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Brazil show Argentina way forward

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Tim Vickery | 09:06 UK time, Monday, 28 March 2011

Taking on Scotland at the Emirates was more than just another friendly for Brazil, more than the chance to return to winning ways after two defeats, and even more than a warm up for July's Copa America.

The game got to grips with one of the fundamental issues facing the five-time world champions as they prepare for triumph number six in front of their own fans in 2014.

"We need to learn to play against defensive sides," said Mano Menezes last July in his first press conference as coach of Brazil.

"If teams stay back we get irritated - but the opposition has every right to play defensively."

Menezes is weaning his team off what had become an excessive dependence on the counter-attack.

In the World Cup almost everyone will sit back and try to frustrate Brazil - hence the importance of trying out strategies to beat the likes of Scotland.

Brazil's Leandro Damiao has an effort stopped by Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor of Scotland

Brazil's Leandro Damiao has an effort stopped by Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor of Scotland. Pic: Getty

One of them - unveiled last month against France but curtailed after Hernanes' first-half red card - was high pressure marking, attempting to win possession deep in the opposition half.

At one point this nearly turned a goal-kick for Scotland into a goal for Brazil, and several times Menezes' men won the ball in dangerous positions.

With his team compact in Scotland's half, the virtues of Menezes' 4-2-3-1 formation started to appear.

The holding midfielder Lucas Leiva was able to pop up in attack as an occasional element of surprise.

There was also a constant quest to create two against one situations down the flanks, with Jadson and Daniel Alves down the right and, especially, with Andre Santos and Neymar down the left - the route of the latter's gloriously taken opening goal.

And, for the first time since the World Cup, there was a genuine old fashioned number nine. Absent through injury this time, Alexandre Pato scored in all three of Menezes' first games in charge. But for all his talent, it is debatable whether he is ideally suited to the central striker's role in a 4-2-3-1. He is more of a fluid runner than a penalty area presence.

The same is not true of Leandro Damiao, the 21-year-old who made his debut against Scotland. As recently as December, he was a substitute for Internacional in the Club World Cup.

Damiao's rise has been meteoric. He was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet against the Scots, provided a threat in the air and helped create space for Neymar.

It is way too early to know whether Damiao will be the long-term owner of the number nine shirt. What seems clear, though, is that a player of his type - which could still be World Cup striker Luis Fabiano should his return to Sao Paulo be a success - will always be in the thoughts of Menezes when he puts his team together.

But if Brazil are moving towards fielding an old style centre forward, Argentina are going in the opposite direction.

Argentina's Esteban Cambiasso celebrates his goal with team-mate Lionel Messi

A 79,000 crowd was at the Meadowlands Stadium to see Messi - photo: Reuters.

Against the United States on Saturday, as in last month's meeting with Portugal, coach Sergio Batista selected his side without a target man.

Instead, in an imitation of the role he has been playing for Barcelona, Lionel Messi is being employed in a 4-3-3 formation as a false number nine, with freedom to roam between midfield and attack.

Either side of Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Angel Di Maria open up the field with their speedy flank play. Behind him, Ever Banega is the key link - the Xavi of Batista's South American Barcelona.

For the first 45 minutes against the US, Argentina were worthy of the comparison. They played some scintillating stuff, with Messi exchanging passes at breathtaking pace and angles with Banega and Lavezzi.

The US defended doggedly, but were held in a stranglehold, and were fortunate to be just one goal down at the interval. It was embarrassingly one sided.

But the final score was 1-1. Batista's men could not maintain their pressing for the full 90 minutes, and with more aggressive intent the US managed to carry the game into the Argentina half - at which point some long-standing defensive weaknesses were shown up.

Poor defending in the air and sub-standard goalkeeping helped the US equalise. It would have been greatly against the run of play, but the US could even have snatched a winner.

Batista must surely be reflecting on how such first-half superiority could not be turned into more goals. Does he need to rethink the balance of his attack?

A penalty-area specialist would surely have capitalised on those periods of Argentina domination when the ball kept flashing across the face of the goal. And indeed, the currently injured Gonzalo Higuain remains an important option.

Going back to a target man, though, would interfere with Batista's imitation of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona, since it would reduce the space available for Messi to cut through the middle.

But there is a figure in the Barcelona attack that Batista's side are not currently replicating. David Villa is not a traditional centre forward. He does much of his best work cutting in from the flanks. But he is a penalty-area operator - much more so than ether Lavezzi or Di Maria.

There is an obvious candidate to carry out the Villa role for Argentina - Sergio Aguero, a surprising omission from the current squad. Diego Maradona's son-in-law has the speed to work wide and the restricted space skills to be effective in the penalty area.

Aguero has not played for his country since coming off the bench to score against Spain last September. But the Atletico Madrid striker could have an important part to play in Argentina's Barcelona imitation.

Comments on the piece in the space below. 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) Any idea what's happened to the Argentine defender Marcos Angeleri signed by Sunderland. I see he's only made a couple of appearances for the first team so far, after being picked by Maradona for the national side I had hoped for him to shine in the Premier League.
Gareth Williams

He was on the bench for Argentina against the US, called up after Pablo Zabaleta was forced out, and he may even play against Costa Rica on Tuesday. What concerned me, though, when he signed for Sunderland was his fitness. His biggest asset was his pace - that and versatility, because he started as a sweeper and then became a right back, so he could use that pace for defensive cover and to bomb forward.
But he suffered a serious knee injury, and so far he's offered no evidence of being the player he was before. Had he been fit, I'm sure Maradona would have taken him to the World Cup. The fact that he was left out was a cause of concern, a warning flag that he had not made a full recovery.

Q) I was wondering what seems to have been the motivation for Luis Fabiano's move back to Brazil. It seems especially unusual when you consider he had just signed a new contract with Sevilla, and he was being linked to big clubs (Man Utd, Spurs, etc) over the summer.
Bobby Smith Baker

A) After a very unhappy time early in his career with Rennes in France he said that he never wanted to know about northern Europe again! He's going back, I imagine, because Brazilian clubs are paying top money now, and with some big names returning the standard should be higher than for years. He had a happy spell with Sao Paulo in the past, and the club's medical facilities are top class. And if he's still keen, starring at home is a great way to win an international recall - as the column above argues, Brazil seem to have decided that they need a player of his type.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Tim,
    Just wondering what you thiink of Chelsea's latest signing (Well Pre-contract), Lucas Piazon?
    Never heard anything about him, could you give me some insight?

  • Comment number 2.

    "If teams stay back we get irritated - but the opposition has every right to play defensively."




    Quick someone tell Wenger!

  • Comment number 3.

    @2,

    same thought exactly!

  • Comment number 4.

    I quite like the way Dunga set his team up for the World Cup and I thought the team did pretty well under him .. I cant see Menezes doing better with the style of football he wants to play. Dunga won every trophy with his Brazil side apart from the World Cup which to be honest was won by a team with better players than Brazil .

    As for Argentina .. I think they need a coach who will be in charge for a lengthy period to try and calm things down and beat the big egos amongst the squad ..Hopefully Sergio Batista can do that

  • Comment number 5.

    I must say, just the sight of those yellow shirts in full flow sends shivers down my spine. I still belive brazilian football with its direct yet technical style, and with players seemingly better at beating a man using his body rather than fancy footwork, is the best of all, provided they can press high up the pitch.

  • Comment number 6.

    As soon as Higuain is fit again Argentina will have a number 9 superior to anything Brazil have at the moment. Argentina don't have to worry about forwards (Messi, Tevez, Lavezzi, Zarate, Aguero, Lisandro Lopez, Milito etc) all they need is a solid defence.

  • Comment number 7.

    With all the big european sides now alerted to Neymar, I just hope he doesnt move to europe to soon and ruin his career as others have done in the past.

  • Comment number 8.

    @ 5. "I must say, just the sight of those yellow shirts in full flow sends shivers down my spine. I still belive brazilian football with its direct yet technical style, and with players seemingly better at beating a man using his body rather than fancy footwork, is the best of all, provided they can press high up the pitch."

    Hmmm? Explain what you mean with these comments, please...

    There's possibly a debate here about how Brazil have made their game more European, but what you have just described there I interpret as the way West German and German teams have always played, in contrast to the Brazilian tradition.

    The likes of Pele, Garrincha, Rivelino, Zico, Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho practically invented "fancy footwork"!

  • Comment number 9.

    Must say I was very impressed with Neymar in the Brazil v Scotland game. A lot of people still questioning whether he is ready but I think he is. One argument is that he cannot cope physically, but obviously he just did against Scotland who are a country considered to be very physical. I know they are not a great team but I don't think that their quality has a bearing on their physicality.

    Was hoping to see a bit more of the highly rated Lucas who came off the bench.

    Tim, which of those two youngsters do you rate the best? Do you think either are ready for a big move?

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Tim,

    I agree with your point, as an Argentina supporter, I hope they win on home turf in July, but I think as good as they are on the eye, they do not have the killer instinct, when they come up against Brasil, unfortunately I think they will be hit on the counter attack, even though controlling the possesion losing in the end, and even I think they will have difficulty breaking down a n Uruguyan side with an organised defence and two world class strikers, but I hope im wrong and we win our fisrt major trophy since 1993, a lot of pressure on Messi in front of an Argentinian public who dont have him in the same pedestal as a certain Diego Maradona yet, Messi has the european media saying he is the greatest but in his homeland still a lot to prove for the Albiceleste.

  • Comment number 11.

    @2

    Exactly what i was thinking!! :)

    Good to see someone looking to work around a problem and overcome it, instead of just continually complaining and sticking to a failing ideal.....

    Taxi for Wenger!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Looking at Brazil, i'd argue that they are the weakest they have been for a generation. That is in terms of talent, especially attacking talent.

    It reminds me of the 86-92 Brazilian era, spearheaded mainly by Careca who was a very decent player, but the supporting cast were pretty ordinary in comparison to past and future sides. The side that conquered in 1994 was geared in a very European way, highly reliant upon a brilliant strikeforce of Bebeto and Romario, an industrious midfield but with the added factor of talented Brazilian style attacking full backs in Jorginho in the main and Branco.

    In the years after, players such as Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Djalminha, Denilson, Alex, Edmundo, Ronaldinho and others emerged who were typical of what the public associate with Brazilian football.

    They are again lacking such mecurial talents. Neymar, is the only current exception to the rule as Robinho is a player who has always flattered to deceive and is possibly no more talented than someone like Ashley Young in reality.

    Defensively I have to say that Brazil are very strong, which now appears to be their key strength. The full back positions offer the mostcreativity within the current side.

    Brazil therefore have a strong, solid team.But this emergence of a new philosophy, promoted by Dunga, continued by Menezez is turning them into a different prospect to what Brazil expects and desires.

  • Comment number 13.

    While the Brazil coach may have a point about the benefits of playing a team who will line up defensively, i think he neglected to consider that it might be worth playing a defensive minded team who have some modicum of technical ability. While it might have been a great day out for the tartan army, we offered nothing against them in footballing terms. This simply reiterated how far from being average the Scotland team are, and i can't see how either team can take anything from the game but that knowledge.

  • Comment number 14.

    12. At 11:27am on 28th Mar 2011, tomefccam wrote:
    Looking at Brazil, i'd argue that they are the weakest they have been for a generation. That is in terms of talent, especially attacking talent.

    It reminds me of the 86-92 Brazilian era, spearheaded mainly by Careca who was a very decent player, but the supporting cast were pretty ordinary in comparison to past and future sides. The side that conquered in 1994 was geared in a very European way, highly reliant upon a brilliant strikeforce of Bebeto and Romario
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    However, in that 86-92 period the likes of Romario, Bebeto, Muller along with Careca were around -also with midfield talents like Valdo, and Rai. They won the Copa America in 1989. I don't think they've ever had a bad generation!

  • Comment number 15.

    I still think the key to future Argentina success is buried at the heart of midfield. The day they start selecting Banega and Pastore together will be the day they start winning the 2014 World Cup.

  • Comment number 16.

    tomefccam

    I respectfully disagree that Dunga and Menezes are the proponents of a new philosophy. Dunga's side was capable of real elegance of collective football. And if anything, Menezes is proposing a balanced approach to counteract the previous reigning philosophy of a tight defense with destroying midfielders and then relying on the individual merits of attacking players to invent goals.

    Are we really still indulging the "Jogo Bonito" samba-football stereotype? Brazil have been a cynical side for the last 20 years. Menezes seems to me, in all honesty, the least cynical of the bunch. He's trying to build a balanced, cohesive team in attack and defense.

    Quite unlike the 2002 and 2006 sides, which were built around an archaic notion of letting it up for the big stars to solve the problems while the grunts do the defending.

    But I agree about Robinho.

  • Comment number 17.

    #8

    No, your wrong. Brazilians have usually always beaten men using their body. I think you can trace it to the capoiera!

    Rivelino was the exception on your list. Watch garrincha, his feet didnt move much at all, very little in terms of stepovers or drag backs, more running at players, dropping a shoulder and accelerating past them, using his immense balance to deceive.

    Ronaldo was another good example, wonderfully balanced in his youth, and strong, and certianly had decent footwork, but his ability to drop a shoulder or subtly change his posture and deceive an opponent was his main strength. That was the main reason he always seemed to maintain momentum after rounding his man.

    Messi seems to be a combination of the two styles tbh.

  • Comment number 18.

    17. Ok- interesting point- so who are the players who only rely on fancy footwork rather than using their bodies? I would have thought that Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, who you did not mention, were certainly players who had plenty of tricks: stepovers, feints and dummies, nutmegs and drag-backs, in their armoury.

  • Comment number 19.

    @14

    I agree to some extent that Rai and Valdo were very good players, but I would not put them anywhere near the bracket of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Rivaldo etc.

    I would say they were comparable to Elano? Juninho Pernambucano. Very good players, but not anywhere near world class. Plus you then have to wager in what they produced for the national shirt, which (circumstances aside, such as Rai in USA 94) was not all that much.

    Muller, again is someone who was very good in Brazil, but with the national team never really made a huge impact. Plus Romario and Bebeto seldom appeared as an attacking pair until into the 1990's.

    @16 - Jogo Bonito for me is a term very much attributed to the underperforming 2006 World Cup side, so I would like to come away from that term. I see your point in that defensive tactics have been employed for some time. But players such as Lucas, Gilberto Silva and Elano are not top class at what they do.

    Players such as Emerson, Mauro Silva, Mazinho and Cesar Sampaio were. For each of those more defensive minded players you would have an attack minded one, a very skillful and talented individual. This mix has now altered with possibly only one creative forward (Neymar, Nilmar, Robinho) and creative full backs. The midfield is very very ordinary.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think this blog is a little unfair on Batista. He has shown in the past a willingness to play an out-and-out striker as the focal point of his attack. Before their respective injuries he normally played one of either Higuain or Milito up front.

    However, I guess he doesn't see anyone one else in that sort of mould who can come in and do a good enough job in their absence. Hence why he plays three strong support strikers instead of an inferior target man.

    IMO, Aguero could come in and play that role, but Batista may not see it that way. It's what he gets paid for.

    But I'm sure once Higuain and Milito are back and banging in the goals, they'll be one of the first names on the team sheet.

  • Comment number 21.

    Tomefccam - I think that any perceived creativity deficiencies will disappear with the emergence of Lucas Moura and Paulo Henrique Ganso. Hopefully, Menezes will be bold enough to accommodate both of them in the team.

  • Comment number 22.

    #18

    Well Ronaldinho for one. Rivaldo less so. He was more of a playmaker. Djalminha and denilson are the other two who immediatly spring to mind with footwork. Of the current generartion, Kaka probably best resembles the traditional brazilian.

  • Comment number 23.

    I find there's a really good balance in the Brazilian team and lot of young players who will mature and get better by 2014.

    Would like to see Ganso get more opportunity.

    Lucas Leiva though is deceptively good. He may not be a specialist defensive midfielder but he's a pass and move type of player, his positioning and movement is very important for Brazil. Almost always in the right place to nick the ball off opponents feet. He's very subtle in most of his defensive work so not easily noticed. Playing in england has made him much more tougher and able to handle teams that play very quickly and directly. Good header of the ball - winning a lot of headers in midfield and also prefers to stand and tackle - turning defense into attack in an instant.

    He's an all round player, good in every aspect defensively or in attack and becoming more and more dominant in midfield.

    While the likes of Neymar, the other two Lucas, Ganso... etc will be more eye catching and provide more excitement. I'm looking forward to seeing the likes of Lucas Leiva and David Luiz (two of my favourite players in the Brazilian team). Both players are good at dominating possession and controlling the game.

  • Comment number 24.

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

  • Comment number 25.

    Tim,

    I was at the game yesterday and thought that Damaio actually deserved a goal for his performance. As much as Neymar is rightly getting the plaudits for his performance and goals, I thought the big number 9 was a constant thorn in the side to our defence and really should have gotten himself on the score sheet.

    I also thought a big part of Brazil's performance was the drive and energy from Ramires who was outstanding for me. His performance in both shutting down the Scottish players and having some lovely touches was excellent and showed all his qualities. I've seen bits and pieces of him at Chelsea and was never overly impressed, but after watching him in the flesh yesterday I do think he could be a major player for Brazil over the next few years.

    It is a shame though that the game has been marred by the banana incident. I was at the opposite end of the ground from where it allegedly happened and it does seem entirely out of keeping with both the Tartan Army's ethos and the atmosphere in and around London over the weekend. I hope, if there has some been racist abuse which does seem incredibly unlikely, it doesn't spoil the fantastic relationship between the Scots and the Brazilians.

  • Comment number 26.

    @20

    Higuain yes, Milito - No chance. Milito is the wrong side of 30, and a player who excelled for one season fitting very well into an expert system devised by Mourinho. Largely at the expense of goals coming from Eto'o a man now used as the central striker.

    Milito is reality is an ordinary to quite good player. He had an average career until 2009/2010, mainly being a consistent scorer for mid table league sides. His National career is teetering out before it has ever got going.

    @24. I'd also jusge Robinho by his average 3 or 4 years at Madrid. Also by the fact that for Brazil, he has never performed that brilliantly either. Funny in how your response to my point was to name Defenders, a position I made very clear that Brazil are extremely strong in

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Tim! Just wondering what in your opinion might be the reason for Argentina not producing quality defenders? Their defense was always great, even in recent past. Why the sharp decline? And what about the Goalkeeping? This is another area there is dearth of talent. Brazil is producing world class goal keepers by the tonnes and Argentina is walking backwards! On a wider note, do you think Argentine football is in crisis (short/ long term)?

  • Comment number 28.

    Love the photo caption: "Brazil's Leandro Damiao has an effort stopped by Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor of Scotland." - is this for the benefit of people who don't know Scotland players play for Scotland?
    Neymar was fantastic yesterday (although I personally cannot say the same for his hair) but the performance and result needs to be put into perspective.

  • Comment number 29.

    Agree with @26, although we cannot discount Milito's play before Internazionale. Milito has been fundamental for a number of years now for several teams. He almost singlehandedly moved Genoa up to Serie A in 2005 (only for Genoa to be immediately demoted to Serie C on match fixing charges). Ask Genoa fans what they think of Diegol. In 2006 he took Zaragoza to the Copa del Rey final (in one game beating Barcelona 6-1 with 4 goals by El Principe). Look at his goal tally in Spain during those two or three years. On his goals Zaragoza got into the former Uefa Cup as well. Unfortunately for Milito, he was earlier ignored by national team coaches at the same time when Batistuta and Crespo owned the striker's jersey. Now he justifiably sits behind a younger Higuain and has to compete with Aguero or Tevez. He will turn 32 this year and will maybe get in the Copa America roster, maybe not. He is a player's player, a journeyman who blossomed late, and a humble, quiet guy who never complains. I always liked the guy.

    Robinho is a good player but is missing all the attributes that Milito has: humility, work ethic and a bit of balls, shall we say. When he played with Santos in the Libertadores he virtually disappeared in big games.

    @ 24 As an exception to the big guy rule I would name Tevez, who is not tall or fast but somehow gets it done. He has been spared the treatment that other players get by possibly the most bloodthirsty sports press in the world.

  • Comment number 30.

    Tim,

    Just wondering what is your take on the youngster Lucas, who made an utterly enthralling cameo at the Emirates yesterday?
    Some of his mazy dribbles were just magically brilliant and even allowing for poor opposition, he seems to be a phenomenal talent!Alas, it shan't be long before the European superpower start sniffing about him.
    And the silky Neymar too, who surely must have the potential to be one of the most exciting attackers in the world within the next 3 years. . .
    Really enjoyed the Brazil game yesterday, true signs that their Samba flair may be making a return which would be timely given that the World Cup is returning to its most pure representative. The prospect of a Spain-Brazil (who have 3 years to develop) showdown makes me drool incessantly. . .

  • Comment number 31.

    # 26 I think you are being extremely harsh on Milito.. quite good player at best.. I don't think so.. playing and scoring consistenly for years in La Liga and then Italy is better than quite good.

    # 24 Robinho was slaughtered for his obvious attitude that he didn't want to be at Man City.. he had to leave Real and there was no other option.. The prem is more physical than other leagues but it is lazy to say the media and fans are obsessed with a players physical attributes.. look at some of the players who have been rightly lauded in the past few years.. Modric, Ashley Young, Silva to name but a few.

    I thought Brazil were fairly ordinary looking and had Dani Alves to thank for a lot of their attacking drive.. The number 9 did look good though

  • Comment number 32.

    Tim, suprised you didn't put forward one Carlos Tevez of Manchester City for the 'David Villa' role for Argentina. He has abilities not dissimilar of the Barcelona man, and surely he is just too good not to be in he starting 11?

  • Comment number 33.

    Went to The Emirates for the first time to see a very polished Brasil performance. Frankly didn't have much up against them, but they worked very hard to recover possession (on the few occasions that they lost it!).
    Lucio gave a master-class as ever, Sandro was very solid, Ramires worked tirelessly and Lucas Leiva showed what he can do if he's allowed to cross half-way (were you watching King Kenny?)
    Damiao looked a class player - would like to see him again against a half decent defence. Neymar looks the real deal. Just hope that the ridiculous hair-style is not an indication that he's getting too big for his boots already.
    And regarding the "banana incident" - happened just in front of us. Didn't see who threw it - very sad throw back to the Seventies when it was still thought "amusing" to throw bananas at Clyde Best when he was playing for West Ham.
    But, the suggestion that Neymar was being booed by the crowd for racial reasons is nonsense. It is normal in Brasilian football to dive and feign injury - the fans here still don't accept it (thank goodness). Scottish fans naturally thought he'd gone down very easily for the penalty - of course they jeered when he took the penalty. If he wants to play in Europe he'll come across much worse abuse than he suffered yesterday - stay on your feet son and you'll win all the admiers that your obvious talent deserves.
    As a Liverpool fan I'd love to see him at Anfield, but I suspect that his future lies in Spain or Italy.

  • Comment number 34.

    @ 26, 29 and 31

    Milito is obviously on the decline and behind Higuain, Tevez (and probably Aguero) in the pecking order for Argentina.

    But I still think his scoring record (171 league goals in 386 games mainly playing for mid-table sides) and form in recent years justifies him being selected as the target man, ahead of an ineffective square-pegs-in-round-holes system of playing a support striker in that role.

  • Comment number 35.

    @29

    To say he done all of this single handedly is to detract from what was on the whole a quite decent squad. It was also Real Madrid who Milito struck the 4 goals against during that cup run.

    @31
    It is an Andy Cole type situation, a decent goalscorer given the right team around him, nothing more.

  • Comment number 36.

    24. At 12:32pm on 28th Mar 2011, carlospeelio wrote:
    12. I disagree about this Brazil team. They were awesome against Scotland and they have so many wordclass players they could still bring in. Imagine if Kaka finds some form, kaka is a beast. youve still got pato, luis fabiano, I mean there's great players that he could play but he doesnt even need - Luiz, Marcelo, Michel Bastos, Maicon.

    Especially robinho could be important though, Robinho is retardedly underrated in England because he was absolutely slaughtered by the english media. As if he wasnt strong enough or fast enough to play in England. They have this obsession about how big the player is and theyre not too worried about talent. If hed been playing in a system which allowed him to express himself he would have been tearing it up in the prem. Obviously Mark Hughes couldnt understand how to play Robinho and he was completely wasted
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I agree with your point about Robinho. The negative criticism of him is coming from people who have only seen him regularly at Manchester City.

    There's no point talking about his time with Real Madrid. Real chews up and spits out class players- Van der Vaart and Sneijder made little impact there but Eurocentric minds still rate those players. And Robinho did win the La Liga title with Real Madrid, after all, in 2006-7. Here's a fact from his time at Real: "Robinho was Real Madrid's third highest scorer during his Madrid years, behind strikers Raul and Van Nistelrooy. He was also the player with the second most assists, behind Guti, and the only Madrid player, along with goalkeeper Casillas, to finish in the top ten of the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations for 2007–08."

    Also, someone stated that Robinho has done nothing with Brazil- he's won 84 caps and scored 25 goals. For a winger, thats a very decent record!

    Before we compare Ashley Young to Robinho, lets wait for Young to win at least 50 England caps and maybe win La Liga before we make that comparison, eh?

  • Comment number 37.

    Great article as usual Tim. Argentina's issues are all at the back IMO, the goals will come up front no matter who they go with, so long as they have time to develop an understanding. Not an easy job but you just don't see them winning a major tournament until the back line is sorted - Copa America might be telling. Zanetti's exclusion continues to mystify.

    Personally I'd also have "ordinary to quite good player" Milito up top, or at least playing in some of the games, depending on the opposition - come off it #26, where do you get this stuff from (also Rai is of comparable quality to Elano???) The main concern is an injury-plagued season and Inter must be very worried how little he is playing. Good shout from #34 there!

  • Comment number 38.

    At. 35 - tomefcam, Diego Milito wasn't playing and scoring for teams fighting for the title or the Champions League before he moved to Inter. I don't buy this 'average striker being set up by a decent team around him' theory. He was prolific for teams like Genoa and Real Zaragoza, scoring a lot of goals. He's a fantastic finisher.

  • Comment number 39.

    Tim, I disagree that Argentina should have been many more up at the interval. I was at the game as a neutral and the chances they were creating were mainly powder puff chances, shots across the keeper that never ever threatened the goal. The US also created a few opportunities. In the end, in my opinion, a 2-1 result for Argentina would have best reflected the play in the game but I guess the US will take the 1-1.

  • Comment number 40.

    @35 I was just about to comment on #29 before you did. I remember that game vividly where Diego Milito and Ewerthon absolutely demolished Real Madrid's defense. I especially remember that sensational half-volley by Ewerthon and hoped to see big things from the guy in the future. Haven't heard anything about the guy since though...

    Tim, what are your thoughts on Lucas Rodrigues? He's the type of player I love to watch - one who loves to run at defenders and beat multiple men with exquisite touches of the ball and mazing runs before driving the ball home or setting up a team-mate. The impact he made yesterday seemed to have got all the Brazilians on their feet and I feel he was unlucky not to have scored or set up a goal at least.

    Do you think he is headed to a club in Europe any time soon or would he be just fine continuing to develop at Sao Paulo? At the tender age of 18 he looks to be a genuine prospect for a truly world-class talent in the near future.

  • Comment number 41.

    Zaragoza FC roster included some surprises: it was not a bad team actually but hardly a league contender. Yet it had no attackers other than Milito and Ewerthon, maybe three if you count Pablo Aimar? Guess who played centre defence? Diego's brother Gabriel and a certain young dud called Gerard Pique! And yes... ubiquitous Andres D'Alessandro also played for that team.

  • Comment number 42.

    Lucas Leiva though is deceptively good. He may not be a specialist defensive midfielder but he's a pass and move type of player, his positioning and movement is very important for Brazil. Almost always in the right place to nick the ball off opponents feet. He's very subtle in most of his defensive work so not easily noticed. Playing in england has made him much more tougher and able to handle teams that play very quickly and directly. Good header of the ball - winning a lot of headers in midfield and also prefers to stand and tackle - turning defense into attack in an instant.

    He's an all round player, good in every aspect defensively or in attack and becoming more and more dominant in midfield.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Can you come and tell all the idiots I hear slating him at Anfield exactly what you just wrote please?!?!

  • Comment number 43.

    If they don't win the 2014 WC.... but first of all they have to overcome Argentina in the Copa's

  • Comment number 44.

    @6 "Argentina don't have to worry about forwards (Messi, Tevez, Lavezzi, Zarate, Aguero, Lisandro Lopez, Milito etc) all they need is a solid defence."

    That's like saying "if England had a decent keeper, defense, midfield and strikers...then they'd be a top team!"

    Football is not only about attacking, and it still remains to be seen whether Argentina's frail defense issues will be addressed. And this may not be just a case of having a good/bad coach, the players may just not be there.

    I struggle to recall a decent Argentinian keeper in the past couple of decades. Goicoechea wasn't that good but he was amazingly fortunate (I guess that's also needed) and nobody else comes to mind.

    Then again, Argentina are a very entertaining team to watch as it is, so changing their style for a supposedly more "balanced" team would only result in boring/predictable football. In fact, more teams should imitate their style.

  • Comment number 45.

    @ 36

    "Real chews up and spits out class players- Van der Vaart and Sneijder made little impact there but Eurocentric minds still rate those players."

    So did they also chew up and spit out Van Nistelrooy, a class player who you mention in your next sentence?

    Robinho is not and never has been a Winger either. A forward who likes to drift out wide yes, but a winger, no.

    @38 - Why was he not picked up by a top club side until his late 20's? Why has he never established himself as a regular Argentina international?

    He was not all that prolific with Zaragoza and Genoa 1st time round. He'd average around 15 league goals a season, meaning he'd be akin to someone like Darren Bent in the EPL.

    Prolific is a term bandied around too easily. Van Nistelrooy, Henry, Ronaldo, Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Shearer, Batistuta, even Luca Toni - these are players who have been prolific.

  • Comment number 46.

    Brazil always have great youngters coming through, as we saw against scotland, in particular Neymar. Puts england putting all their hopes on Wilshere in perspective - he wouldn't get into the Brazil reserve team.

  • Comment number 47.

    "Poor defending in the air and sub-standard goalkeeping helped the US equalise"

    Tim i couldn't agree more. The standard of goalkeeping in Argentina is awful, i have seen so many howlers this season in the domestic league and some of the defending has not been much better.
    The Racing goalkeeper on Saturday was a prime example of how not to perform between the posts. It really is a problem for Argentina and has been for many years.

  • Comment number 48.

    44. At 15:13pm on 28th Mar 2011, BladeRunner wrote:
    @6 "Argentina don't have to worry about forwards (Messi, Tevez, Lavezzi, Zarate, Aguero, Lisandro Lopez, Milito etc) all they need is a solid defence."

    That's like saying "if England had a decent keeper, defense, midfield and strikers...then they'd be a top team!"

    Football is not only about attacking, and it still remains to be seen whether Argentina's frail defense issues will be addressed. And this may not be just a case of having a good/bad coach, the players may just not be there.

    I struggle to recall a decent Argentinian keeper in the past couple of decades. Goicoechea wasn't that good but he was amazingly fortunate (I guess that's also needed) and nobody else comes to mind.

    Then again, Argentina are a very entertaining team to watch as it is, so changing their style for a supposedly more "balanced" team would only result in boring/predictable football. In fact, more teams should imitate their style.
    ------------------------------
    I know that football is not just about attack, that's why I pointed out that Argentina need to sort out their defence!

    With reference to Goicoechea he was certainly a great penalty saver!

    As for England, what you should really say is that if they treated a football like a football rather than treat it as if it was about to explode (get rid quick!) then they might produce footballers rather than strong, athletic limited players. Probably a debate for another blog.

    I am very interested in hearing about Argentine defenders, as I'm sure that the abundance of quality in Midfield and Attack means that they will have no problems in these areas. Gonzalo and Garay were two young prospects who perhaps haven't yet lived up to their potential. It's a shame that Walter Samuel will be too old for 2014. Where are the new Ruggeri, Passarella, Ayala?

  • Comment number 49.

    46 - Brazil indeed produce a conveyor belt of breathtaking talent - but it's been a long time since they've produced a central midfielder who can pass the ball like jack wilshire - i think they'd love to have him.

  • Comment number 50.

    Tim, great work as usual. I Love reading your blogs and listening to the World Football Phone in. I'm actually a few weeks behind on the podcasts so I apologise if my question has been covered before.

    What are the chances of Juan Roman Riquelme coming out of international retirement/being re-called to the national team?

    He is my favourite player to watch and it would be real shame if we European audiences were starved of his genius before he retires. I am hoping he plays at the Copa America this summer.

    If he does get re-called, how do you see him fitting into the team, and where would that leave the likes of Javier Pastore?

  • Comment number 51.

    @46 - Yes, I'm sure Arsenal would swap him in a heartbeat for Ramires, Lucas Leiva, or Elano.

    I did enjoy the point made by Strachan at the end of the match - some are ignorant to how huge a country Brazil is, and how fanatical the population is about the sport they love, football.

    A huge population all playing football by whatever means is sure to provide plenty of talent.

    It's a minor miracle how England, Netherlands, Uruguay, Spain, France and others are able to compete being so small in comparison

  • Comment number 52.

    @50 "Celtic's greatest ever signing"

    Riquelme scored a wonderful free-kick last night but still way off the pace to be included in the national team, he hasn't been fully fit, both physically and mentally, for over a year now but he is in Batista's thoughts i read

  • Comment number 53.

    @28:

    well, dont know about Scotland, but when talking about BRAZILIAN players, its always important to say they are playing FOR BRAZIL, considering the number of brazilians playing for other countries, including the latest, Thiago Motta, who scored a goal for Italy this weekend.

  • Comment number 54.

    The Neymar diving row - the following is from a blog i wrote here last month,


    TV coverage of football in Brazil is obsessed with the referee. High profile ex-officials are often in the commentary box, giving their verdict on decisions. If not, analysts are forever calling for more fouls to be awarded, more cards to be distributed. Players are diving all over the place.

    It was not ever thus. The great Zizinho, idol of the young Pele and star of the 1950 World Cup, once told me something truly startling. He was highly proficient at breaking the leg of an opponent. And so were all the top players. That same sense of timing that made them so good also made them so dangerous.

    Knowledge of this black art was so important because Zizinho and co served their apprenticeship in the greatest production line of footballing talent known to man - informal street, park and wasteland football.

    It was an unruly world where self-defence skills were essential - and not just violent ones. Players were also learning vital lessons such as the safest moment to part with the ball, and move into position to get it back.

    But urban expansion ate up many of those spaces, and urban violence turned some of the others into no-go zones. And so, instead of these informal games, futsal became the new breeding ground for Brazilian talent.

    There is a lot to be said for small-sided games, with the opportunities they bring for prolonged contact with the ball. But in this case perhaps there has been a down side as well.

    Before, as we have seen, players developed their own self-defence strategy. Now, in organised football, it is supplied by the referee.

    Of course, we should celebrate the fact that today's young stars no longer need to learn to break legs. But in Brazil the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. It has led to systematic diving - the player going to ground either because he has run himself into trouble, or to gain a free-kick in an advantageous position.

    Current wonderkid Neymar is a truly remarkable talent. He glides past his marker on either side and finishes with gorgeous precision. But his diving is out of control. Like all skilful players, he takes punishment - though not nearly as much as stars of previous eras - but all too frequently there is either no contact or, before he plunges to the ground, it has been provoked by Neymar himself.

    These antics have been tolerated in Brazilian football. But what happens when he steps outside the bubble, where referees employ different criteria?

  • Comment number 55.

    45. At 15:28pm on 28th Mar 2011, tomefccam wrote:
    @ 36

    "Real chews up and spits out class players- Van der Vaart and Sneijder made little impact there but Eurocentric minds still rate those players."

    So did they also chew up and spit out Van Nistelrooy, a class player who you mention in your next sentence?

    Robinho is not and never has been a Winger either. A forward who likes to drift out wide yes, but a winger, no.


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    But that's where he was played at Real Madrid and Man City in order to accomodate him, which is the whole point!

  • Comment number 56.

    45. At 15:28pm on 28th Mar 2011, tomefccam wrote:

    @38 - Why was he not picked up by a top club side until his late 20's? Why has he never established himself as a regular Argentina international?

    He was not all that prolific with Zaragoza and Genoa 1st time round. He'd average around 15 league goals a season, meaning he'd be akin to someone like Darren Bent in the EPL.

    Prolific is a term bandied around too easily. Van Nistelrooy, Henry, Ronaldo, Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Shearer, Batistuta, even Luca Toni - these are players who have been prolific.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I don't understand what you're trying to say here at all.

    All of those players you've mentioned apart from the last one would be rated as world class. Although Luca Toni is also a World Cup winner, and was a consistent goalscorer for six seasons until he hit his 30s, which is the same pattern for many top class strikers.

    In Milito's case Argentina have had plenty of options in attack over the past few years so he hasn't won the caps that he would have won with another nation. He is competing with Messi, Tevez, Aguero, Higuain, Crespo over those last 6 or 7 years. Strikers more experienced than him, perhaps quicker than him, perhaps better at drifting wide and providing assists in addition to goals.

  • Comment number 57.

    I do believe that Argentina can learn lessons from Brazil, but not in attack. Brazil have achieved their success over the last decade on defensive stability. The goal Argentina conceded against the USA was from a near straight free kick lifted into the box. Balls like that should pose little threat to a well organised defence but Argentina were all over the place.

    Brazil looked pretty disjointed to me and had they been playing a team capable of keeping posession or posing an attacking threat (the US perhaps) they would have had a much tougher afternoon. In the first half Brazil had the lion's share of possession & Scotland's striker Kenny Miler only had seven touches of the ball!

    I reckon the 1-1 result against USA will be disappointing for Argentina given their dynamic attacking display in the first half but at least they have learnt some lessons from it. I'm not sure what Brazil learnt from the Scotland game that they didn't already know (Neymar is ace but a petulant little diver with a bad haircut, their players have much better technical skills than the Scots, they make much more cash from playing friendlies in Europe than playing back in Brazil...)

    http://southamerican-futbol.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 58.

    @52

    Thanks for the info.

    It would be a dream to see him back in the colours of the national team. He carried them to the final in 2007 and was going so great in world cup qualifying, not that they didn't have great players mind. The way he orchestrates a team is Zidane-esque. Good to hear he hasn't lost his touch with a dead ball.

  • Comment number 59.

    Another classic blog, Vickery.

    Aguero should be a regular. He's a World Player Of The Year in the making.

  • Comment number 60.

    Hi Tim, interesting stuff as always. I'm really starting to look forward to the Copa America now. It'll be intriguing to see how these new tactics fare. Do you think Batista is the right man for the job in Argentina? I know many would have preffered Bauza or Sabella.

    You're absolutely right about Neymar, his dive against Colo-Colo in the Libertadores was a scandal, a slight hand on the shoulder and he went down. He is a superb prospect, obviously not the finished article yet, but he will get earmarked by refs for going down too easily. In the end it will be counter-productive as won't get penalties when he should do.

    http://www.lufcloaded.com/blogs/quitowhite/

  • Comment number 61.

    If Neymar comes to England he will be called the 'new Cristiano Ronaldo'..lol on a more serious note yeah i did notice the diving of the Brazilian team during last summer's World Cup. It was very evident in the game against Holland where the team literally ran out of ideas and had to dive to gain an advantage i.e penalty, freekicks etc. They need to get this out of their mentality because like you said, outside of their comfort zones, refs will frown upon such childish and immature acts

  • Comment number 62.

    It is especially hard for british viewers to have a bearing over what is happening in south american football due to our lack of knowledge about managers etc. But Menezes seems to have his teams playing good attacking football, i never thought that dunga would be successful as a brazilian coach, simply because he was very defensive minded and everyone knows that the brazilian supporters want their football to be played in an extravagant fashion, which is attractive, skillful and free-flowing. They also clearly have very promising players coming through, the obvious one is neymar who was outstanding yesterday. But i was disappointed not to have seen both ganso and nilmar, both of whom are fantastic players, and there were 3 or 4 players who came on yesterday who looked very good on the ball. Shaktar donestk also have some brazilians in their squad that will be in the brazilian squad soon, jadson played yesterday and douglas costa is also another player who people should be looking out for. But i thought that ramires in particular looked very impressive yesterday, it is astounding how many people wrote him off after only a few performances for chelsea, he is now showing signs of his true self, he is a great box to box midfielder who seems to have everything, he can tackle, pass, drives forward well with the ball, is surprisingly good in the air and can cross the ball, and i think that he will perform very well for chelsea, particularly next season.

  • Comment number 63.

    The first football match I can remember seeing on tv was the world cup final of 1970.....Everything since has been a minor disapointment lol..
    Sorry Barcelona, you are a great side but that team would have put at least 3 past you.

  • Comment number 64.

    Personally I would like to see Neymar playing for Brazil as a deeper lying forward rather than out on the left wing because he has good link-up play, plenty of pace and skill, good movement and an eye for goal. Playing more centrally would allow him to link up with the central striker more often and drop deep to help create but more importantly he could prove deadly in this position. Although he was willing to track back well I felt he was somewhat limited by playing out left because he had to beat a couple of men just to reach the penalty area due to being double marked, whereas Jadson and Elano are arguably just as good on the wings as through the middle for Brazil. I think that playing Neymar as a number 10 would be a very interesting idea and hope it is tried out sooner rather than later before he becomes the next Robinho rather than the next Pelé.

  • Comment number 65.

    @Tim: but the two incidents that made the scottish crowd pick on Neymar with the jeering were not dives. Nor fauls either. Just strong collisions where Neymar, very lightweight, really suffered. In one of them, the replay showed the scotsman collision with Neymar, shoulder on shoulder, and Neymar REALLY was thrown away like a potato sack... got a bit dizzy (the scot´s shoulder hit him in the head). Not a dive. Not a faul. But the real booing started there.

  • Comment number 66.

    @61: the dutch also dived profusely in that game. And they DID commit some harsh foulds that the ref closed his eyes to.

  • Comment number 67.

    To those here discussing the weaknesses of the Argentina team on Saturday against the USA, unless you were there it is hard to realise just how dominant the Argentine team was in the 1st half. Watching the game from an elevated seat in the stadium it is pure joy watching them move the ball around the field - the USA team could have been standing still at times.

    No this domination was not converted to more than the one goal, but it was a wonderful demonstration of how to play soccer/football the correct way. Add Tevez back into the team and I would fancy them to be competitive with anybody.

    The USA team played a lot more physically in the 2nd half to get back into the game, but their soccer/football was appallingly dull and direct.


    If this had been a meaningful game the result would have reflected the major gulf in ability between the two teams. Instead, the 1st half sent a message, enthralled the fans and a 1-1 draw allowed everyone to go home smiling.

  • Comment number 68.

  • Comment number 69.

    @67

    Agreed. They were excellent during long periods of the game, a real joy to watch with their passing and movment and with a bit more punch up front and a bit more steel at the back they have the makings of a great team. Copa America should be very good.

  • Comment number 70.

    @ 7 & 9: I agree that it is too soon for Neymar to make the move to Europe. He has come along a lot in the last 12 months, but still needs to mature mentally/emotionally and refine his technique, before getting thrust into top class European football. Maybe by next January he'll be there.
    @ 19: I'd just like to take you up on a technicality: your definition of world class. Imho, you cite players who are among the best ever to grace the game and then refer to several world class players as being at an inferior level. Of course they are; but the likes of Elano, Juninho and Rai are/were undoubtedly 'world class', in the sense that they are among the better players of their generation around the world. I think it's an important distinction to make, since the term tends to be bandied around rather indiscriminately nowadays. But please don't go to the other extreme and leave out players who do merit the description.
    @ 20 & 32: quite agree with you there.
    @ 33: well said, and your attitude goes a very long way to dispersing the bad feeling the incident caused.

  • Comment number 71.

    Tim, No mention of Tevez? One of Argentina's failures is in not utilising Tevez properly. Just look at his goal statistics i.e goals scored per goal chance in the PL. Also, Messi has been poor by his own standards the last one and a half months. He scores like 1 in five chances that he creates for himself. This will not last long and he will hit form again soon, scoring multiple goals per match. With Tevez being used well and playing along side a Messi who is at his normal level, nobody will come close to Argentina attack-wise.

  • Comment number 72.

    Tim,

    Two words: Maxi Lopez.

    This is the striker Argentina has been looking for but has ignored, I think he could even drop back to midfield if need be. As much as everyone is in love with Higuain, Lopez is that wannabe Batistuta Argentina needs right now. They should cap him now before Italy does.

  • Comment number 73.

    @67 --- Ditto, I was there too, not only was the US dull but unimaginative! Clint Dempsey is confusing football/soccer with a UFC match. I get the feeling the US is capping a lot players who never heard of football, they look uncomfortable with the ball, I'm thinking they come from track & field sports, Bradley's idea of coaching is a bit robotic, from the stands you could see the US defending in straight lines... blow this team up and bring in Bielsa to come up with a new plan because if this is the best the US can come up with, Ugly football, they aint never going to capture the hearts and minds of American spectators.

  • Comment number 74.

    Neymar looks like an excitng talent no doubt. He, however, has got to get the best of the growth time that is left for him. He needs to add 12 kilos before he completely stops growing, and if I was his fitness man it would have to be squats, squats, squats and deadlifts. Then food, food, food and sleep, sleep, sleep then hill sprints to death. To fulfil his potential, he has to be hard to knock off the ball. At the moment he reminds of a young Vialli or Bergkamp - very frail.

  • Comment number 75.

    i read most of the comments above but found only one regarding tevez....can anyone tell me why tevez is not selected for national team...n will he be never selected for national team?i heard there is some dispute of tevez with batista...is that the reason..plz anyone can tell me about this..

  • Comment number 76.

    Neymar: pretty good, but made to look better than he is due to very poor opposition.

  • Comment number 77.

    Watched live Wales V Eng, USA V Arg and Scot V Brazil this weekend and drew the following conclusions.
    1). Argentina play the most breathtaking technically accomplished football of any team in the world.
    2). The USA are a much better team than Scotland
    3). Messi is the greatest player I have seen in the 40 plus years I have been following football.
    I was not greatly impressed with the performamces of England or Brazil becuase the quality of their opposition was poor (I am an England fan by the way) but was blown away by Argentina and amazed that they did not win the game. They will play much worse and win easily. So I do not agree with a large majority of this article.

  • Comment number 78.

    @75

    According to the press in Argentina today Tevez is in the list for Copa America. I think Batista was showing his strength by dropping him for a few games, he was unhappy that Tevez declared himself injured for the friendly against Brasil but played for Man City 3 days later. Batista knows what Tevez can do, in these latest round of friendlies it appears that Batista is looking at others to see what they can do, Tevez is tried and tested, others are not so and are getting their chance.

  • Comment number 79.

    77 - you seem to have missed the point- the article is arguing that argentina were dazzling, but unable to win a game that would have been stopped at half time if it were boxing. how could such superiority not be translated into a comfortable victory? So where on earth is this 'large majority of the this article' that you disagree with?

  • Comment number 80.

    ... and for those Everton and Aston Villa fans who did not see the USA Argentina game, Tim Howard played like the best keeper in the world and was in the end the difference between a draw and a hammering along with Michael Bradley who looked world class in defence but can not get a game for the villans.

  • Comment number 81.

    i'm not sure that people are giving enough credit to brazil, and especially the high pressure marking they used - not a traditional characteristic of brazil sides.
    it ensured that scotland never got a foothold in the game - and limited the number of set pieces they had in dangerous positions

  • Comment number 82.

    Fair point Tim, the only time Scotland created a worthwhile chance was from a free-kick delivered from a dangerous position by Adam. They would have done their homework on Adam's deliveries from set-pieces. Press up the park and if needed commit fouls in the opposition half.

  • Comment number 83.

    in response to your comment Tim - 79. Let's start with the tiltle. "Brazil show Argentina way forward" which they (Brazil) did not do and then proceed with your comments regarding the lack of an Argentinian target man. No mention in your article of Tim Howard who had a magnificent game which is the explanation why "such superiority (was not) translated into a comfortable victory" . The Scotland goalkeeper did not perform to the same standard against Brazil. If he had your article would not have been written.
    I am a loyal and ardent England fan and like all of us have many reasons to dislike Argentina but their performance this weekend against a very decent team, even in the second half, was exeptional - like a great club side not an International side.

  • Comment number 84.

    83 - you haven't judged the article, you've judged the headline. The writer doesn't do or choose the headlines.
    My proposed solution for Argentina - Aguero, hardly a target man. i think we disagree a bit on tim howard's performance - he was excellent, but given argentina's superiority, he wasn't called on to do enough - poor finishing or not enough shooting. You come out firing saying you disagree with 'a large majority', but it seems to me that it's exactly the opposite - since we agree that argentina played some wonderful, sparkling stuff. you have let the headline cloud your judgement on what was actually written.

  • Comment number 85.

    Why Kun isn't in the squad is beyond me. He has been pure class this season and would fit in perfectly into the team. He is best friends with Messi and they have a great understanding on the pitch too, Batista just doesn't seem to want to pick him or Tevez. Very strange.

  • Comment number 86.

    As a Scotland fan I travelled down to the Emirates hoping to see how far Scotland had come but instead was just shown how lacking in experience they have against big sides. Charlie Adam in particular who is having such a great run in the premiership this season was woeful, very poor passing and the cynical trip on Neymar for the penalty. The only Scotland player that I felt had a great game was Gary Caldwell with some excellent blocks and tackles, ironically a defender that has so often cost Scotland in the past.

    I think Andre Santos was the player of the first half yet seems to have received no praise can you tell us a bit more about him and how he has been received in the Brazil side? Every good move Neymar made was from his pass and initial movement. I don't think Neymars diving was that bad no worse than strikers in the Scottish premier league but he did get a lot of boos for it. Can't really comment on the racism incident, didn't see it but certainly didn't hear anything of that nature directed at him and half the fans were Brazilian. I am surprised nothing has been made though however of the homophobic insults towards him as a result of his hair and pink boots, I certainly heard a lot of this in the first half.

    I was delighted to see the brief cameo from Lucas who seems to be an even better prospect than Neymar with his great dribbling ability, I look forward to hearing more about him in the future here and in World Soccer. I still can't understand though why Lucas Lieva is part of this Brazil team. For me he does nothing other than to slow the play down, most of the time playing simple passes around the midfield and defence. Ramires and Sandro are far better ball winners which is surely a better asset?

  • Comment number 87.

    I was at the Scotland Game. There is a growing narrative (although, not much on this blog) that Neymar dived in that game. Don’t know about his diving in Brazil, however he was not any better or worse than any of the other players in that game. There was one incident though, where he stayed down for quite a while and then started exaggerated limping (fake or not, only Neymar knows). This false narrative of his diving in the Scotland game may be the foundation on which his UK reputation is based.

    I agree about Andre Santos , however needs to be tested against an Argentinian attack & maybe US defence.

  • Comment number 88.

    For all that's been said about Argentina's brilliant performance against the US last Saturday and (from some) the assumption that Argentina are playing a more vibrant, attacking style than Brazil, I would like to point out that during Mano Menezes' first game in charge, Brazil went to the very same stadium and played the very same US side last August producing (in my opinion) the most dominant display I have seen from a Brazil side in terms of combining, competitiveness, defensive solidity, incessant pressing of the ball, quality (and quantity) of possession and attacking flair in the Menezes era to date. Brazil controlled the game from start to finish in such a way that 2-0 turned out to be a very generous scoreline for the Americans, whilst it also made a fairly good US team look like a bunch of schoolboys. Neymar and especially Ganso were superb in that match and I understand Menezes is doing the right thing trying to find the right blend of youthful exuberance and excitement with experienced, seasoned veterans allying defensive solidity and competitiveness with an attractive, attacking style. It was the most excited I have been watching Brazil play since their 2005 Confederations Cup final drubbing of Argentina and their last matches qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. Under Dunga, there was an overwhelming presence of veteran players, that produced results (apart from the World Cup), but failed to produce exciting displays.

  • Comment number 89.

    88 - it was indeed a fabulous brazil performance against the US, an excllent introduction to the idea that Mano Menezes was going to change the philosophy.
    There is one drawback, though - i always think it's unwise to attach too much importance to august international friendlies - levels of fitness (perhaps especially in world cup years) make them an unreliable guide.

  • Comment number 90.

    Its amazing how much love Argentina gets around the world and how underrated Brazil is. Brazil is 5 time world champion and the country of football by a large margin, but still get major disrespect towards its defence (which is the best defence historically at world cups).. Anyways, even with the dazzling amazing Argentinean football they got dominated most of the match at Qatar with Pastore, Lavezzi, Messi, Maria, and whatnot, while Brazil was playing with washed up Robinho and Ronaldinho and no number9.

    Also, Brazil beat USA 2-0 and should have been 4 or 5-0.. Anyways, Brazil will probably win Copa America again for the billionth time in a row but Argentineans will get more love with their cool hairs and tiki tiki unnefective and horrible defence

  • Comment number 91.

    @90 No, Brazil haven't won the Copa America a billion times, in fact, both Argentina and Uruguay have won it 14 times each, which is a lot more than the 8 times Brazil have won it (wiki)

    Brazil are not underrated at all. The problem is that they have been playing ugly, counterattacking, defensive football for almost 3 decades now so impartial football fans will be naturally drawn to a more attacking team and that's what Argentina has offered since the early 90's.

    After 1990, Argentina have taken on the role of entertainers abandoned by Brazil back in 1982 and have gained a lot of admirers for it all over the world. Don't forget Argentina had a nasty reputation as hackers before 1978, so they've come a long way, whereas Brazil have gone in the opposite direction. Sure, they have won trophies in the meantime but it's been mainly due to having some outstanding individuals such as Romario and later Ronaldo who were able to carry the team on their shoulders and make a difference. Without these stars, they've struggled.

    Hope Brazil go back to their more entertaining roots, they have the potential but it remains to be seen whether they'll achieve it. Of course, we'll have to wait for the Copa America to get a good idea about how they're going, when they'll face tough opposition in real competitive games.


  • Comment number 92.

    @BladeRunner: if Argentina has come a long way for dismantling the pre-1978 hacking fame, I wonder why Coloccini has been called to the Argentina team just a few years ago... not only he looked like a guy from Twisted Sisters, but he coud shred faster than the guys from Slayer... opponents legs, not guitars, that is. (some heavy metal references in this post)

  • Comment number 93.

    Hi Tim, always a great read, and love the work you do on a Saturday morning on 5 live.

    I was interested in your point earlier about Argentina lacking not only a traditional bustling no.9, but also a David Villa-esque penalty area goalscorer. He is obviously the most common focal point in the very fluid Barca attack, but in the World Cup for Spain did most of his work cutting in from the left channel as part of the 4-2-1-3 they utilised. I was wondering whether any of the following might be able to do the job (if Aguero is mysteriously overlooked).

    Higuain - still injured, but looked the part leading up to the world cup.
    Lisandro Lopez - arguably not the same quality, but I believe he is well used to playing the focal point role supported by two wider forwards (Bastos and Briand/Delgado).

    Also, how far do you think Iturbi is from adding to the multitude of small tricky forward players that give Argentina such a selection headache?

  • Comment number 94.

    Was at the game myself and depite being disappointed that Scotland couldn't get more of a foothold in the game it was hardly unexpected. Brazil are a team with considerable quality and simply Scotland aren't. Brazil might not have been at full strength but again depth of talent meant that it was hardly a problem where as again a Scotland team missing a few arguably first choice players are always going to be up against it.

    Tims analysis of the game seems pretty much spot on, and again I wouldn't underestimate the Brazilians willingness to commit cynical fouls where it is hard for the opposition to hurt them. A few were committed I'd have expected cards for in a competative encounter. So the few times Scotland held onto the ball and didn't buckle under the pressure forays forward were generally quickly snuffed out by a foul allowing Brazil to get back in numbers.

    On the racism furore, it is incredibly disappointing to see it over shadow a game played out in a decent manner, where boths sets of fans got on and mingled with no problems. I have no idea if a Scotland fan flung a banana or not and if so with what intent but the only report I read said it came from a section that was predominantly Brazil fans. There was no hint of racist chants, indeed Neymar got booed a fair bit but again it was clearly because he was perceived to be play acting. I suspect he is putting 2 + 2 together and making 5 in this instance.

  • Comment number 95.

    In response to the mini debate of #77, #79 #83 and number #84

    I have to agree with the comments of #77 the article does have the typical vein of blind devotion to Brazil while making the sadly all too familiar slight at the Argies. The defence of #79 is also questionable, as you are a writer of such standing you must surely have the clout to dictate or change the headline if it doesn’t reflect the content of your article. I have re-read it many times and there clearly is a thread that pedestals Brazil while presenting Argentina as floundering.

    To suggest that Brazil should be given credit for being almost innovative in their high pressure, winning the ball back early and not allowing the Scots out, was over-egging. All Brazil had really done was to join England’s new tactic of paying homage to Barcelona, which is what Batista had instigated the moment he took over. I watched all three games over the weekend and of the three ‘ghost’ Barcelona’s, Batista’s Argentina were by far the closest. Their take was light years in front of Brazil or England’s though they did on this occasion lack the end product to reflect their dominance, however that was not the case when they battered the Spanish early on in Batista’s reign and even Barcelona have days when they over play before taking the foot off the gas to their own downfall (Arsenal at the Emirates anyone?)

    Brazil and England both looked in good shape and scored goals, but it is worth noting that the U.S offered a far superior level of opposition than Scotland or Wales. That is not to say Brazil won’t be there or there abouts come 2014 or this summers Copa America, but the article all too easily donned the ‘we all have to love Brazil’ T –shirt’. For me personally, I remember Brazil mercilessly kicking lumps out of Diego Maradona in 82 or and the Dutch in 74 to know Brazil are not always whiter than white however the media wish to dress them up!

    Argentina’s centre forward issue has been troublesome before, until they got over the fact Higuain was born in France. If followers of England thought the passing of the armband to anyone other than Terry was farcical the exclusion of Real Madrids leading scorer for the previous two seasons in favour of the ‘has been and never was’ of Palermo and Dennis was nothing short of criminal! If Maradona’s legacy was only to break the taboo of Higuain the decision to appoint him coach wasn’t such a complete waste.

    Currently with Higuain out, Batista is stuck auditioning argentine forwards of which they have many, including Messi as a false number 9, but with so many offering the quality and movement needed to replicate the interchanging three of Barcelona Argentina’s forward line looks more their strength than weakness. The midfield isn’t shabby either with Mascherano, Banega, Gago, Cambiasso and the brilliant Pastore offering a mix of steal and style. At the back Samuel, Zanetti and Milito will be around at the Copa, amongst others Garay, Cabral, Zabaleta, Monzon, and not to be overlooked Otamendi (who is far better in the centre than the torture he suffered at right back during the world cup showed) offer options for 2014.

    In all Argentina more than anyone including Brazil, offer the quality, quantity and age of player going forward to the 2014 world cup. With a bit of luck, no meltdown of their superstar, no issues of hair length (Redondo 98 travesty!) no suicidal subs and no adoption of a 4-1-5 formation with 4 centre backs they may just not mess-i-t up this time and record a long over due win.

  • Comment number 96.

    go....go.....go.... brasil

  • Comment number 97.

    @95

    "...I remember Brazil mercilessly kicking lumps out of Diego Maradona in 82..."

    ____________________________________________________________________

    surely you musn't be referring to the game in which Argentina was comprehensively beaten and a petulant imature Maradona was red carded for kicking Brazil's sub Dirceu, are you?

  • Comment number 98.

    Brasilian football is certainly not all tricks and samba. Some clubs games are frankly aweful - more like American football - go forward a few yards, free-kick, few more yards - another foul, etc. I've seen games where there is almost a foul per minute.

    How many times have you seen Dani Alves lose the ball on one of his attacking runs, and then foul the opponent before he has a chance to break. Answer is that he doesn't lose it very often, but the opponent gets fouled every time if he does. Routine cynical mid-field fouls are part of the game and players almost always get away with it.
    BUT - it is so good to see the first touch of the players and the confidence they have in their individual skills.
    It will be very interesting to see what happens when Brasil clash with Argentina in the Copa America. With both teams playing a high speed, high-pressure game there's going to be ample opportunities for flash-points. Should be good!

  • Comment number 99.

    @97, yea i am.
    Brazil were great in 82 but they could also be extremely cynical which in this match they were! Maradona having been kicked all game snapped back in retaliation. The point I was making is how Brazil's cynical side is always overlooked, in contrast people overlook Argentina's skill by highlighting their less attractive side to the game. Your throwaway comment about 82 illustrates my point exactly - you paint brazil as all beautiful and maradona as the villian, when actually the roles were completely reversed!

  • Comment number 100.

    @99 "...paint brazil as all beautiful and maradona as the villian, when actually the roles were completely reversed! "

    Absolutely!...Maradona wasn't an immature villain back then...it was Dirceu (?) who decided to attack Maradona's boot with his lower abdomen... ;)

 

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