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Having three teams on the go is a risk for Argentina

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Tim Vickery | 13:33 UK time, Monday, 6 June 2011

In an end-of-season international friendly, with one side leading 4-0, why on earth would the referee want to add on a heap of stoppage time? Surely the best advice would be to blow up and let everyone go home.

But that is not what Ibrahim Chaibou did last Wednesday when he was in charge of the match between Nigeria and Argentina in Abuja. He added on five extra minutes. True, there had been plenty of second-half substitutions but it was hard to see why five extra minutes were necessary or desirable.

But then it got stranger. Five minutes came and went. Then six. Then seven. And then he awarded Argentina an absurd penalty for a non-existent handball. Mauro Boselli converted it to make the final score 4-1 to the home side.

With an alleged splurge of bets on a late goal, it is little wonder that Fifa is opening an investigation into the events.

Referee Ibrahim Chaibou, in the red top, is surrounded by Argentina players after he awarded a penalty against them in the 4-1 defeat by Nigeria, in Abuja.

Referee Ibrahim Chaibou, in the red top, is surrounded by Argentina players after he awarded a penalty against them in the 4-1 defeat by Nigeria, in Abuja. Photo: AP

Controversy aside, there is another question that emerges from Nigeria's crushing and thoroughly deserved victory: why on earth would Argentina put their prestige on the line by fielding such a team?

Describing that Argentina side as "under strength" or as a "reserve" team does not come close. Coach Sergio Batista has announced a provisional 26-man squad for next month's Copa America (incidentally, readers of my column from two weeks ago might be interested to know that Carlos Tevez has been included) but only three of them - reserve defenders Pablo Zabaleta, Emiliano Insua and Ezequiel Garay - were on duty in Nigeria.

This line-up was at best a C team. One quick example suffices to illustrate the chasm between this and the real line-up. At full strength, Argentina play 4-3-3 with Lionel Messi in the middle of their attacking trident. Against Nigeria, the same role was filled by Mauro Boselli.

Batista currently has three almost entirely separate squads on the go: the first-choice group for the Copa America; a group drawn from domestic football; and the collection of fringe players who, after losing to Nigeria, went down 2-1 to Poland on Sunday.

This clearly gives Batista something to do. Bosses of international teams sometimes complain that prolonged spells of inactivity can take the edge off their coaching skills.

It also gives him a chance to observe lots of players, which can be worthwhile even if the conclusions are not always palatable. In these last two matches, for example, Batista will have observed that, with a midfield that is unable to retain the ball, his 4-3-3 system is wide open against opponents who attack with pace and that, left exposed, his young defenders lack the quality to save the situation.

The performance against Poland was an improvement on the rout against Nigeria. Little striker Jonathan Cristaldo had some good moments, while centre-forward Marco Ruben took his goal well. But these are crumbs of comfort when set against the risk that Batista is running by accumulating these defeats.

He took over in 2010 with the claim that he and his back-up staff would be low profile. But losing, especially in the manner that the team went down to Nigeria, makes Batista and his reign an issue. It cranks up the pressure on him as Argentina prepare to play the Copa America in front of their own fans.

True, none of the players he will pick next month were in action against Nigeria or Poland. But, with no senor title since 1993, Argentina are under enough pressure as it is and an edgy coach can make for an edgy team.

At least Argentina can count on their supporters to be kinder to them than the notoriously fickle Brazilian fans are to their team. For Brazil, the Copa America is the most serious competitive test they face as they prepare to play the World Cup on home ground in 2014.

The new-look side of coach Mano Menezes had a taste of what could be in store when they drew 0-0 at home to the Netherlands on Saturday. A chorus of boos greeted the final whistle in Goiania, while the crowd started to cheer every Dutch pass before the game had finished.

"We need to educate our fans in time for 2014," said Menezes after the game, "acknowledging that we'll be up against strong opponents and that, at important moments, the crowd should support us and not go over to the other side. We have to be united if we're going to take advantage of being the hosts."

The boos on Saturday were hardly justified by an entertaining 90 minutes. Brazil were poor in the first half, their 4-3-3 looking very inflexible, with Robinho and Neymar either side of centre-forward Fred. Until half-time, the Dutch were more dangerous.

Brazil's Neymar (centre) competes with Netherlands' Tim Krul (left) and Gregory van der Wiel during the 0-0 draw in Goiania.

Brazil's Neymar (centre) competes with Netherlands' Tim Krul (left) and Gregory van der Wiel during the 0-0 draw in Goiania. Photo: Reuters

But it was a different story after the break. Robinho was given more freedom, the formation looked more like a 4-2-3-1 and Brazil had more of attacking threat. They will have days when they play worse and score four.

It was a fascinating afternoon for Neymar-watchers, with the Santos star taking on a top-class European team for the first time. He was not as effective as usual in one-against-one situations but produced enough moments of magic to reinforce the view that he is a very special talent.

Tim Krul in the Netherlands goal had to be constantly alert to Neymar's ability to finish with calm precision off either foot, although the Brazilian did earn a yellow card for diving. So did the latest wonderkid, Lucas, of Sao Paulo, who was cautioned for a ridiculous theatrical effort. Fred also seemed primarily concerned with going to ground. A centre-forward in this system must try to stay on his feet and provide a platform.

Menezes recognises Brazil have a problem against opponents who are defensive or who know how to mark well. It might not be easy when boos are coming down from the terraces but the remedy would seem to be less frustration, more elaboration, more patience and less diving. Not every referee will point to the spot with the eagerness shown last Wednesday by Ibrahim Chaibou.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com and I will pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) I was wondering if you could shed any light on the future of River Plate's Erik Lamela. I know that River have been struggling recently and there has been a lot of talk of Lamela maybe moving to Serie A.
Stephen Connelly

A) Everyone has been looking at him, which is no surprise because he is the genuine article, a lanky midfielder with a nice change of pace and a lovely left foot, who takes responsibility, has vision and can combine well with others. Usually, I am against the premature move but I do not know if River Plate are doing him any good at the moment. They are in relegation danger and panicking, with a defensive side and a strategy that seems to demand that Lamela sorts out everything on his own. The worry is that this might prove to be too much responsibility for a 19-year-old.

Q) I just recently watched my first ever Copa Libertadores match in full, Penarol's second leg, semi-final match against Velez Sarsfield. Even though Penarol went through on away goals, it was Velez's Juan Manuel Martinez who really caught my eye. That was the first time I had ever heard of him or seen him and would like to know if he produces performances such as this one on a regular basis?
Adam McCue

A) He does, which is why he has been included recently in the full Argentina squad. I suspect the only reason he is not in the provisional 26 for the Copa America is that someone had to make way for the return of Tevez. Martinez won the decisive penalty when he came on as a substitute against Portugal earlier this year. That strong dribbling you saw cutting in from the flanks last week is his trademark. An interesting thing about him is that he is one of a number of Argentine players recently whose career picked up momentum elsewhere in South America. He was a member of Colombian side Cucuta, who emerged from nowhere to light up the 2007 Copa Libertadores. He is one to watch for a move to Europe.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    On the subject of domestic Argentines impressing - what chance do the likes of Luciano Aued Gaston Diaz and Ismael Quilez have of breaking into the national team on a regular basis

  • Comment number 2.

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

  • Comment number 3.

    Tim, good article. With the Copa America scheduled every 2 years, do you think the frequency of the event detracts from the prestige of winning the prize?

    In Europe, the Euros are held in very high esteem, certainly close to the World Cup in terms of importance. Is this view shared in The Americas with their continental trophy?

    Has the appeal diminished with the inclusion of sides who are not from the continent of South America?

    Do coaches use the competition to blood players they wish to include later in their World Cup qualification campaign?

  • Comment number 4.

    Are Neymar's & Ganso's games suited to the EPL. Chelsea are looking at both but I feel that they might be a little light weight. Your thought?

  • Comment number 5.

    Long-time reader, first-time poster.

    I'm afraid this "match" will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The betting pattern is clearly suspicious, and while neither Baptista nor the AFA can be blamed for the actions of a bent ref, the decision to field a C side does betray an embarassing lack of respect for Nigerian football.

    Surely the Lagos crowd had not paid to see their boys take on Mauro Boselli? And surely the nation that provided such stern opposition for Maradona's last (and, lest we forget, brilliant) appearance for Argentina had deserved much better?

    While experimentation - tactically and in terms of personell - is the nature of international friendlies, sending out a side full of players who effectively have no chance of making the grade at all seems rather pointless to me.

    I love watching Argentina and had high hopes that Batista could provide some mental lucidity after the emotional roller-coaster of Maradona's tenure. What could possibly have been the reasoning that (mis)led the coach to undermine his own position?

    On Erik Lamela, I seem to recall that Barca were keen to bring him across as a twelve-year-old, and that in-house oracle Johann Cruyff was outraged by what he saw as cradle-snatching. But they took on Messi around the same age, and that turned out quite well. Any views on this, Tim?

  • Comment number 6.

    3 - the Copa certainly was devalued when it was every 2 years - now, though, it's every 4, and it kicks off the new cycle of competitive games, with the world cup qualifiers starting soon afterwards - it's found its correct place in the calendar

  • Comment number 7.

    On refereeing at the World Cup in 2014, do you think that the highly partisan crowd in Brazil will have a large effect on refereeing decisions with respect to diving? You would hope that they would be strong enough to make the right calls, but will diving be even less harshly punished than it already is?!

  • Comment number 8.

    In an end-of-season international friendly, with one side leading 4-0, why on earth would the referee want to add on a heap of stoppage time? Surely the best advice would be to blow up and let everyone go home.
    --------------

    What a ridiculous statement. Friendly or World Cup final should make no difference to how much stoppage time is applied.

    Sure in this case it look dodgy due to the extra-extra time but if 5 minutes were calculated based on subs and time wasted then 5 minutes should be signalled and played. Anything else (such as blowing up so they can all go home) is tantamount to match-fixing in itself.

    Regarding Argentina, this was clearly a B international for them to see if any of their fringe players have enough quality to step up, their mistake was to not label it as such (probably a decision made by marketing people rathr than footballing ones).

  • Comment number 9.

    Any particular reason Ganso didnt make an appearance? I would have liked to see what he can do against De jong in the hole.

  • Comment number 10.

    @8

    "Friendly or World Cup final should make no difference to how much stoppage time is applied."

    Well it shouldn't but it does and it would be silly to act as if this didn't play a part in the decisions of match officials. You see less bookings, more penalties and more decisions to suit everyone (little stoppage time) in friendlies because they aren't competitive.

    Why should we view competitive and non-competitive matches the same anyway? The so-called integrity of the game? When you bring that into consideration, referees decisions on stoppage time is the least of our worries at the minute.

    I watched the game last week and to describe it as farcical would be an understatement. There should have been 3 minutes stoppage at most, let alone ~10, the commentators had no idea what was going on, thinking the referee's watch must have stopped.

  • Comment number 11.

    @1 goose908

    they ought to have 0 chance but given that Argentina barely has a right-back worthy of the name (except for zanetti and zabaleta), quilez and díaz have a chance of making future squads.
    of the two i prefer quilez.
    theres a young right-back at banfield called gustavo toledo who might be good in the future.

  • Comment number 12.

    One thing Tim fails to metion - Nigeria has always provided very stern oposition for Argentina since 1994 and indeed beat Argentina in the 1996 Olympic final to win the Olympic football gold medal. Argentina has never won against them by more than 1 goal margin and usually (rightly or wrongly) there is a contentious refereeing decision (both when Nigeria win and when Argentina win)

  • Comment number 13.

    Ganso is injured weezer.

    Great Blog as usual Tim. I was mystified by the squad selection for these games. many players in there with absolutely no chance of making the main squad. very strange.

    Tim, I watched quite a few Malaga games towards the end of the season and was very impressed with a player called Rondon who I believe is Venazuelan, do you have any extra info on him? does he do well for the national side and do you see a big move for him in future?

  • Comment number 14.

    Top article as always, Tim. Never seems to disappoint.

    On the subject of this Ibrahim Chaibou: call me a little hasty with my conclusions, but I wouldn't like to see him refereeing another game for a few years; he seems VERY dodgy.

    On a general note about referees, I've never understood why so much time gets added in friendlies. At the end of the day, the result is essentially insignificant, so why put the players through those extra few minutes? Granted, the fans have paid good money to go and see the game - and this is another issue which should be addressed, the fact that ticket prices for friendlies are so rediculously high - but for the sake of a few minutes at the end of a match, I don't think there would be many complaints at sparing those extra minutes.

  • Comment number 15.

    How are preparations for Brazil 2014 going? you don't hear much about what is going on in the UK press but the snippets that come out suggest a few problems with getting the stadiums built and transport? or will it all be "all right on the day"?

  • Comment number 16.

    I always enjoy Tim's articles and often agree with his points of view but I have to say that in this instance I completely agree with hackerjack and disagree with Andy.

    I can see Andy's point of view in that friendlies ARE different to serious games and the refs do treat them in a different way when it comes to cards (for good reason: You can get banned from competitive games for picking up cards in friendlies, I believe.) but in respect of how long the game goes on for, this is absolutely no excuse at all.

    The length of a football match and the pathetic way in which time is added on has been a pet hate of mine for some time now. The game really needs to catch up and get into the 21st century. I think we need to move to 30min halves with the clock stopped within 5 seconds of the ball going dead, and restarted when play resumes. There are a number of reasons for this, and some of the most important ones matter in friendlies:

    Value for money: The price of attending top flight matches is rising all the time, and international friendlies aren't exactly cheap. Fortunately, they are unlikely to suffer from time wasting, but at the same time, there isn't much of an incentive to get a move on and get the ball back in play. By not playing the full 90 minutes (or a full 60 with the ball in play) it is the fans who are being short-changed.

    Time wasting tactics in serious matches: It has reached an utterly ludicrous stage, exemplified by Barce in this years CL final. I wanted Barce to win, so the only reason it bothered me was from a fair play perspective. Why should fans be treated to players constantly going down and asking for treatment, only to jog back on seconds later, absolutely fine? The clock must be stopped for incidents like this, but it never is. If it was, perhaps people would stop doing it.
    (There is the argument of the winning team taking ages about every dead ball in an effort to 'disrupt the flow' of their opponents, as they cannot be done for time wasting because the clock has stopped. That could simply be remedied by keeping the 'time wasting' rule, despite it not actually shortening the game.)

    Football is entertainment, and costs a huge amount of money per minute/per hour for fans to attend. Not playing the full amount of added time, or not adding on enough time (which happens in 99% of matches) is not quite as bad as match fixing but it is conning the fans who pay their hard earned money to support the sport.

    The CL final: 3 minutes of added time. Barce make a substitution within that time. The whistle goes on 93 minutes. No one suggests the referee is match fixing, but in a perfect world man u would have grounds for complaint right there. I look forward to the day when FIFA drags football into the modern era, but it's just not going to happen. A more antiquated bunch of nepotistic, corrupt old men I could not imagine. Football needs an element of democracy, the fans have no voice.

    30 minute halves would see the same amount of football being played, even if the whole spectacle went on for a little longer. Fans would get value for money and wouldn't feel so aggrieved when their team loses due to the completely unsporting nature of the opponents. Poor Tim must be even more sick of it than the rest of us, watching all that South American football ;) Neymar? I've never seen him play but I'm in no rush simply because I know the diving little actor is going to irritate me more than mesmerizer me with his skills, and that is just wrong.

  • Comment number 17.

    #13

    Cheers I wasnt very sure. Almost total lack of south american football on TV doesnt help matters.

    As for Rondon, agreed he looked very impressive last year. Malaga have cash to burn now though to may stay there a while

  • Comment number 18.

    Nice article, and I completely agree with your points #16!

    Check out my fav' footie blog. Bit controversial but surely that's a good thing? and he always replies to comments... Check it at http://markbritton7.wordpress.com/ if you want?

    Do you guys reckon a South American side will win the next world cup? Brazil were very poor vs Scotland IMO.

  • Comment number 19.

    I don't really watch that much South American football or hear about it but this blog is great, it keeps me up to date with the South American sides and it's good to hear about the new talents coming through; keep up with the great articles!

  • Comment number 20.

    @16: I'd like to see the clock actually be stopped when the ball goes out of play, but I don't agree with shortening the halves. Maybe it means the players will have to keep going for longer, but who cares, that's why they're professionals. Would be nice to see someone try something to throw off all the anti-football tactics around.

  • Comment number 21.

    @20: that is ridiculous. when you check the stats on how much time the ball is in play that would be completely unworkable. it would drag on too long and extra time would be impossible.

  • Comment number 22.

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

  • Comment number 23.

    Dazz - it was more than a little unsuual that the referee should instruct 5' of added time and then allow 8' during which time he gave Argentina a VERY debatable penalty, and then it transpires that there were more than just a 'few' people who had bet on a 5th goal being scored in the game. Basically it stinks and that referee must surely be suspended while a compete and full investigation take splace. BUT of course Mr. Grondona, the king of Argentine football is a Vice-President of FIFA and a special friend of Mr. Blatter's so don't be too suprised if we never hear of the outcome of the investigation.
    Tim Vickey - I disagree that it was a 'C' team. I think a 'B' team would be more accurate as there were several players playing who had previous international expereince.

  • Comment number 24.

    @22 "Ever since Blatter talked to referees about crouch before the 2002 world cup, having said nothing about koller or zigic,have i felt that referees had been corrupted."

    None of these players took part in the 2002 World Cup. Peter Crouch was with Portsmouth in the Championship at the time and nowhere near a national team call-up, whereas Serbia and the Czech Republic hadn't even qualified for the tournament.

    In any case, whilst Blatter is undoubtedly a nefarious character, there's little evidence to suggest he's in any way involved with the illegal activities of betting syndicates, which has been the problem here. Why on Earth would Fifa risk its prestige on rigging a end-of-season friendly between Nigeria and the reserves to Argentina's reserves?

  • Comment number 25.

    23 - i think it's clear enough
    A B team would be the reserves from the Cop America squad.
    Anyone below that is C at best - Boselli might be somewhere around L or M

  • Comment number 26.

    A side from Uruguay will finally win the Libertadores. Uruguayans are playing with great confidence at all levels, both individually and as teams. Just look at Cavani or Santiago Silva, having amazing seasons. Or Peñarol. It''ll be great to see them beat Santos, with Neymar and all. Plus, it wouldn't surprise me if Uruguay wins the Copa América.

  • Comment number 27.

    Must be the first time anyone's complained that Man U didn't get enough extra time! I might get a stopwatch out next game I go to and do some research.

  • Comment number 28.

    The point i was making is that in 1996 eurpo championship which koller played in and in other tournaments which zigic has played in. no such action was taken and in my old age it must have been 2006, doesn't change anything just proves my dementia is worse than i thought

  • Comment number 29.

    Antonio Saucedo - you make an interesting point. Let's see how Uruguay get on with Holland on Wednesday. The Dutch were outplayed by Brazil in the 2nd half on Saturday but were saved by a magnificent performance by Tim Krul the Newcastle 'keeper. On this form he must become the No 1. keeper for the Dutch.
    He was much more reliable in the air than Steklenburg.
    You say watch Uruguay for the Copa and I say keep an eye on Chile. They have a pretty good side at the moment as well.

  • Comment number 30.

    Just saw the penalty incident on Youtube, it seems very strange. It hit his foot, on the floor, in the 98th minute. As for Argentina, I wonder if even taking their first team to Nigeria for an end of season game would have even been great preparation. It just sounds like a bit of an exhibition match.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hi Tim

    I watched the match and you were spot on regarding the diving aspect of Neymar. I listened to you guys on radio in India and first thing that came to my mind when he went down is 'Tim says he is prone to diving' and then came the yellow card.

    Secondly from the neutral perspective the match was absolutely thrilling to watch. I don't think the Brazilian played badly though in the first half the dutch did have two clear chances especially the one made my Van Persie pass on break. 4-5 fast pass and it was one vs one against goalkeeper.

    My question to you is regarding the role of Ramires. In the first half he and Elano were entrusted to make runs through the middle even though the formation was 4-3-3. It not only made the game tight but also left them vulnerable to counter attack. Do Ramires in this team play as a creative man in terms of runs and Elano in terms of passing.

  • Comment number 32.

    Tim,could you please me give your opinion about the Argentian Rinaudo(spelling),i heard reports that he is a very good midfielder.Do you think he could make it in Europe? Also how do you think Brasil will play against Romania being this the farewell of Ronaldo O Fenonemo,do you think they will be distracted by that or will they be taking this game seriously after being booed by the crowd in Goiana?
    Many thanks

  • Comment number 33.

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

  • Comment number 34.

    Blither be serious will you. 30 mins a half dont you ever run for FIFA president with those sort of ideas and i thought blatter was delusional.

  • Comment number 35.

    Simple idea for the stoppage time issue, they should just stop the clock like in rugby, not every time the ball goes out of play but when there's an injury, substitution or blatant time-wasting. Everyone would know when the half/game was over. But that would be far too sensible for FIFA wouldn't it...

  • Comment number 36.

    Strange! Do Argentina not get fined for fielding a weakened team?!

    Why was it not classified as Nigeria Vs Argentina B or C? That would have given Argentina the chance to save a bit of face at least, and not hurt the rankings. It would be honest too - I'm sure lots of Nigerians turned up expecting to see Messi & co.

  • Comment number 37.

    Tim, very good summary of the Brazil vs Holland game.

    The 2nd half performance of the Brasil team was very good, so why did their suppoters boo? Fickle as you say.

    This is a strong Dutch team and Neymar still looked a class above at times (despite his falls). And contrary to Dunga's team, Brasil still played well when down to 10 men. The side however lacked a creative player in midfield - you can see why everyone is pinning their hopes in Ganso, which is very strange bearing in mind he just has 1 cap!



  • Comment number 38.

    Saw the game v Nigeria and it was well dodgy at the end of the game. The ref seemed intent on playing for another goal, proper weird.

    On another note, what chance Ali Faurlin of Qpr breaking into the Argentina squad? An outside chance granted, but he is miles better than the pap on show in Abuja.

  • Comment number 39.

    Tim, I disagree about you on the Brazil-Netherlands game game. The first half was dreadful, and although Brazil clearly improved in the 2nd, it wasn't a brilliant performance, specially considering the Dutch were missing several key players.

    Also, one reason as to why the supporters got so angry is that they paid World Cup prices. At one point, they remembered they were paying at least R$ 150 for this, some even more.

    And the tolerance would probably be higher (even if slightly so) if Menezes had sticked with his goal of giving priority to new talent. Brazil has it's first game at home against a top side, and he decides to bring EIGHT players with World Cup experience, plus the seasoned Lucas Leiva and André Santos, in the first eleven? This would be a good game to beginwith Lucas Moura, Damião, David Luiz, Rafael, etc, but it was just a wasted opportunity.

  • Comment number 40.

    I’ve watched most of Brazil’s matches under Menezes and its good to see him trying to get Brazil to reconnect with a game based around possession football. However, I think the key for Brazil, if they’re going to pull off this possession approach successfully, is undoubtedly going to be Ganso.

    I watched him play against the USA last year and before kick off my perception of him - from the few highlights I’d seen of him playing for Santos - was that he he was going to be a Rivaldo type, but I was pleasantly surprised to see him moving all over the midfield, orchestrating the play, in a way I had not seen from a Brazilian midfielder in years.

    Since is subsequent knee injury has ruled him out, I’ve seen Menezes try out Ronaldinho, Renato Augusto and Jadson in the Ganso role; each time without much success. And once again on Saturday Elano tried, but failed against the Dutch; with Brazil’s midfield often looking workman like and lacking creativity. I know that Kaka is likely to return to the team after the summer, but I don’t really see him fulfilling this role successfully either; considering he tends to prefer to carry the ball more than pass it.

    So with all this in mind Tim; if Ganso doesn't return from injury the same player, and the fact there doesn’t seem to be a natural replacement for him; whether you think Menezes will be forced to re-evaluate his approach to suit the style of the midfielders at his disposal and maybe adopt more of a counter attacking style, similar to Dunga?

  • Comment number 41.

    I must admit I know very little about the current afairs of South American football but on a more general note in regards to this blog what do people think about football using the same clock as rugby. I.E the clock is stopped when play is stopped for any signigificant amount of time. For example substitutions when players like to take an age to walk off or for free kicks when its taking the ref ages to get the wall to stand 10yrds away. This would put an end to the argument surrounding added time (fergie time) and everyone would know how long was left.

  • Comment number 42.

    Agree with 35. The wasting time thing can easily be solved by following rugby. Which leads to the question, "Why wouldn't FIFA want to do this?" Besides combatting teams wasting time, it would also help combat betting interference.

    One of the worst cases of running the clock down and breaking up play I've seen was by Scolari's Brazil against England in Shizuoka in 2002. Admittedly Brazil were down to 10 men after Ronaldinho got sent off. Ironically, "Fair Play" was the clarion call, where teams were kicking the ball out of play so opponents could be treated for 'injury', so Rivaldo spent much of the second half inexplicably writhing in agony on the ground, often with an opponent nowhere in sight. And despite trailing, England seemed only too happy grant him his wish and boot the ball out so they could get a breather in the searing daytime heat. This happened more than once before the inevitable miraculous recovery, and I'm sure Rivaldo was 100% and raring to go for the next game.

    Lippi's Italy also abused this good will in 2006 by their strikers falling to the ground when their few attacks broke down and they didn't have all their men behind the ball, thus stopping many counter attacks in their tracks. And for all their fantastic football, Pedro ate up something like 3 minutes of the clock in the last few minutes of the CL Final by milking a knock to the head.

  • Comment number 43.

    Although in this case the stoppage time was suspicious to say the least, in general I really do wonder why so many commentators write or say things like:

    "In an end-of-season international friendly, with one side leading 4-0, why on earth would the referee want to add on a heap of stoppage time? "

    let me answer it for you.
    Because it's in the rules of the game - simples.
    Nowhere does it say that if the referee thinks it doesn't really matter then he can skip it! We want professionalism from our referees (well I do) and accurate time keeping is a really simple and professional thing for any referee to do.
    Man Utd were losing 1-0 after 90 minutes of a Champions League final - why not put them out of their misery?
    Man City were losing 2-0 after 90 minutes of a division 2 play off - why not put them out of their misery?


  • Comment number 44.

    # 29 James:
    You're right: Chile has a good side too. But my money is on Uruguay, even though Brazil and Argentina are favorites. No surprise there. I think we'll get to see a pretty good tournament, with a lot of stars on display.

  • Comment number 45.

    Not the first time Argentina play a friendly with a B-squad. They did exactly the same in Costa Rica, where they rested all of their stars that had played three days earlier against the US. I wouldn't care if they had announced it as a B-International, but you can't do that when you cash a $1.5 million cheque to play...

    At least Grondona was so embarrassed that he pushed for Costa Rica to be included in the Copa America.

  • Comment number 46.

    I agree with most of the things Tim says, and find his knowledge of South American football refreshing, but to say that Fred was constantly going to ground is ludicrous. He barely touched the ball, and I believe Brazil would have been much more effective had they played through him like you would expect with such a formation. He is one of few real "number 9s" remaining in the modern professional game at the top level, such is shown by the way Fluminense played last season in Serie A. Given playing time together, I believe those 3 strikers will gel, and I really hope the manager gives it another chance.

  • Comment number 47.

    What is Batista's reason for fielding a 'C' side? This makes no sense in preparation for the Copa (at least place the reserves) and disrespects the national shirt!

  • Comment number 48.

    To Matty in particular, but also anyone else who is under any illusion that we currently see anywhere close to 45 minutes of football per half:

    Check the stats. Your average 45 minute half actually equates to around 25-30minutes of the ball being in play (evidence based on whenever I've seen the stat come up on TV, admittedly it doesn't happen often and I've found it incredibly hard to find these online. If anyone can, so as to illustrate this point better, I'd be grateful.)

    The 30 min per half proposal would actually mean players had to be fitter, because it forces the ball to be in play for the same amount of time whatever the conditions and however bad the time wasting.

    "Football should just follow Rugby and stop the clock for serious stoppages/injuries"
    Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't that what happens already? Or at least it's supposed to. The ref stops his watch whenever he feels it's appropriate (so many laws in football are down to the refs discretion, they need tightening up!) and then communicates to the 4th official near the end of the game regarding added time. 4th official then holds the board up.

    The trouble with this is that the referees do not feel they have the power to extend halves by 10, 15 or 20 minutes. You can see why! Everything from the policing of games and the extra transport laid on for big clashes/international fixtures would be seriously impacted if it suddenly ran over time. (I believe arrangements are made if extra time and pens are a possibility)

    The other trouble is that it wouldn't stop time wasting at goal kicks or throw-ins. Did anyone see the FA Cup final this year? Stoke were time wasting at 0-0. Rory Delap managed to take at least 30 seconds on some of his throw ins, and he didn't even have a towel to hand.

    Excellent point LeeWonPen about man u in the CL final and City in the Play-off final. I was watching that playoff final (I am in fact a City fan) and if it wasn't for that added time, the history of my club might look slightly different. Of course Tim can point out that in a friendly, there are no such concerns, but I believe the integrity of the game means you need to apply the rules regarding time keeping etc. in exactly the same manner. Also for the fans in attendance and not devaluing their experience. (It's fair enough that the ref is generally slightly more lenient when it comes to cards, but I think that has to be one of the only exceptions.)

  • Comment number 49.

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

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi Tim, great blog.

    I think for the 2015 Copa America, CONMEBOL shouldn't invite teams to the tournament. Back in the 90's, USA and Mexico used to bring their best players, but nowadays with the current reglamentation, clubs are entitled not to lend their players to the national teams for competitions outside their continental confederations. So, in this case, Mexico and Costa Rica are bringing B sides to the competition.

    I think with the 10 southamerican teams and a smart calendar, the Copa wouldn't need to bring any guests and still have an exciting tournament.

  • Comment number 51.

    "A side from Uruguay will finally win the Libertadores."
    Finally? What are you talking about, Peñarol has already won it five times in the past.

    The problem with the friendlies against Nigeria and Poland was that Batista had given the preliminary list for the Copa America the day BEFORE the first friendly game. So the players had little incentive to perform knowing that they wouldn't be going to Argentina anyway. Wouldn't look to much into these games.

  • Comment number 52.

    I stated during the match that I thought there was something amiss with not only the referee but thge players during the game, and I didn't even bother watching after 80 minutes. Argentina Z team would have shown more drive to win balls, etc. A couple of the goals looked suspiciously too easy for Nigeria. The full strength Argentina I think are likely to show a lot more in the Copa America

  • Comment number 53.

    10.
    At 16:20 6th Jun 2011, andy wrote:

    @8

    "Friendly or World Cup final should make no difference to how much stoppage time is applied."

    Well it shouldn't but it does and it would be silly to act as if this didn't play a part in the decisions of match officials. You see less bookings, more penalties and more decisions to suit everyone (little stoppage time) in friendlies because they aren't competitive.

    Why should we view competitive and non-competitive matches the same anyway? The so-called integrity of the game?
    -----------------

    Because the rules are the same regardless. Referees should NOT treat them differently and any that does should be charged with match fixing. Given how much money is gambled on the outcomes of these things it's immoral to do otherwise.

  • Comment number 54.

    I agree with stopping the clock when there's a stoppage in the game, but not for everything. Throw-ins and corners should remain as they are because people get booked for taking too long with these things anyway, and the game is technically still going as people are moving around into positions, etc. Surely the clock could be stopped for substitutions or 'injuries'? Then the whistle could be blown as soon as it hit's 45/90 minutes - or near enough to that time.

  • Comment number 55.

    @25

    Slightly harsh, i'd argue he'd make a D team. After all his goals record in Argentina is not bad at all. Plus if Jay Bothroyd can make a full England squad, then surely Boselli can make a reserve Argentina equivalent.

    Anyway, this got me thinking about those who missed out on caps. I'd like to propsose people's thoughts on a Premiership XI without full England caps, here's my try:

    Steve Harper

    Matt Jackson, Steve Bruce, Scott Dann, Gary Ablett


    Graham Stuart, Kevin Nolan, Leon Osman, Ian Woan


    Dean Holdsworth, Mick Quinn

  • Comment number 56.

    The referee's penalty call in the match between Nig and Arg seems suspicious. He needs to be interrogated.

  • Comment number 57.

    Bring back 606

  • Comment number 58.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Watch Holland put Argentina to the sword! Hear Dutch in all its beauty!

  • Comment number 59.

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

  • Comment number 60.

    Tim, Neymar was a "very special talent" this time last year and yet while the whole of Brazil wanted him and other "Meninos da Vila" to go to the World Cup, you toed the Dunga party line and opposed the idea. So why the change of heart? Or do you admit you called it wrong?

  • Comment number 61.

    Very unsurprised to hear that Neymar was booked for diving having watched the Scotland Brazil game. I hope if he moves to British football this disgraceful element of his game will be coached out of him quickly. Is it too much to hope that FIFA's reforms will include a crackdown on this pox of the modern game? (diving, not Neymar!)

  • Comment number 62.

    @ 55

    Surely a Premiership XI without England Caps should include Tevez and Hernandez...;-)

  • Comment number 63.

    60 - no, i think i was spot on - no way was neymar ready for the world cup - as i wrote last week, i think he's made progress in the last couple of months, especially in the business end of the libertadores.
    he's now had the benefit of another year in the spotlight - he's made lots of mistakes, and has learned from them. last year he was just a few months away from the player who had flopped in the world under-17 cup. Since then he's moved from promise to reality.

  • Comment number 64.

    Well, it's always a big bet to take such young players to a major competition, sometimes it's a horrific failure that ends up hampering the poor player, but it can work spectacularly well, let's not forget how successful Pelé was at his first World Cup, despite being a relatively unknown quantity and only 17 years old (he had only played a few matches for Brazil before that).

    Should have Dunga taken Neymar to South Africa? That's a question for the ages, really. I tend to agree with you Tim, he was too much a promise and not enough a player, so to speak, at that point in time. But it would have been interesting to see what Brazil could have done had he used in the fateful Brazil vs Netherlands match... he might, maybe, have provided the spark and energy that Brazil needed desperately.

    Still, in 2014 he's bound to be, barring any tragedies, to be one of the star players.

  • Comment number 65.

    "The new-look side of coach Mano Menezes had a taste of what could be in store when they drew 0-0 at home to the Netherlands on Saturday. A chorus of boos greeted the final whistle in Goiania, while the crowd started to cheer every Dutch pass before the game had finished."

    If the new-look side players have watched the Brazilian NT home matches in recent past (WCQ campaigns for 2002, 2006, 2010), I don't think they were surprised by the crowd reaction.

  • Comment number 66.

    From post #48
    "Football should just follow Rugby and stop the clock for serious stoppages/injuries"
    Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't that what happens already? Or at least it's supposed to. The ref stops his watch whenever he feels it's appropriate (so many laws in football are down to the refs discretion, they need tightening up!) and then communicates to the 4th official near the end of the game regarding added time. 4th official then holds the board up.
    ------

    The difference is that in rugby the clock on the scoreboard is linked to the refs watch. It means that crowd (and players) can see exactly how long is left, and can also see when the ref has stopped his watch. It cuts out any suspicion about whether the ref has been adding enough time and also prevents him adding Fergie time.

    There should also be clarification about when the ref should blow the final whistle. The letter of the law says as soon as the 90mins is up, but in reality the ref almost always waits for an attack to break down (Everton vs United being the one exception).

    Time wasting is a huge issue in football at the moment, when teams are defending a lead they often take well over a minute to take each goal kick. There is no way that time gets added back on.

  • Comment number 67.

    Hey Tim,

    With the Copa America fast approach can you see beyond the big favourites Argentina and Brazil being victorious? As mentioned Brazil's first team looked a little lethargic against the Netherlands and it'll be interesting to see if they can respond to the criticism tonight against Romania. Argentina also haven't looked great lately, but then again they lack an identity. Even with home advantage I can't see Argentina winning the competition. So do Uruguay, Chile or perhaps Colombia have a realistic opportunity at upsetting some of the bigger nations?

  • Comment number 68.

    Blither, great post. I'd love to see ball in play times too. It would stop all the moaning instantly.

    Regarding average times:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/serialisations/article709403.ece

    This would help eliminate time-wasting. There would be no point in rolling around feigning an injury or taking for ever before a goalkick because the clock would only start once the ball is in play. It is amazing how little football is actually played over the 90 minutes. At the 1990 World Cup, the ball was in play on average for 52 minutes, and in some games it was as low as 45.

    "Today, the average is around 55 minutes. Fifa have urged referees to grant more injury time, but if the ball is in play for 55 minutes, you can’t expect an official to grant an additional 35 of injury time, can you? Fifa have said that the game should strive to keep the ball in play for 60 minutes and I agree. Overall, matches would not be any longer, and might even be shorter because there would be less time-wasting and gamesmanship. And there would be more action. The idea has lurked in the background for several years, but now it’s time to take it seriously."

  • Comment number 69.

    It wont mean as much to the Argentinians as it does to us Scots....but surely Argentina's world ranking/co-efficient will take a dent after a crushing defeat to Nigeria and a 2-1 loss to Poland???

  • Comment number 70.

    I've made an effort to watch Neymar play a few times in the past year because of all the hullabaloo about him. And whilst I don't flatter myself to think I'm qualified to say if he's definately got what it takes to make a big impact in Europe, I can certainly see the potential so many people have seen.

    However his desire to constantly go to ground whenever an opposition player comes within a few feet of him seems a genuine weakness, far beyond what has become the standard level of diving when at the recieving end of a bit of defensive 'shoving'.

    Tim... Do you think a club like Chelsea (I gather a front runner for his signature) would have to eradicate this unfortunate habbit ASAP or do players from the Brazlian league tend to naturally adapt to their new domestic league?

    I'm not naive to suggest the EPL is diving free, or even that a bit of 'going to ground' following contact i certain circumstances is that reprehensible. But with the EPL's physicality and pace I can seem him spending 90% of the time in his first season sitting on the grass, arms aloft with a confused look as the ref waves play on.

    Anyone remember Nani's first season?!

  • Comment number 71.

    Blither - you're right about your stats - I read an article about this recently, the prem averaged something like 62 mins with the ball in play; more to spain but less than Italy which was around 65.

    More interesting was that apparently Stoke (I guess because of the long throws) averaged 8 mins less than Man U - a huge difference I'm sure you'll agree! That means over the season, Stoke in effect played 3 matches worth less! On that basis, your idea of 30 minute halves is a great idea.

  • Comment number 72.

    Tim, excellent review of South American football. Your article was spot on.

    Being a Brazilian fan I understand why we're so tough/brutal on players. Yes, we mercilessly booed this team because for us losing is never an option. And playing badly is a sin. There's no excuse.

    There are talks that Mano Menezes might not be the coach for 2014. I personally think the best choice would be Muricy Ramalho. He's a brilliant coach, but temperamental. He singlehandedly brought back Gremio from relegation and made them a champion.

    Muricy was offered the job last year, but declined. We all know he doesn't agree with the current CBF's management. He likes to do his job, and management has a way to get on his nerves, at their own peril.

    Several of the current players (Fred for instance) will not be on the 2014 squad.

    Some commenters asked where was Ganso - he's injured.

  • Comment number 73.

    Excellent stuff as always Tim. Very much looking forward to the Copa next month and hopefully we won't see too many 0-0s there!

    I didn't realise that so many pedants were followers of South American football, the debate about time added on defies belief. The game was at 4-0 and as a friendly there's no goal difference for consideration. Comparing it to a CL final at 1-0 is frankly hilarious, the situations are so different. I really feel for those poor gamblers - anyone betting serious money on an international friendly should not be dictating things to anyone.

    It's up to the referee to deal with play acting and time wasting, and who cares if they only play an average of 60 minutes in 90. Players will always find a way of using rules to their advantage - if the clock stops they'll still go down to get a breather and disrupt an opponent's momentum (as is frequently the case anyway).

  • Comment number 74.

    Lets be fair to Batista he has a very dificult job with players all over the World.
    The home based squad has 4 or 5 of the Copa squad and would have more if Velez players werent really considered because of the Copa/League title bids.Alvarez, and Martinez would ahve been serious candidates.
    Monzon is on the 26 and Pillud was under consideration and there is no doubt we need full backs.If he found one from Poland and Nigeria it would have been worthwhile.It doesnt look like it but in Argentina squads with so may stars the players temprement matters a lot so he was trying to find out what players were like.I think he deliberately dropped Teves so Carlitos would know the score that he is a bit player and he will have to shut up about it within the group.I would say Riquelme ideal as a playmaker for Messi was discounted for the same mala onda (bad waves)reason,
    I agree Argentina dont have an identity.If we can find it during the Copa it will be a great acheivment.It would not be the first time an Argentina squad gelled from nowhere.With only the final being played in the Monumental the support will be fanatical in the provinces and will be a big help to the team

  • Comment number 75.


    The CL final: 3 minutes of added time. Barce make a substitution within that time. The whistle goes on 93 minutes. No one suggests the referee is match fixing, but in a perfect world man u would have grounds for complaint right there..
    ________________________________________________

    No mate, ManU would not make a complaint. They would have made a complaint if he played the whole 3 minutes injury time. Actually, they would probably have taken the offer to end the whole thing after 70. It was one of those days!

  • Comment number 76.

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

  • Comment number 77.

    67: "Even with home advantage I can't see Argentina winning the competition. So do Uruguay, Chile or perhaps Colombia have a realistic opportunity at upsetting some of the bigger nations?"

    Is it me or did Paraguay reach the world cup quarter-finals and very nearly beat Spain?¿

    Colombia on the other hand......nowhere to be seen.....

    Paraguay for the Copa America. You read it here first. :-)

  • Comment number 78.

    I don't like the way that friendlies are arranged in the build up to a major tournament and then a B or C team is thrown out, its not only disrespectful of the opposition but not very good preparation from the manager.

    How are you really supposed to prepare to play against some of the finest teams in South America when you are using two different squads in meaningless friendlies, and how many of the players playing in these games will actually play in the tournament?

    By the time the Copa America starts Messi will not have played a game since the Champions League final, that will be over a month since he last played, he will be a bit rusty I would imagine. The same goes for most of the players who are based in Europe and were not involved in the friendlies.

  • Comment number 79.

    If Robben had given the ball to van Persie then he would have scored 1 / 0 this had done more justice to the game (especially the first half)

    Just Nancy

 

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