BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery

Archives for March 2009

Messi emerges from Maradona's shadow

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Tim Vickery | 07:00 UK time, Sunday, 29 March 2009

Diego Maradona's first competitive match in charge of Argentina was also the first time that Lionel Messi was handed his old number 10 shirt.

The numbering confirmed suspicions that with Juan Roman Riquelme retiring from international football, Messi is taking on more responsibility. He becomes the team's attacking general - like a latter day Maradona.

The dribble Messi produced at the very end of the 4-0 win over Venezuela was worthy of Maradona himself. It ended with a poke that was inches wide. After the game Maradona said that had the ball gone the other side of the post then the crowd would have been obliged to leave and pay to get in again.

Messi's was a Man of the Match performance. He cut Venezuela apart with incisive dribbles and beautifully slipped passes. And if he was bold in his acceptance of the number 10 challenge, so was Maradona in the team he selected for this special occasion.

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Can the Hand of God make a good fist of management?

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Tim Vickery | 11:04 UK time, Monday, 23 March 2009

The countdown is on to Diego Maradona's first competitive game in charge of Argentina.

His team's form in warm-up friendies has been impressive - a 1-0 win away to Scotland and especially a 2-0 win away to France. But that will quickly be forgotten if Maradona is unable to steer his side confidently through World Cup qualification.

On Saturday Argentina are at home to Venezuela. On paper, at least, it looks like a comfortable start.

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Copa becoming Brazilian show

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Tim Vickery | 09:56 UK time, Monday, 16 March 2009

As English clubs take a stranglehold on the Champions League, a similar dynamic seems to be taking place in the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent. There are signs that it is becoming a Brazilian show.

There are differences. The Libertadores is much harder to predict than the Champions League because it is much more difficult to sustain success in South America. The constant sale of the best players leaves even the biggest clubs in a permanent state of flux.

This leaves more room for a surprise team to come through, such as LDU of Quito, who last year became the first Ecuadorian winners of the Libertadores (and who, on their showing so far, have little chance of retaining their title).

If a team from Ecuador are the reigning champions, and Argentina's Boca Juniors won it the year before, where is the Brazilian domination?

In the long-term, it is in the underlying pattern. Both LDU and Boca overcame Brazilian opponents in the final, and there were all-Brazilian finals in the previous two years.

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Iron fist coaches consigned to history

Tim Vickery | 08:14 UK time, Monday, 9 March 2009

I came across a wonderful story this week in an interview in the magazine Brasileiros with Sao Paulo coach and former player Muricy Ramalho.

He recalled the start of his career in the early 70s when the club's coach was Jose Poy, an Argentine who had spent over a decade as Sao Paulo's goalkeeper. Poy was a hard man and the thing most guaranteed to put him in a bad temper was players splashing money on cars before they had got themselves established by first buying a house.

Serginho Chulapa, a good club centre-forward who was to prove sadly out of his depth in the 1982 World Cup, turned up for training one day while still a youngster in the Brazilian-made version of the Volkswagen Beetle.

As the player had yet to buy a house, Poy was furious and ordered him to sell the car. Serginho was physically imposing prospect and had a fierce temper of his own - he later missed the 1978 World Cup after picking up a lengthy ban for hospitalising a linesman - but he was so scared of Poy that he told the coach he had sold it.

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TV rules the roost in Brazil

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Tim Vickery | 10:00 UK time, Monday, 2 March 2009

High summer in Rio, the kind of weather where you work up a sweat sitting in the shade sipping a fruit juice. And at 4.00 in the afternoon, in blazing sunshine, a local final was kicking off, traditional Botafogo against little Resende.

Outside the stadium the temperature was 36 degrees. It must have been higher out on the pitch, in the middle of the Maracana's giant concrete bowl and with no protection from the scorching sun. And it all seems unnecessary; kick off an hour later and most of the pitch is already in shadow. But it's accepted.

A year ago Brazil's Football Association and leading clubs caused a commotion in South America by trying to have matches at altitude banned on health grounds, a measure that would effect Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as Colombia and Peru. The Brazilian media, including some staunch opponents of the FA and club directors, were right behind the campaign.

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