on an established player - Adriano - returning for a brief spell? Would he welcome it so as to improve his chances of re-establishing himself in the national team, or might he find it too stressful? In England there are rumours that West Ham are pursuing the possibility, and you'd have to think Arsenal would be interested, since they don't have much in the way of a recognised striker, nor any prospect of signing a proven one who is eligible to play in the Champions League. Would half a season in Europe be good for Adriano at this point? And, if so, which club do you think would be best for him?

  • Comment number 12.

    The fluidity and stingy ball possession (approach) of Barca is next to none and i dont think Estud will handle this. This game is delayed, the results are known

  • Comment number 13.

    Always wondered what became of Dejan Petkovic... now I know !

  • Comment number 14.

    7 - you're right, a concentration on the World Cup and now this left me no space to deal with the climax of the Brazilian Championship here - I've just done a ting on it for the next issue of World Soccer magazine.

    It was ceratinly a dramatic end to the season - and drama all around the continent, with Banfield winning their first Argentine title, Nacional their first Paraguayan one for over 60 years, Deportivo Tachira claiming an unikely last day title in Venezuela.

  • Comment number 15.

    Interesting point about Hernanes of São Paulo...I think he's a quality player with great touch and vision and he will be sorely missed by the Tricolor....I say this because the rumours amongst São Paulinos seem to suggest he s on his way to Milan....Could there be any truth in these Tim?

  • Comment number 16.

    Touching on the issue of South American players in European Clubs, do the football fan base follow the players, like fans in African countries follow the Premier League, or even how fans of David Beckham have raised the profile of the MLS

  • Comment number 17.

    I am very pleased to see that Veron has been playing well. I am a United fan and despite his style and application not fitting with what was required at the time I loved his touch.

    He could put a ball in the stride of the forwards in a pass of 10, 20, 30 or 40yards and it was a joy to behold. He often did this with the outside of his right boot.

    The problem was that it appeared that he didn't do enough for the team as a whole and this once it was 'diagnosed' affected what the fans and players thought of him.

    The same questions are now asked of Berbatov. He also is what has been labelled as a 'luxury' player, whatever that means? He also is very good technically but is also referred to as languid and lazy.

    Will look forward to seeing him play in this and hopefully the WC next year.

    Great blog again....

  • Comment number 18.

    Why do so many of the posters just come on here and say "well done tim, you are amazing, answer an unrelated question"

    Can't the posters have some interaction with each other for once? Share THEIR opinions as a follow up to Tims blog?

    Im going for an upset and Estudiantes to get knocked out the the Steelers 2-1. Then Barca to beat Atlante 2-0 and Barca to take the final 3-1. Just my ideas on happenings. Call me stupid if you please!

  • Comment number 19.

    Excellent blog as always Tim, my question is about Luiz Marcelo Morais dos Reis aka.....lulinha!

    So much promise seemed of him a couple of years ago but since his injury ive not heard much from him, whats going on?

  • Comment number 20.

    i dunno if atlante are bad at the moment or not, b/c i don't follow the mexican league at all, but that last paragraph reads pathetic. it's not always the best team, but the best team on the night and even then they don't always win. in spring 08 schalke played better than barca in the first leg in gelsenkirchen creating many chances to barca's couple and still lost the game. if atlante manage the same i hope they have the nerves to pull off the shock victory...

  • Comment number 21.

    #18 Stupid! (well you did invite that)

  • Comment number 22.

    #21 Check out post #19, exactly my point, lets just use the forum to pepper questions at Tim rather than having any debate ourselves. At least you replied to me and didn't ask a question, so i'm happy to be called stupid! I've been called far worse afterall :D

  • Comment number 23.

    Hey Tim, wondered whether you have seen Neyamar, the Santos player who has been dubbed the 'new Robinho' and even the 'new Pele',who has been linked with most of europe's big clubs.

  • Comment number 24.

    and please lets go easy on the 'excellent blog Tim' and 'well done Tim' openers. It's getting rather nauseating...

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Tim,

    Thank you for answering my question about Hernanes. I've been interested him for a while but it's not always easy to catch him playing. The bits and pieces shown on the great football talent spotter that is Youtube are alright but they never show the player in the greater context of things. If anything Youtube can accentuate a players talent beyond reality.

    Symbolically it would be great if Barca won the World Club Cup after their performances under Guardiola. However, romantically Estudiantes winning with Veron pulling the strings to victory would be a nice touch.

    I always liked Juan Sebastian Veron and it's a shame many people (in the UK at least) only associate him with his difficulties with Man Utd and Chelsea. The game needs players like Veron and I hope he has a good showing in South Africa.

  • Comment number 26.

    22. At 2:45pm on 14 Dec 2009, Phil wrote:
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Debate what? The reason why people ask Tim questions as this blog enables people to have contact with a south american football (professional) correspondant.

    Also, out of all the posters, surely Tim is the only one guarenteed to revisit the blog itself.

    Stop whining

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Tim

    Have to question your belief that the World Club Championship " for Barcelona it is more of an afterthought"

    Having watched Pep over the last 17 months (I live in Spain) I can assure you that nothing he does in preparing for games is ever an afterthought. The club has the unprecidented chance to win 6 trophies in one year. They will be meticulously prepared for both games (yes they play a semi-final first).

    The major factor for me will be fatigue. After playing away at Kiev on Wednesday, a battle of a Catalan derby game on Saturday night, a 9 hour flight yesterday and then prospect of two games with extra time on Wednesday and Saturday, it might be beyond them.

    Hope not though, cos it will be one hell of a party on the Ramblas come Saturday night if they win the final!!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    27 - I made reference to Barcelona's semi final in that final paragraph that someone else described as pathetic Perhaps it was too pathetic for you to read that far!

    To be honest I think you've made my point for me. Last week Barca's Champions League place was on the line. Then a local derby. They've only recently faced Real Madrid. It's big game after big game.

    Estudiantes, meanwhile, have been able to coast. Automatically qualified for next year's Libertadores, in no relegation danger - pressure was off all through the second half of the year, allowing them to dream about, and plan for, meeting Barcelona.

    Don't think it's going to be enough to level the playing field, but it is something.

  • Comment number 29.

    #16, speaking for Brazil (and as far I know) cause I haven't a clue about other countries in SA (too different language, culture), NO, fans do NOT follow the players! As soon as the player leaves their club, they begin rooting for the next one and/or the next wonder kid in line.

    Yes, Estudiantes do have a chance to beat Barca, albeit a small one. The difference in quality is huge. Estudiantes are a good side and they know how to block the sides well. Veron is still a World Class player who if fit could help dominate the midfield.

    If the big English clubs eventually lose to smaller clubs, most of them devoid of any real skill (they usually have just strength/power), they could get in trouble playing against players who can keep ball possession and dribble well.

    On the article, I only disagree with the assessment concerning Internacional vs Barcelona game. I thought the game was actually quite easy for Internacional. Yes, Barcelona had been missing Eto & Messi then and Gudjhonsen was hardly a proper sub but that's hardly Inter's fault.

    Another observation I've got, it seems to me that Europeans (including the British here) seem to think Possession is the "correct" way to properly play football. Maybe I am getting old and been watching football for way too long, but I've seen many amazing counter-attacking sides. Even Mourinho's Chelsea were a counter-attacking with pressure side. As a Gremio supported (internacional's rival), nothing pained me more than watching the second half of Barca vs Inter game, cause I knew Barca was not going to score.

  • Comment number 30.

    Barca will stomp all over Estudiantes I'm afraid Tim. They are simply too strong. The intensity of their midfield will be too fast for Veron and co to handle, particularly as Veron thrives in games that are slower paced where he can put his foot on the ball and spray passes. I'd be amazed if they pulled off an upset.

    Anything to say about Banfield by the way, or is that for next week?

    http://www.just-football.com/

  • Comment number 31.

    hi Tim
    excellent blog once again
    i live in Abu Dhabi so i will be AT the matches in question
    will you be there too?
    i went to the earlier matches and agree that the Korean team Pohang Steelers may pose a threat to Estudiantes
    you can't believe the thrill it is for the local people out here in the desert to see some real top teams playing live in competitive matches
    if you come over, i will look out for you

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi Tim,
    Another enjoyable blog. I am also an English man living in Rio and when I first arrived I was amazed by the Brasilian's fascination with the World Club Championship but I know the reasons for the focus on the competition have been discussed before. Anyway, I was just on lancenet.com.br and I saw that your blog even gained a mention on there today so you are obviously doing something right, although your comments, however right they are, probably won't prove too popular in parts of Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre!

    I know it finished a couple of weeks ago but what were your thoughts on the end of the Brasileirao? (being a Flamenguista you must have been happy!) For me the final matches summed up everything that is good and bad about domestic football here. Regardless of it's faults and the difference in quality between S.American and European domestic football I have been enchanted by the football in Brasil. Vamos Fluzao

  • Comment number 33.

    #2 Wenger went from coaching a Japanese team straight to Arsenal. I've never met an Arsenal fan who knew of him before he arrived at Highbury. He had coached in France before with sme success, but he left and went to Asia when he was in his 40s. You'd think coaching in Asia would come at the end of a managerial career, but not for Wenger so maybe there is hope for Sérgio Farias.

    A very interesting read again. Particularly your response to the first question; " But football is not just technique. In the midfield especially...". I hope the other BBC journos read this stuff!

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Tim,

    Just a correction:

    "This is the fifth year in which all the continents have been represented. So far the score stands at two wins each for Europe and South America. But the manner of the wins speaks volumes.

    The two South American winners, Sao Paulo in 2005 and Internacional the following year, attempted nothing so bold. The Brazilian pair were not set up to take the initiative - for this reason both of them struggled in their respective semi-finals against Asian and African opposition."

    This year's Fifa World Club Cup is the sixth edition, with all continents represented.

    Corinthians (qualifier as National Brazilian Championship winner, the host country) was the first South American winner, as you can check below:

    http://www.fifa.com/tournaments/archive/tournament=107/index.html

    So far the score is 3 wins to South America and 2 for Europe.

  • Comment number 35.

    14. Thanks for getting back to me Tim! That has in fact probably tempted me to pick up that particular issue... I think this greater unpredictability can only be a good thing; there are signs of it in Europe too I feel, with Wolfsburg winning in Germany, Bordeaux finally toppling Lyon in France, and I hope closer title races in England and Italy... (with Inter losing to Juve and then being held by Atalanta, Milan losing at home to Palermo for the only 2nd time EVER)

    Does the fact that Estudiantes will have more time to prepare compensate in any way for the fact that after winning the Libertadores in late June/early July, the winning team is then usually gutted for their star players who have all inevitably found themselves in the shop window? The LDU Quito side that went to Japan was nothing like the team that beat Fluminense.

  • Comment number 36.

    34 - i'm not really sure the corinthians victory in 2000 really deserves to figure in our unofficial scorecount.

    first, corinthians had done nothing to deserve to be there - their entry qualification was as the biggest club in sao paulo there would fill up the stadium - likewise vasco in rio, although at least they were, if not the holders, recent libertadores winners.

    and also there's the home advantage factor - especially potent in high summer.

    i covered the tournament - it was an interesting experiment, but for my own private score of continental wins, the 2000 one falls short of credibility.

  • Comment number 37.

    #26, fair enough you keep trying to have a 'love in' with Tim. As far as i am aware most people would revisit the blog after posting, to see further responses. Its just highly amusing that on Tim's blog everyone is in awe of the guy whilst with people like McNulty everyone jumps on his back for nothing. The reason is that everyone thinks they know the game better in England, so they think only their opinion is right. In South America peoples knowledge is far less so you take Tim's word as gospel. Its laughable. Don't get me wrong, i enjoy Tim's blogs, but his blog is only one opinion, you don't have to agree with everything he says and wag your tail obediently.

  • Comment number 38.

    Interesting blog as always Tim. My mate is a rosario central fan and like any decent south american he is frenzied on game days and got me into watching some of the local games.

    I hope Dean Ashton takes up coaching like the inspirational Luis Zebalida. If he could make that transition he would help train many youngsters to reach their potential. I'm sure Zola and Clarke would love to have him in his coaching staff.

  • Comment number 39.

    Estudiantes has a player that is not mentioned in this blog who could make an impact, should somehow the Pincharratas make a dent in Barcelona's formidable hide-the-ball show. He has great sense of anticipation close to goal, is rarely out of position, heads the ball well and can score with either foot: Mauro Boselli. Unjustly relegated for years behind Palermo in Boca Juniors, he moved to Estudiantes to get desperately needed playing time. I remember he once replaced injured Palermo in a league game, scored three and dutifully went back to the bench the following game to make room for the 35 year-old Palermo. By the end of the season he was off to La Plata.

    Tim: Thirty six year old Schiavi, who recently got called up to national duty by Maradona (a curse surely... but who can say no to God) is well past his prime. He was loaned to Estudiantes for all of four Libertadores crucial games (semi and final) at U$ 50,000 a pop, and is now back with Newell's Old Boys. Crazy! The real deal in defence is Marcos Angeleri who has been out most of the year with a cruciate ligament injury and will not play in Abu Dhabi. His injury in big part prompted Schiavi being brought as a hired gun. Hardly a big losss for ELP.

    I would also like to add that, in my opinion local football in Argentina is becoming increasingly mediocre. There is a contradiction between the proliferation of technically good players in South America and the actual quality of the teams. Short, 19-match Clausura and Apertura championships tend to produce unlikely winners playing unremarkable and often forgettable football, coaches losing jobs after a few weeks and a true sense of impending disaster for losing record teams, thanks to a average-point-per-game system that carries over from season to season for deciding relegation. Although I symphatize with Banfield's historic win, I get the sense that two trophies in a year lessens the value of the wins, especially when no team is able to sustain it.

  • Comment number 40.


    39 - agree on Angeleri - though Schiavi did what was required of him when he was brought in.

    Don't rate Boselli quite as highly as you do - but agree with your analysis of the contemporary scene in Argentina. Santiago Silva as the key player - it's not a good sign.

  • Comment number 41.

    There's talk of Veron moving to Lazio Roma after the Club World Cup. Would another move to Europe be a wise move for him at his age or should he just call it a day after next year's World Cup in South Africa?

  • Comment number 42.

    I am utterly astounded to find not a single reference on the BBC website to yesterday's match between Estudiantes and Pohang Steelers. I was eager to read what on earth the South Korean goalkeeper was sent off for, but, to my astonishment, there's not a single mention of the match!! Or am I not searching correctly?

  • Comment number 43.

    I'm a Benfica fan and I would love to know opinions on Keirrison.

    He's done nothing despite having several opportunities to do so, he came with a big reputation... The next big thing.

    He's too slow to react, average tecnique and lack of movement. In his favour he's being played as a striker and doesn't seem to have the physique to do it. He's he another Lulinha?

    What's his position? He seems to be highly regarded in Brazil.

    Also we seem to be getting 2 Brazilian players in January

    Alan Kardec, what a great name, and Airton. What are they like?

    What happened to Alan Delon?

  • Comment number 44.

    Never mind about Hernanes being the man to lift Brazil's midfield, could he give the Liverpool midfield what they've lacked since Alonso went to Madrid?

  • Comment number 45.

    I saw many of Estudiantes' games in their run to the Copa Libertadores in the summer (thanks for going out of business Setanta......poor as your coverage was it was the only place to see it on TV). Enzo Perez stood out as a great talent. I'd like to see them do it against Barca but agree with the general consensus that the Europeans will be too strong.

    Anyone know if any UK TV channels have got the rights to Copa Libertadores 2010?

    Tim - could you have a quiet word with your bosses for us.....get them to stick it on BBC3 or such like, surely it wouldn't cost too much? I for one am willing to sacrifice Strictly Come Dancing.......!

    http://www.realfootballargentina.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 46.

    To #37

    Reading Phil McNulty's Blog is no different to having a conversation down the pub. Too much reliance on quotes and 'war of words' to generate debate.

    With Tim Vickery you get greater analysis of players and tactics, and above all it is football culture that is different to Europe

  • Comment number 47.

    Barcelona does do a good job of pressing the opposition when they have the ball but so does Estudiantes. And El Pincha love to play on the counter, using the speed and movement of Boselli and Perez and Veron's ability to hit pinpoint long passes. I expect Cristian Cellay, a tenacious defender will come into the team, I am just not sure where, as he can play as a centerback, fullback or in an emergency even as another defensive midfielder.
    With Gaston "La Gata" Fernandez leaving the team (he plays in Mexico now) they do miss something in attack from the team that won the Libertadores in June (next season when Jose Sosa is eligible they'll get some of that ability back but that is irrelevant for this discussion about the final) but organized, intelligent teams who take advantage of their goalscoring opportunities and are capable of short circuiting Barcelona's circulation of the ball can have success against teams like that. Rubin Kazan did it this year in the Champions League, Chelsea nearly did it last year in the semifinals of that competition and the United States did that to Spain in the Confederations Cup. But to do this not only do you have to shut down their passing routes but you need to finish the chances that you get in front of goal. Estudiantes will need many things to go their way against Barcelona to achieve this but they do I think have the type of club which can beat this powerful Barcelona. Saturday they get their chance to prove that. They have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
    Some bad news for Barcelona, Andres Iniesta injured a leg muscle against Atlante and will miss the final.
    How about the nearly 5,000 Estudiantes fans who amde the long journey to Abu Dhabi? Very impressive and an indication of how passionate the club's supporters are.
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  • Comment number 48.

    Half-time, Estudiantes 1 x 0 Barcelona. Surprisingly, Estudiantes has played on equal grounds to Barça. It cannot be claimed that they only had a lucky goal.

    Poor Barça, outclassed by São Paulo (my team, btw) in 92, failed to impose their superiority against Inter, and what they are playing so far wouldn't be enough to win anything... Messi looking awful, intimidated by Verón perhaps?

    If the result remains the same, I wonder what will be the excuse this year... Time zone? In Abu-Dhabi, not an issue anymore. Don't care? Reading the player's comments this week, don't look so. Referee, perhaps?

  • Comment number 49.

    Estudiantes gave the game away in the 2nd half.

  • Comment number 50.

    In the end, Estudiantes couldn't keep up, and Barça began to play somewhat better, Verón could hardly walk during overtime.

    Nevertheless it wasn't so easy as most would have predicted (strategy is still big part of the game), and Messi did almost nothing, besides the goal, of course :)

  • Comment number 51.

    BTW, by Barça's commemoration it can be seen how "little" they cared for this title...

  • Comment number 52.

    To the contrary. It doesn't seem to me like Barca cares "little" for this title.

    Seeing the celebration of the second goal, the final whistle and Guardiola crying it seems to me that they were looking for a long time for this one!

  • Comment number 53.

    Anyone who suggests that Barca didnt care are simply idiots.The celebrations, Guardiolas tears the incredibly biased Telecinco commentator.
    Estudiantes had their chances and were too defensive in the second half.But the loss thru injury of Marcos Angeleri replaced by the pathetic Clemente Rodriguez and the banning by Fifa of Jose Sosa stripped La Pincha of the extra bit of quality that would have gotten them over the line
    This one levels it South America 24 Europe 24.It appears now the Europeans are dominant but the World is changeing quickly and as Brasil,Argentina and the others improve economically the SUdacas will ensure this tournament gains more in prestiege every year

  • Comment number 54.

    Now, it's still South America 25 vs 24 Europe. (although Tim doesn't count the 2000 edition, but it's in the record books).

    I see that Europe is (finaly) catching in on South America, as Senior National Men Team and World Club Titels concerns:

    Both leveled on South America/Europe 9 a piece (of the 18) and on club level a mere edge to SA (25 vs 24).

    The rest (junior divisions, beach and so on) is still a SA thing between the two.

    Indeed Clemente was pathetic!
    But Estudiantes went back in the 2nd half (defending the 1-0 lead) instead of keep playing like they did most of the 1st half.

    In that the beautiful game is mercyless. For that my credit to Barca who kept on playing instead of a difficult 1st half. But in no way was Barca more than a team than Estudiantes today.

    I think indeed!, the economic issue in South America has it's role on the South American club football level of play.

    But let's hope for the better in the future, since Europe is investing heavily in SA players. Just look at the FIFA list of Honors in the current CWC, since they are staging it: Edilson, Rogerio Ceni, Deco, Kaka, Wayne Rooney and now Messi.

    5 out of 6 SA players (although Deco is nationalized portuguese, but is brazilian).

  • Comment number 55.

    The fact is however the Libertadores is far more open than the Champions league with many more teams with the possibility of winning.This is of course due to South American economics poorer and more lefty than Europe but it leads to far more competition which for many like me is much better than the 1 team Serie A, 2 team Liga, and Premier league.I see comments from Tim suggesting Argentinas primera has become mediocre but we have had 10 champions this decade which suggests we have as much competition as Spain,Italy,England and France combined.

    If Messi is the Worlds most "decorated player" thanks to Europes media surely Veron contributed more to Argentine futbol this year.
    As for todays game for me the best "South American player was a Venezuelan who in reality made the difference for the Spanish team

  • Comment number 56.

    Can't agree more with you moreno.

    Indeed, for me too, the Libertadores is more attractive than the Champions. In fact, since I left Europe half decade ago and return to the South I don't even follow the Champions League anymore, with all due respect to all fans.

    My stay in Europe for more than eleven years made me see the true value of the south american continental championships and the domestic leagues. Nowadays I follow the Libertadores, Argentine Primera A, Brazilian Serie A, the Sudamericana and even the Colombian and Peruvian matches on dish (and still waiting to receive the Uruguayan league on VtV).

    So indeed, it's a real delight to enjoy them. And the competitions indeed are far from monotone (in contrast to the old continent).

    But I agree with Tim, that the south american domestic leagues has to be restructured like the Brazilian and soon the Chilean. One league competion home and way everybody against each other. It has to be simplified instead of the current 2 compepitions per year most south american countries have (and with in most cases a play off, nock-out stage to determine the finalists) that devaluates the level of play.

    In that I think that the south americans can copy the europeans, what organization concerns:

    a. a simple domestic league competition, home and away, everybody against each other, the one finishing atop is the champion. the last 2 or 3 goes to the lower division, etc
    b. a cup competition, nock - out system home and away (primiere and first division)
    c. a domestic supercup (league champion vs cup champion)

    from june/july till june/july the next year (a proposition, depending on the wheather conditions on the south)

    d. also play the Libertadores the whole year, instead of half year.
    e. the Sudamericanan too, playing it the whole year, parallel to the Libertadores intead of half year.

    This kind of restructuring will enhace the quality of play and the interest. Look at Brazil the last few years when it comes to interest, attractiveness, etc.

    I will recommend you to read the blog of Luis Puiggros, a Peruvian sports writer on all this restructuring ideas.

    What Messi concerns. Indeed, he is a good player at Barca. But when it comes to the MNT his achievements are poor. What that concerns Veron has more input.

    Who is that Venezuelan player?

  • Comment number 57.

    52/53- You should turn on your irony filter :) Obviously Barça cared quite a lot! Players don't cry for every game, do they?

    That's why the "little" was in quotes :)

  • Comment number 58.

    Also, about the game: indeed Rodriguez was pathetic. It was surprising that Barça didn't that side much more, but I think it made clear that the difference is perhaps not so big as some think.

  • Comment number 59.

    57-
    Oke. it's clear now.
    Thanks!


    moreno,

    I forget to mention the SA Supercup, offcourse:

    f. playing the south american Supercup (or Recopa) at the end of both continental competitions, with the benefit you will get the recent champions of both competions. not the past champions, like now is the case.

  • Comment number 60.

    The_anomaly we should start something as I agree 100%.I think in Argentina we have to copy Europe and the Brasileiro.Indeed it may be soon as this years Nacional B is played on a 38 game format.However until we get to better economic times River,Boca and Co wont let go of the Copa and Sudamericana especially in 2010 when the big 5 here all miss the Copa.
    The young Venezuelan is Jeffren Suarez
    Also apologies Tiago my English isnt good enough to understand your irony
    but I agree the difference is much smaller and its now obvious thet the top Brasilian and Argentine sides are far superior to anything outside the top 2 or 3 in Europes top leagues

  • Comment number 61.

    Yes indeed, they will miss the Libertadores.

    I think in the first place it does come to using your common sense, instead of the money.

    And the will to restructure!
    What these countries do need is a change of mind set in the first place when it comes to organization.

    What Boca, River, San Lorenzo and co. concerns, simple, if they don't perform in the domestic league, they won't get participation to neither the Copa or the Sudamericana. As simple as that.

    Setting rules!!
    Doesn't care or matter how much money you have got. If you don't qualify, you won't get participation.

    That applies in europe for every club. From the small ones to the big ones. Here it has to be the case too. No participation, no money! And you will see how clubs will manage their players and finance better.

    In the coming Sudamericana they won't get automatic particpation anymore. The Conmebol put an end to that.

    The Brazilian and Argentinina leagues are for sure in the top 5 of the world. Just contact IFFHS for that.

  • Comment number 62.

    Between the two continents it's a matter of fifty/fifty chance rather than distance or difference.

    Take the last 10 results into account. With the exception of 2007 and 2002, all the results was either a 1-0 difference or an even result (which was decided by penalty):

    2000: 2-1 (boca vs real)
    2001: 1-0 a.e.t. (bayern vs boca)
    2002: 2-0 (real vs olimpia)
    2003: 1-1 (boca-milan) penalty: 3-1
    2004: 1-1 (porto-caldas) penalty: 8-7
    2005: 1-0 (sao paolo-liverpool)
    2006: 1-0 (inter-barca)
    2007: 4-2 (milan-boca)
    2008: 1-0 (manchester-ldu quito)
    2009: 2-1 (barca-estudiantes)

    Thing is, Europe has been putting more since 1995 to win this tournament.

  • Comment number 63.

    Estudiantes had a wonderful game plan and played superbly in the 1st half. Unfortunately they ran out of gas in the 2nd half and especially the extra time. I also think German Re's injury for Estudiantes was key, he was playing great but went off and was replaced by an inexperienced teenager, Faustino Rojo, and that, combined with the team's tiring legs, is when gaps started appearing in Estudiantes' defense. Barcelona's style of play does wear it's opponents down as they make you chase the ball but Estudiantes gave Barcelona quite a battle. Hopefully they can use some of their prize money from this competition to further strengthen their team and make it possible to see a return to this tournament for Estudiantes as the 2010 Copa Libertadores champions. That is not a far fetched idea.

    About the issue of the "short tournaments" in Argentina and many of Latin America's leagues, one benefit they have is it gives an opportunity for smaller clubs without a lot of depth to contend for a title. Look at Argentina this year with Banfield winning the title and my club Newell's finishing 2nd. Neither club was particularly deep and probably would not be able to sustain their level of play over a 38 game season. Argentina used to have a single championship and the only clubs who won the championship were the Big Five-Boca, River, Independiente, Racing and San Lorenzo. When the seasons were split into two per year, smaller clubs started winning including clubs like Chacarita, Ferrocarril Oeste and Huracan. Then a single season returned and again it was the bigger clubs plus some just slightly below the Big Five like Newell's , Rosario Central, Velez and Estudiantes who also won some titles. Finally the two season format returned and again we see where smaller clubs like Lanus or Banfield have won championships and others like Huracan, Gimnasia and Tigre have contended. I just do not think they would have the depth to keep that up over a 38 game season.

    As a further example look at Brasil, since they've adopted the home and away long calendar for their national championship it has been won by big clubs only. Brasil has the unique situation in the world I believe of having more "big" clubs than other countries but the championships are being won by Sao Paulo, Flamengo, Gremio, etc while smaller clubs like Goias, Atletico Paranaense and Sao Caetano have in years past fallen at the final hurdle, I believe because they lack the overall depth of the larger clubs.

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  • Comment number 64.

    Look at Argentina this year with Banfield winning the title and my club Newell's finishing 2nd. Neither club was particularly deep and probably would not be able to sustain their level of play over a 38 game season.
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  • Comment number 65.

  • Comment number 66.

    Yes, Estudiantes do have a chance to beat Barca, albeit a small one. The difference in quality is huge. Estudiantes are a good side and they know how to block the sides well. Veron is still a World Class player who if fit could help dominate the midfield. If the big English clubs eventually lose to smaller clubs, most of them devoid of any real skill (they usually have just strength/power), they could get in trouble playing against players who can keep ball possession and dribble well. Rent a Car | Inchirieri auto

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