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Opening skirmishes hint at wide-open Copa

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Tim Vickery | 07:52 UK time, Monday, 4 July 2011

They may have had a little bit of help from some a less than perfect pitch in La Plata and some opening match nerves from the big two, but in holding Argentina and Brazil respectively, Bolivia and Venezuela made a powerful declaration of the current strength in depth of the South American national teams.

Whoever wins the Copa America on 24 July will have to battle their way to the title but both hosts Argentina and 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil will feel they are capable of far better than they produced in their first group games.

There was a common denominator in their failure of both sides to live up to expectations - a glaring lack of patience in their play.

Argentina coach Sergio Batista was trying to wriggle out of it after Friday's 1-1 draw with Bolivia, but the local media have months of quotes with which to expose the truth - his team is inspired by Barcelona.

But they forgot one of the chief characteristics of Pep Guardiola's European champions on Friday - patience in possession, pulling the opposition around and then finding the moment for the dramatic change of rhythm that breaks through the defensive line.

Argentina striker Carlos Tevez is crowded out by the Bolivia defence - photo: Reuters

Against Bolivia, Batista's team were too frantic, too direct and every time they gave the ball away cheaply the Bolivians were able to breathe again, reorganise and take heart to resist the next attack.

Brazil, meanwhile, started off like a train against Venezuela but it was a train that appeared to run out of steam after the interval. In this first year of coach Mano Menezes' reign, they have struggled to find the right attacking blend, and have often looked better with a target man striker - which is why to my mind it was a mistake to have just one player of this type in the squad, the injury-prone Fred.

Centre-forward Alexandre Pato moves beautifully and has some lovely touches, but he is not a genuine penalty area operator, and lacked support against the Venezuelans.

Brazil could have made mores use of Ramires' capacity to burst into the box, but this would have required more intelligence, and crucially, more patience in possession.

Playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso is an outstanding prospect, but he needs to understand that playing the killer pass is not the be all and end all; that a key part of his role is to set up the opening for the killer pass to be played, like a chess master thinking several moves ahead.

There are powerful attacking options down both flanks, plus Ramires to shuttle down the middle. What was missing on Sunday was a sense of surprise, of fooling the opposition into thinking that they would do one thing, and then doing another - which takes patience.

There is an old saying in Argentine football that points out that there is a stage in the attacking move when the team should forget about the goal and look for a team-mate - and if they keep looking and keep passing, sooner or later the goal will appear.

One of the best recent sides I have seen in this respect was the Argentina team in the last Copa America, four years ago in Venezuela.

Built around midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme, they would take control of the ball and would not be in he least concerned if at half time they had barely a chance to show for all their possession. No matter, in the second half the spaces would start to appear - and with the exception of the final against Brazil, when they were counter-attacked to a 3-0 defeat, that was the script of the competition.

To be fair, though, that side did have one big advantage over the class of 2011. They may not have been playing at home, but they did benefit in a big way from the climate. Most of their matches in 2007 were played in intense heat - and after trying to keep on the Argentine carousel for an hour or so, the opposition tended to wilt.

Brazil were unable to find a way through against Venezuela - photo: AP

It is a very different story at the other end of the continent. Four years ago in Venezuela it was a punishment to run around chasing the Argentines. Now, the chasers, the harriers and the markers have the chance to escape from hypothermia in the fearsome winter freeze.

Taken together, the conditions and the strength in depth of the field mean that we should be in for a fiercely competitive 43rd version of the Copa America, tight and dramatic if not always as eye catching as we might like.

There is always an element of phoney war about the group phase, because 8 of the 12 teams go through to the quarter-finals. It is probably just as well that there is an important change in the knockout stages of this Copa. If scores are level after 90 minutes, extra time will be played - 30 more minutes to break the ice, break the deadlock and warm up the Copa America.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) I recently read that the Santos president announced Neymar is likely to stay on until at least the World Club Cup, hopefully much longer. Given you have spoken about so-called future stars moving to Europe too early and struggling to cope with a new style of play and lesser stardom, when do you think would be the most suitable time for Neymar to move? Would moving soon not help him to curb some bad habits, e.g. diving? And is the president's announcement genuine, or are Santos employing money-making tactics?
David Wills

A) President is an elected position, so there is a certain tendency to play to the gallery. But I certainly think that it is likely that he will stay another year - for the World Club Cup and to ensure his release for the London Olympics. After that I think he will need to move - for some of the reasons that you mentioned. To fulfil his extraordinary potential at some point he will have to leave his comfort zone, especially in terms of the criteria used by referees.

Q) I watched my first ever U17 World Cup Match last night - the last 16 game between England and Argentina. There was the obvious shock of England winning a penalty shoot out in a tournament but what struck me more, as I watched through "3 Lions tinted" spectacles - there wasn't the usual embarrassing gulf in class, technique and ball retention we see so often with the senior team. We had significantly better possession than Argentina - unheard of at the senior level, against any half decent footballing nation.
The nagging question in the back of my mind is why, if our U17s can compete technically with Argentina, what goes wrong as their careers progress? I can't help thinking that if the same teams met up again in four or five years time, the gulf in class will have developed, as normal.
Paul Knights

A) I didn't see the game, so I'm posting this question to see what other people think. A couple of qualifications, though. Firstly, Argentina have no great tradition at Under-17 level (in contrast with Under-20). And secondly, the number of Under-17 players who really come through is not great.
I suppose one big difference between the English and Argentine youngsters is that in four or five years time it will probably be much easier for the Argentines to be picking up regular first team experience with their clubs.


  • Comment number 1.

    Great blog Tim


  • Comment number 2.

    Tottenham are increasingly confident they will win the race to sign Brazilian striker Leandro Damiao from Internacional.

    Is there any truth in this rumour and would he add any value to Spurs?

  • Comment number 3.

    To be able to play like Barcelona your team needs two things; 1 - the frantic urge to close the opposition down after you lose the ball and win it back like you're in the last 5 minutes of a game needing a goal and 2 - a Xavi-type character who seemingly has owl-like vision to spot every available pass in a split second.

    I get the feeling that Argentina need to start with the work-rate as individually, they're a technically gifted side. Tim makes the point about Riquelme being the Xavi of a recent Argentina side and they appear not to have someone like him they can bring in to play this role. I think Banega would probably be the prime candidate for this and wouldn't be surprised if we see him honing his game to try and mimic that of Xavi.

  • Comment number 4.

    Argentina cannot play like barcelona. Xavi an iniesta, along with busquets totally dominate the midfeild, leaving messi to play all his football in the final third where he destroys side. This doesnt happen with Argentina. You cant just give him the false 9 position and expect miracles.

    Plus I am backing Chile. I hope Bielsa's plan stays in place. They are great to watch.

  • Comment number 5.

    The Copa has been boring so far with 0-0 draws. Lets hope that the remaining games will be more interesting and that this is not a sign of things to come

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Tim,

    In light of Brazil being held to a 0-0 draw against Venezuala, do you think Lucas Leiva and Ramires are the best Brazil can hope for in central midfield?

    Are there other central midfielders in Brazil, particularly from the under-23, under-20 and under-17 ranks, who are capable of passing the ball well and playing with creativity and invention?

    Like you, I hope Brazil has moved on from the Gilberto Silva era and starts to develop players in centre midfield who create and pass the ball well.

  • Comment number 7.

    #4: I don't expect much from Messi in this tournament as he is not supported by the persons you listed. He is good player no doubt but his stock is over hyped i am afraid. He won't manage a goal

  • Comment number 8.

    Maybe Neymar will stay at Santos for his whole career. Didn't do Pele any harm. And there is a lot more money in the Brazilian game now so they could afford big wages.

    What do you think Tim?

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Tim,

    There are many rumours linking Ricky Alvarez to Arsenal, I wondered if there is any validity and if he would actually be good enough for the Premier league? Plus, what are the chances of Arsenal being able to sell Denilson? There doesn't seem to be a great deal of interest in him.

    Thanks for a tremendous blog as usual.

  • Comment number 10.


    Behave! Hes the best player in the world by a mile. The point is that he operates in the final 3rd, completely off the leash at barca and the result is he destroys teams and can do that because the midfield is controlled for him. He hasnt got that control in Argentina so he must drop deeper in instigate attacks. Th-ergo, he is far less effective.

    It has zero to do with his talent. He is undeniably the worlds greatest player. Its not even close.

  • Comment number 11.

    10. I agree with Joan, that 'tippy-tappy nonsense' has absolutely no end product and will get Messi and Barcelona nowhere. :D Of course Messi is the greatest player in the world, but even the greatest players need a team that can support them. He doesn't have that when in La Albiceleste shirt.

    I'm really looking forward to tonight's game with Germany. The great thing about the U17 tournaments is because these kids have yet to make it to the first team, the coach doesn't have to fight the likes of Wenger and Fergie to make them honour a call-up. I think it's a crying shame that the club coaches obstruct boys like Wilshire and Morrison from taking part in tournaments such as these. It's valuable experience and success breeds success.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Tim,
    perhaps you haven't given both Bolivia and Venezuela enough credit for their respective displays against Argentina and Brazil ? Whilst undoubtedly Brazil and Argentina are capable of much better, the 2 minnows set out with a game plan, implemented it and it could be argued both will have thought they could have gotten the wins from the two matches.

  • Comment number 13.

    11. Just realised it wasn't Joan who commented on 7! My apologies for the sarcastic reply to non-existent slight.

  • Comment number 14.

    Argentina play too defensive. In my opinion a midfield of Mascherano, Banega and Gago is not attacking enough. If you are trying to play like Barcelona you need a forward thinking midfielder. Mascherano can play the Busquets role, Banega can play the Xavi role and I think Pastore is the closest they have for Iniesta.

    A midfield of Mascherano, Banega and Pastore is much more attacking and still balanced defensively.

  • Comment number 15.

    My 9yo nipper chose to go to bed instead of watching the 2nd half of Brazil v Venezuela.

    Says it all about the game really.

  • Comment number 16.

    Why the lack of coverage from the BBC website of the Copa America? I know the Beeb has some TV rights to Women's World Cup so inevitably they'll focus on that but this blog is the only reference to the Copa America I can find. It's not even in the "results" section.

  • Comment number 17.

    I watched my first ever U17 World Cup Match last night - the last 16 game between England and Argentina. There was the obvious shock of England winning a penalty shoot out in a tournament but what struck me more, as I watched through "3 Lions tinted" spectacles - there wasn't the usual embarrassing gulf in class, technique and ball retention we see so often with the senior team. We had significantly better possession than Argentina - unheard of at the senior level, against any half decent footballing nation.
    The nagging question in the back of my mind is why, if our U17s can compete technically with Argentina, what goes wrong as their careers progress? I can't help thinking that if the same teams met up again in four or five years time, the gulf in class will have developed, as normal.
    Paul Knights

    I sometimes think this so-called gulf in technique is exaggerated, whenever England fail to achieve what people think they will or should do i.e win a tournament

    I mean sure, England were awful at the 2010 World Cup, the U-21s were unimpressive in this year's U-21 tournament and we didn't qualify for Euro 2008. But in 2009, our U-21s got to the final against Germany. We've got to the quarter finals of the World Cup in 2002 and 2006. We've had ups and downs at all levels of football really.

    Obviously we're not the best in the world. But there's a big difference between not being one of the world's very best international sides and being incompetent at football. In the post-match fallout, people seem to overreact. It's also worth mentioning that an U-17 team have nothing like the same kind of media expectation and spotlight on them.

    Of course, England is nowhere near Spain/Barcelona right now- but the point is they are WAY AHEAD of everyone else too. I wonder what the english public and media would make of England drawing with Venezuela and Bolivia. Of course, Brazil and Argentina's footballers are coming into the tournament on the back of long hard European season in physically demanding leagues...which is usually what England footballers are doing when they arrive at the World Cup and Euros.

  • Comment number 18.

    #6 Do they need to play midfielders that young? Sandro, Hernanes, Coutinho, Ganso, Anderson, Costa - I'd pick them over Lucas and Denilson. I've mixed feeling over Ramires, it's difficult to work out where he's best utilised...

  • Comment number 19.

    At 10:52 4th Jul 2011, Dr Wang wrote:

    #6 Do they need to play midfielders that young? Sandro, Hernanes, Coutinho, Ganso, Anderson, Costa - I'd pick them over Lucas and Denilson. I've mixed feeling over Ramires, it's difficult to work out where he's best utilised...

    Completely agree. I actually think right midfield is Ramires' best position.

    Lucas is a very average player, not a fitting successor to Brazilian midfield greats of the past.

    I think Sandro is the heir to the Mauro Silva/Mazinho type.

    Hernanes and Ganso are very gifted and can play the killer pass, and score goals. I've liked Hernanes for a long time and he had an excellent season with Lazio last year. Anderson has stagnated at Man Utd but probably had the biggest potential of all of them, if he can progress again he would be an interesting choice for Brazil's midfield too.

  • Comment number 20.

    Glad to see other people rate Sandro so highly. He's really improved this last year, and I get the feeling that if the Copa America were to be held a year from now, he'd be right at the heart of the Brazilian midfield.

    @19: I agree that Anderson has plateau'd at Man Utd, but I'm not sure what he could do about that. Where do you go to improve after a regular first team spot for one of the greatest clubs in the world?

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Tim. 1st time poster. Love your blogs.

    I have watched all the games so far, and Argentina and Brazil have been dissappointing. Ganso was anonymous last night. If that is Brazil's no.10, then they should be worried. The best player on show so far has been Marcelo Estigarribia of Paraguay. Do you know much about him or rate him?

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi Tim,

    There are many rumours linking Nasri to City, I wondered if there is any validity and if he would actually be good enough for the City? Plus, what are the chances of City being able to sell Jo and Santa Cruz? There doesn't seem to be a great deal of interest in them.

    Thanks for a tremendous blog as usual.

  • Comment number 23.

    Tim, is it true that this is fella they call 'the cat' will be the star of this years tournament? i found a video of him, its as if he's some kind of jack in a box type, always popping out with some magic:

  • Comment number 24.

    Hey Tim,
    Why does this tournament, a continental championship, seemingly reduce its credibility by inviting nations outwith South America to compete? I understand Mexico and Costa Rica share much of the Latin American culture, but they're North American nations. Costa Rica's only there as a replacement for Japan, and Mexico has just won the CONCACAF Gold Cup. It's highly unlikely they'll win the Copa, but you could theoretically have a scenario where a nation holds two continental trophys (even though I know that if that unlikely event were to happen the highest ranking South American nation would be dubbed continental champion). I could understand the reasoning behind lesser continental competitions, like the Gold Cup, including glamerious invitees to boost interest, but in a continent which contains some of the best national teams on the planet, it seems highly unnecessary, and I think cheapens the competition. You could never invisage anyone being 'invited' to the Euros...

  • Comment number 25.

    "Firstly, Argentina have no great tradition at Under-17 level (in contrast with Under-20)."

    Don't we play too much age group football? I mean there is so much of it about that it's killing players like Jack Wilshire that are having to play full internationals and then in the summer play age-group continental competions and then a full programme afterwards and now the Oympics - something has to give and I think if football is going to be a proper Olympic sport then why not make it fully age-group e.g. U-20/1 rather than U-23 and make it the unofficial age-group world cup. The the regional age-group competions can be the qualifiers for it.

  • Comment number 26.

    'Bolivia and Venezuela made a powerful declaration of the current strength in depth of the South American national teams.'

    Really? Does it not just show that Brazil and Argentina are far weaker than they used to be?

    No longer do Brazil have world beaters like they had in the early 2000's! Despite having talent the likes of Ganso, Neymar, Robinho and Pato are far from being as good as the great Brazilians who dominated football in the early 2000's (Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo etc.).

    Argentina can also be found to be lacking. Their defence is very weak (at best), no longer do they have a Roberto Ayala to dominate the defence.Their weak defence is possibly why they have decided to play Cambiasso, Mascherano and Banega in midfield, all defensive midfielders!...this completely contradicting the 'Barcelona' style of football they supposedly intend to play, leaving them with somewhat of an identity crisis!

    Saying this, teams such as Chile and Uruguay definitely seem to have improved maybe making the tournament a 4 horse race (no longer 2) but as for the strength of the rest of the continent im not so sure!

  • Comment number 27.

    25. I have to disagree with you. Jack Wilshere is a great example of a player that could learn a lot from going to Colombia this summer. It would give him experience of playing big international tournaments which could prove very useful later on in his career. It would also help him benchmark against the rest of the world's young talent. It's helped many stars before him such as Mascherano, who from his performances at U20 level went on to receive a full cap before even playing for River's first team. Other nations such as Germany and Spain take these tournaments very seriously and it seems to be working for them...

  • Comment number 28.

    I think you're right, the gulf in class is smaller than people think, it is just that England under perform - when was the last time England upset the odds against a biiger team? Then think back to how many times in only the last few years when a lesser team has come and beaten us or at least held us to a very dissappointing draw... Due to the greater pressure on the senior team? I don't know.
    Anyway, how has this topic come up on a blog about south american football...

    I agree with another previous poster, there should be more on the bbc website about this, at least have some results on it!

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi Tim, do you think Javier Pastore is a little over-rated by Palermo? He seems to be carrying a lofty fee right now. Is he worth all the hype? It seems to be me transfer prices for future South American youth has sky rocketed lately (Neymar, Pastore, Lavezzi, Cavani) - what do you think

  • Comment number 30.

    As in all these tournaments, the bigger teams look unimpressive at the start and invariably still go all the way.
    I think the biggest subject in this Copa will be how Messi does, especially playing at home. He is without doubt the best player on the planet, but only in a Barcelona shirt. Very soon he must show the same in the shirt of Argentina. It is not reasonable to say he doesn't have the same players around him as at the Nou Camp, surely that would be the same as saying he's only good because of others?
    He is inevitably compared to Maradonna, and he certainly didn't have great players around him for club or country. If Messi doesn't perform in this tournament then he will drop down any all-time best list, as it is, most Argentinians seem to have more enthusiasm for Tevez rather than Messi which is a comment on how Messi has failed to shine in blue and white.
    This Copa certainly isn't his last chance, he may single handedly win the big one 3 years from now, but he needs to show his home support how good he really is, and do it now.

  • Comment number 31.

    I have a comment on the second question. African teams also perform well in the lower age categories, and even the Olympics, only to disappear after the Olympic age category. Is this something to do with mentality or what?

  • Comment number 32.

    While Brazil and Argentina might not be at the crest of their waves, I think some peope are still in the post war era where England would beat the likes of Malta, Luxembourg, Cyprus etc, 5-0, 7-0, and 5-0 respectively. While some of these countries might not still be worldbeaters, they at least know how to make it more difficult to get beaten these days.

    And I agree with #27, SlovakIron, and Tim has recently blogged on this subject, and I hate to continue to harp on about it, countries like Japan are showing the benefits of being hungry for the various age group competitions and all their teams appearing to play with a common football philosophy. Their women are looking impressive in the current World Cup, the U-17s are looking good in Mexico, they aren't in Colombia for the U-20s, but the televising of the U-23's Olympic qualifier against Kuwait last month shows how serious they take all the levels. The results were there for all to see in South Africa last year.

    And I agree with Vox Populii, a lot of the criticism of England is over the top. We're not the best, but neither are we completely inept. We're usually there or there abouts for the QFs in senior tournaments, the U-21s have been closer, the U-17s are a couple of games away from the World Cup Final in Mexico, we have a team in Colombia for the U-20s, and the women are still there in Germany. I don't remember us having such representation before.

    I'll believe it when I see it, but hopefully the changes Glenn Hoddle and Gareth Southgate have talked about will firstly happen, and then bear fruit, to take us to a higher level.

  • Comment number 33.

    Speaking of Barcelona, Messi proved once again why he CANT be considered the best player ever.

    He has to prove himself OUTSIDE of Barcelona, be it on the Argentina national team, or on another club.

    When outside of Barcelona, several players simply DO NOT deliver the goods. Messi is one of them. Daniel Alves is another.

    I am yet to see a GOOD Daniel Alves match with the Seleção. He is usually median at best... sometimes, he is horrible. And he was indeed horrible in the match against Venezuela. Truth be told however, Robinho and Ramirez were much worse.

    Ramirez had ONE good moment in the game, with a pass to Neymar that almost resulted in a goal. All the rest of the game he was incredibly poor, missing 1 meter passes and giving away possession to counters.

    Lucas Leiva was the opposite. He had ONE bad moment where he gave away possession which resulted in a counter. All the rest of the game he was VERY good.

    Yes, I think we can demand more of Ganso, Neymar and some others. But a bigger part of the blame should fall on the players who played MUCH below standart and would miss almost all their passes and give away possession, and these were Ramires, Daniel Alves and Robinho.

  • Comment number 34.

    Good morning Tim, my first time on the boards.

    The "Seleção" were too predictable, resulting in the Venezuelans being able to blot them out. I agree with your comments about Pato being somewhat ineffective in the box, and also Ganso's role in midfield. He certainly has the talent to take control, but his long layoff did show a wee bit.

    Whilst not being the biggest fan of Elano, his inclusion may have freed up Ganso and Dani Alves to set things up more for the attack. Robinho was ineffective as he has been for a while, and I can't really understand why Fred was included in the squad. Lack of alternatives?

    The ladies's match against Norway was a lot more entertaining, and Marta's left-footed goal was pure class.

    I don't know about you, but I feel the Argentinians have lost their triangular-passing skills, which they were demonstrating a long time before Barcelona took over the mantle.

    Enjoy reading your blogs, which put the other Beeb ones to shame.

  • Comment number 35.

    I’m just hoping its a case of stage fright, because the standard of the play in the Copa has been worryingly average in the opening matches; lacking the skill and flair normally associated with this competition.

    And talk about having my expectations shattered as far as Brazil are concerned. When Menezes took over and looking at the new generation, I really had high hopes Brazil were on the right path for 2014. But Judging by the standard of play yesterday, they have a real rocky road ahead. Admittedly, its only the opening match and they did show good work-rate and commitment. But there’s no getting away from the fact that they were painfully slow in possession; with Lúcio in particular, guilty of consistently slowing things down to walking pace when bring the ball out of the back. Meanwhile, the attack had no structure, no collective plan; relying instead on individuality. And as for Ganso, if he’s the new Zidane, than I’m the Pope! And although I don’t doubt his vision for a defence splitting pass, that aside, he was woeful! A real passenger for the team. And I must say, some of your earlier doubts Tim; about his ability to cope with the tighter marking of international football; seem well placed. What I look for in a playmaker, as well as what you mentioned Tim, (about the ability to know when to keep the ball moving and when to pick that killer ball) is someone who consistently seeks out possession if he’s not seeing enough of the play. But Ganso was like a statue; and when he did get on the ball, his decision making was slow and his lack of mobility telling.

    Sadly for Brazil, where once they had the likes of Pelé, Tostão and Jairzinho, now they have Neymar, Pato and Robinho. Instead of a Zico, Sócrates or Falcão, its Ganso, Lucas and Ramires. Simply put, there’s no comparison between past and present. Dani Alves aside, I can’t think of a single Brazilian player who would make the Spanish national team. What I’m seeing from Brazil now, is what I’ve been seeing from them for the past few years: nothing special.

  • Comment number 36.

    @Peles2feet: I am not that convinced that spanish players are that good. They are slaves to their system of play. Just like Messi and Daniel Alves are at Barcelona!

    when out of that system, they are good players, but not that special. Thats why the spanish team has most of the players playing together at their clubs. They already know each other, which is fundaental to their playing style.

    put Daniel Alves inside the spanish team, playing like he does in Barcelona, and you will be raving about him. Outside of Barcelona/spanish team, he is an average player only.

    take several of the spanish players out of Barcelona/Spain and many will remain good, others will be only average. Many wouldnt make the Brazil team!

    dont forget that Fernando Torres is at the spanish team, and the BRAZILIAN Marcos Senna was representing Spain until not long ago.

  • Comment number 37.

    @24 - Spot on about Mexico and Costa Rica

    Down to TV rights = cash?

  • Comment number 38.

    Tim, I think you are spot-on with this observation. One of things I've admired about the recent Barcelona side is how their players--all of them--balance a sense of urgency with patience. Other top sides they play against seem out-of-balance in this respect. At times, other top sides (ManU, Bayern, Inter, Real) find this balance and tear opponents apart, but Barca seem to have it so easily. They understand that playing football isn't about the occasional highlight, but the other 90% of the game, which is simple and intelligent. Have you ever noticed how most England internationals look annoyed when "forced" to play a simple pass? It makes me wonder if they love fame more than the game. The other two qualities Barca have that other teams lack is that they are all so tactically aware--their movement off-the-ball is such that anyone with the ball has several good options. I can't say that about any other team...maybe the Dutch National Team from the 70's? Finally, Barca's players work very hard for each other all over the field, not just in the penalty areas. It's common to see Busquets, Pedro, etc. bust a gut so Messi or Xavi can play a five-yard pass. You don't see that at the Copa or in the EPL for that matter, except from a few players.

  • Comment number 39.

    @Bayern Ultra: that is not a question about the players themselves, about about Barça´s style. The same tactically aware players from Barça, are less tactically aware and play different style of football when they move to other teams. Players who were NOT tactically aware elsewhere, become such in Barça.

    and again, two good examples are Messi and Daniel Alves.

  • Comment number 40.

    Saw the Argentina and Brazil games. I think Batista should start Aguero and Di Maria the next game. I believe both of them can help Messi to play at a level close to his Barcelona standard. For Brazil, Ganso better forget this game quickly. His performance was laughable given the hype surrounding him, I can't recall a Brazilian creative midfielder giving away the ball so many times in a game. Neymar was ok, saw flashes of his potential for greatness at the international level. Dani Alves was the best player for Brazil in my opinion. This Brazil team really is a work in progress for 2014. Full credit to Bolivia and Venezuela for the massive improvements they have made. The days of Brazil/Argentina 6 Venezuela/Bolivia 0 are long gone. As one Brazilian coach said (Dunga or Perreira, I can't remember) "there are no pushovers or easy opponents in International football anymore".

  • Comment number 41.

    I watched both matches and I don't think Bolivia or Venezuela played any good. Don't forget Venezuela never qualified for a World Cup. I don't think you could say it shows the strenght of depth of South America if a team that never qualified for a World Cup drew with Brazil, otherwise you could say the same too when Portugal drew against Malta. That's just rubbish. Both argentina and brazil are way underperforming. That's also the reason why neither of 'm passed the QF since 2002.

    They need to step up massively. That said, they had the chances and both could've won their matches.

  • Comment number 42.

    How can Bolivias 0-0 draw against Argentina be regarded as a sign of the improvement of the smaller national teams when in the qualifiers for last years World Cup, Bolivia thrashed Argentina 6-1, with Messi, Tevez etc playing. Surely Bolivia must be disappointed to be held to a draw.

  • Comment number 43.

    @18 and @19: I think you're underrating Lucas Leiva, completely. Lucas has had a great season at Liverpool, where he recently won the Liverpool player of the year award, with full merits. He's a very talented midfielder who isn't, and I emphasize this,

  • Comment number 44.

    I agree with Brasil being better with a target man, but Fred for me isnt the man. I find it strange that he is even playing at international level. Sure the Flu man has a decent track record in the league but his style of play is almost English like.

    I thought Brasil were just too confident in the intial stages and when after 30 mins it wasnt going their way ran out of ideas. Ok it wasnt as bad as under Dunga, but not the change the people have been asking for.

  • Comment number 45.

    Some of the comparisons here are a little unfair. Has Messi really been as bad in an Argentine shirt as some of the posters here suggest? Any apathy towards him from the Argentine fans is more to do with them feeling that he is almost a Catalan rather than due to poor performances!

    Also Maradona was the greatest ever, we will never see another like him in our lifetimes. But and it's a big but, he did not win anything single handedly. Football is a teamsport and as great as Maradona was he had a talented supporting cast. At Napoli at various points he had teamates as talented as Giordano, Careca, Alemao, Ferrara, a young apprentice in Zola! Etc. For Argentina in 86 he had Valdano, Ruggeri, Burruchagga etc. What is more important is that Maradona was always the first to credit the players around him.

    The criticism of Lucas is also unfair, he is the worker which allows the more creative players to play.

    I also would like to thank Tim for reporting on this event when so many in England are totally ignoring it. When woman's football which is at best Sunday league standard, gets more coverage on the BBC than the Copa America which includes some of the greatest players in the World, then it is another example of political correctness gone mad!

  • Comment number 46.

    People say Messi isn't the best in the world because of 1 match.
    He hasn't played well but who is the best player?
    C. Ronaldo, and his amazing championship winning performances for Protugal.
    Rooney ? Ibrahimovic, Kaka??
    Please don't mention Pele, Maradona or all those that have retired.
    I am talking about current players.
    I watch my old football dvds if I want to watch past history.

    I assume nobody in this world is the best player in the world because in fairness there never is an outstanding international player who is consistent and wins International tournaments on his own. Team game anybody?

    It hasn't been the greatest start to the tournament in terms of goals.
    Hopefully it will shine later on.

  • Comment number 47.

    To address several comments about the reason for inviting two coutries to the Copa...

    It must be because of the inpracticability of holding the tournament with only 10 countries. 12 teams allow for a quarterfinal phase of 8 teams. It would be somewhat silly in a 10 team tourney to have two groups of five with the top 4 advancing, and a bit too drastic/short to have just the top 2 advancing right into semifinals.

    I don't think CONMEBOL should have settled for two lousy B strength CONCACAF teams of Mexico and Costa Rica. CONMEBOL should have the clout to secure another confederation's champion for the two spots. I'm sure the full strength team of at least two of the following could have been had: Egypt, Spain, Japan (they were set to come before disaster), New Zealand, or Mexico. Mexico sending an experimental youth side should be seen as a slap in the face by CONMEBOL. I'm surprised that USA doesn't see the value in trying to get in the Copa every time. It will go a long way towards getting to the next level. They have been there a few times, but they should supplant Mexico as the fixed invitee.

    To address Bolivia and Venezuela and the general parity in South America...

    Bolivia and Venezuela may not be the stongest teams around, but they are seeing the fruits of a long term process and trend from the last several years. They know their strengths and limitations. Psychologically, they have the belief they can get the result and don't settle for the "play not to lose" or "dont get embarassed" mentality. They play hard and know they have nothing to lose because nobody but themselves expects anything from them. Playing without the burden of expectations and not having the minutiae of every move scrutinized and second guessed (unlike Brasil and Argentina) allows Bolivia and Venezuela to succeed little by little. "El futbol es de hombres, no de nombres."

  • Comment number 48.

    As per usual with the hype-infatuated media, average performances are followed by a littany of handwringing and teethgnashing about how the tournament is now "up for anyone to win" and that the top performers's days are numbered.

    Then, lo and behold, as we move towards the latter stages, the so-called upstarts get pushed aside and we invariably end up with semi-finals with the top nations contending once again.

    To suggest that Argentina and Brazil might be on the wane is just silly. I have seen nothing from Ecuador, Paraguay, or Venezuela that suggests we have any upsets in the making. in fact, I thought the Ecuador - Paraguay game was plain awful and reminded me of two Championship strugglers trying to get 3 points.

  • Comment number 49.

    Let's not get too over exited about the U17. I am an expat in the US and they show it on ESPN 3 (online) and I have watched most of the matches. At this level it seems much closer between teams than later on (Uzbekistan going to the last 16 for instance) and one thing I have noticed is the almost total lack or marking in defense. So teams get a lot of chances. I thought Japan should have beaten Brazil last night night but they lost 3-2 after being 3-0 down after having most of the possession. Argentina was a disappointment, outplayed by France. England has been pretty good although they drew with Canada. Germany and Mexico have been the best teams this far but as everyone knows starting a tournament very good does not normally mean you go on and win the tournament. Mexico on home ground is my favorite to nick it but of the other teams left I give England an equally good chance to win it.

    With regards to Copa America it has started as many WC matches with the main 2 favorites being so so and while they were better than their opponents with some luck Bolivia could have won it. Brazil's 2nd half was really poor.

    I also agree with another poster about the invitations to non south American nations do devalue the tournament.

  • Comment number 50.

    For me, this latest 2011 Copa has been boring so far with 0-0 draws. Lets hope that the remaining next games will be more interesting and that this is not a sign of things to come.regards ,

  • Comment number 51.

    #24. Why does this tournament, a continental championship, seemingly reduce its credibility by inviting nations outwith South America to compete?

    Mexico is there largely for economic reasons. They have one of the biggest economies in the Americas and their presence pulls in many sponsors.

    I wonder if their participation might lead some to consider merging CONMEBOL & CONCACAF... It's somewht strange that they send teams to participate in South American tournaments (at both national team & club level), yet we are struggling to get a British football team organised for a one-off appearance at the Olympics.

  • Comment number 52.

    I posted earlier so I'll keep this brief. If people keep bringing up Barcelona as a reference point for either Spain or Argentina I'll eat my hat. I think it's incredibly important these teams don't try and be copycats and set about defining their own style. Modern players are adaptable and you don't have to play like the Catalans to win something. Great team they are, they are not the be all and end all of modern football.

  • Comment number 53.

    Slightly off-topic, but as I was previously an avid spectator of the sublime football played by the Chileans under Bielsa, I was wondering if you could offer any insight on to how the team is faring under Borghi and their chances of success at this year's Copa.

  • Comment number 54.

    @45 JamTay1

    No, Messi has not been BAD in Argentina shirt. I never said that. But he doesnt shine. FAR FROM IT. He is a good player, but not outstanding, as you would expect from what many people are PREMATURELY considering the best player ever.

    The apathy from the Argentines are partly because of the catalan thing, but partly because he simply doesnt perform at the national side what they do expect of him to perform, considering SO MANY people, wrongly, consider him the best ever. So yes, it IS partly because of average (not poor) performances.

    Maradona was not the greatest ever as you said btw. That honor belongs to Pelé. Then Maradona. Then MAYBE, and only maybe, Messi.

    You point about Maradona having great team mates doesnt matter. He STILL was able to perform at excellent, almost godlike level, at DIFFERENT teams.

    Messi still havent done that. And dont tell me he doesnt have good team mates at the Argentine team. Maybe its a better team than Maradona had in 86.

    Barcelona players are slaves of the system used in Barça. The only place they can work that well is in BARÇA B, aka Spanish National Team.

    Many Barça fans rave about Daniel Alves. Ha! Tell me ONE good match he had for Brazil. There were some, ok, but far and few between.

  • Comment number 55.

    @46 Williedaho

    No, people wont call Messi the BEST PLAYER EVER, because not of one match, but because of his entire history with his national team.

    There is no doubt Messi is the best player in the world currently.

  • Comment number 56.

    I think English people are gloriously underestimating the quality of both Leiva and Ramires. Maybe it has to do with the fact that they are more similar to European players or African (in the case of Ramires) in their style of play. Maybe that's why blond girls are so appreciated in Brazil since they are so lacking.

    I notice that players that look good on the ball get a lot of praise in England, like Modric and Banega (he was getting huge man-love in redcafe, despite not deserving it). Since English players don't look so silky and smooth on the ball, they appreciate the players who do, to some extent even being unfair on other players.

    Lucas Leiva was the player who most stole balls in Enlgish Premier League this season, thats a statistic. Those statistics are hugely appreciated in Brazil, whilst in England it went unnoticed, he should be getting much more praise for doing that.

    Ramires has a very bad touch on the ball comparing to the history of the Seleção, but thats not what he's about. He covers more ground than anybody, steals the ball quite well, and carries it in a very very unique and quick way. He is a very exciting and unique player, definantely worth the 20m euros IMO.

    It's funny. I read all of the English forums and Ramires is probably one of the most "loved" in their forums right now, Lucas is defintately together with Suarez the one who gets more love in their forums, yet the fans from other teams bash them and disrespect them.

    Saying all of this, it's really weird why Sandro gets so much praise (Gilberto Silva did too.) Maybe because they are big and imposing the English like them, since they have some bizarre fetish with size, always wanting players to "bulk up" and neither Lucas and Ramires are large and strong.

  • Comment number 57.

    Tim/anyone watching,

    What are you observing regarding the fitness levels of the Copa America players, especially European-based players who have been going at it for months now? Lack of patience is sometimes due to fatigue.

  • Comment number 58.

    Good treatment of the way a region with fewer countries has to deal with setting up a tournament. Not much in the way of tv rights at stake in Costa Rica anyway! As for a "slap in the face," remember that CONCACAF just had its Gold Cup where the first team of both countries saw action. Nobody wants Mexico to win the thing anyway, not even the Mexicans.

    Nonetheless, payback might be enjoyed by the Costa Rican populace, after spending large amounts of money to see Argentina in the spanking new national stadium, only to have Messi and pretty much everybody else they'd ever heard of left on the bench in favor of up-and-comers. To top it off, Zanetti and a couple others took a few laps around the field after the game. That felt like a slap in the face.

  • Comment number 59.

    marcos senna,alone won the european cup for spain. Xavi is not even worth tying his shoelaces.
    How did brazil let him go? He was the man brazil required in place of melo+silva in the WC last time around. Actually melo+silva+kaka= marcos senna.
    He can be messi but never maradona.
    Theres a fine line between being genius and mad man,maradona was a genius mad man. Messi can't be and won't be. C.Ronaldo??= David beckham part II with lil more goals and the best dive.

  • Comment number 60.

    BBC doesn't even publish Copa America scores on its football results page WTF?

  • Comment number 61.

    How come there's no running commentary on the superb Chile Mexico match right now??? The Chileans were playing sublime foootball, and had the ball 95% of the time, but let in a header from the Mexicans before half time.

    To answer Adam_LFC's question, Chile under Borghi have been playing fantastic, albeit friendlies against Poland & Uruguay - both wins btw. But if this match against Mexico is anything to go by, he seems to have got into the player's heads an attacking form, strong defence. Sanchez has been awesome to watch. Reckon he'll definitely head to Barcelona.

  • Comment number 62.

    #44 - Re: Fred
    People here in Brazil believe the reason Fred is playing is because he shares the same agent with Mano Menezes - Carlos Leite.

    Fred, in our opinion, is worthless at that level. He can perform at club level. Playing for the Brazilian team is a stretch.

    Also, I believe, Mano Menezes will not be the coach for 2014. That task will be better handled by the competent Muricy Ramalho, who was offered the job to begin with but because of contractual obligations declined at that time. Mano is out of his depth.

  • Comment number 63.

    Chile looked very dominant up until they got to Mexico's penalty area. Apparently La Roja had 70% of the possession. But I worry that, just as in South Africa last year, problems finishing might cost them.

    As for Mexico, most people here (in Chile) feel they should be in the Copa America by right and don't really understand the separation of central America from south America, its all just Latinoamérica and the same continent to them.

  • Comment number 64.

    @31 Red Lion

    The problem with Africans not forfilling early potential was discussed on one of Piers Edwards blogs.
    There has been a big problem with age cheating in africa. A lot of births are not recorded and the with the poverty in their own countries a lot of Africans will lie about their age and try to impress scouts at tournaments in the hope of securing a european move and a better life. The other point that was brought up is, aside from age cheating, africans tend to physically mature quicker meaning they are physically stronger than their opposition at 15/16/17 yrs old. As the competition get older the physical advantage the Africans have is lesser as the competition "catch up".

  • Comment number 65.

    Hi Tim,

    great piece as ever. I just wanted to add a few words on the question Paul posted on U17's. I actually didn't catch the England v Argentina game, but I saw the Argies against the French on the opening day. Never in my whole life had I seen any Argentina team being so thoroughly dismantled, not even when Germans scored 4 against them last summer, not even when Colombia beat them 5-0 back in '93.
    For the first 45 minutes French kids cut through them at will, they created nearly a dozen chances and 0-3 was a flattering score for Blancocelesti. Les Bleus deserve a credit there for truly magnificent game (I am by no means a France fan, but I was amazed that 17-year-old's can play like that), but I guess that's someone else's field. Second half was even more painful for Argentinians, because their opponents were on cruise control, avoiding injuries and saving strength for the upcoming games, and yet they were not able to pose any threat at all. They seemed uninterested in the tournament, looked like they had never met, let alone played together ahead of that game, they seemed tactically inept and technically distinctly average, apart from a couple of guys who used their abilities for self-promotion and didn't cooperate at all.
    I guess this is just a problem with one generation, but I believe that this team has no technical or tactical advantage over the English kids whatsoever.
    Keep up!

  • Comment number 66.

    As #61 and 63 noted, Chile looked pretty good tonight in defeating Mexico's U22 team. The question is whether the win was due to the Chileans brilliance or because of the level of Mexico's U22 team? Remember not only is this an U22 team (with 5 overage additions) but 8 of their players, including many who likely would have started, were sent home after inviting some prostitutes up to their hotel when they were on a pre Copa America trip.

    Some nice passing and movement from the Chileans with Arturo Vidal and Mauricio Isla in particular having impressive games. Chile have had the best collective play so far and that is a big reason why they impressed. I thought Uruguay had some good moments of collective play too but they could not sustain that for the whole match against Peru (a 1-1 draw) as they tired towards the end of the match. Still the Uruguay v Chile matchup should be a good one. Like tonight's match versus Mexico that likely will be like another Chilean home game with many of their supporters making the short journey to western Argentina.

    I would not worry about either Argentina or Brazil each tying their opening game, rarely do teams which start tournaments off well end them well. Better to go as we say in Spanish, "de menos a mas," (from less to more).

    As for the overall lackluster start to the tournament, as a friend of mine pointed out, most of these players had several weeks off after their club seasons ended in Europe and South America and have only been training for a few weeks together, they will play themselves into better form as the tournament progresses.

    More Copa America discussion at the Soccer Futbol Forum:

  • Comment number 67.

    Hurm..I thought Brasil were just too confident in the intial stages and when after 30 mins it wasnt going their way ran out of ideas. Ok it wasnt as bad as under Dunga, but not the change the people have been asking for.

  • Comment number 68.

    33.At 13:46 4th Jul 2011, AcesHigh wrote:
    Speaking of Barcelona, Messi proved once again why he CANT be considered the best player ever.

    Hey AcesHigh, why do you keep SHOUTING!!? ;). I do agree with you, I don't think Messi can be judged until the end of his career. He is certainly the best player I've ever seen, being that I was only getting into football in the early nineties, I only saw the tail end of Diego. But....

    Messi is only 24. 24. What had Maradonna done at 24? Purely on a compariason of their respective developmental curves, In my opinion, it's only a matter of time before he overtakes Maradonna.

    He could never be better than Pelé though... ! That guy was a freak...fastest kid alive..!

  • Comment number 69.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 70.

    People who slate Lucas Leiva are blinkered United fans who have no clue as to what they are talking about. He has been absolutely vital in the Liverpool midfield for more than a season and a half and was easily player of the season last year. I watched the Brazil game and Lucas was one of the few who came out with credit for them. Anderson better than Lucas? Deluded.

    On the other hand, I'd prefer Sandro to Ramires as most people have already mentioned.

  • Comment number 71.

    I’m definitely in the camp of people who believe there's no such thing as the greatest player ever; just the best from each generation.

    As for Messi and Maradona; although these comparisons are inevitable, they are, however, wide of the mark. They are completely different personalities; Maradona is an extrovert, while Messi is shy, and this is reflected in the way they play. Messi needs to be supported by the group; protected and nurtured to succeed. As such, Messi never dominates games; he floats in and out of them; exploding into life every so often. This suits his character; to hide for the most part and then react when the team encourages him to play. Maradona on the other hand always wants to be the centre of attention; and this was reflected in his playing style. He was the dominant figure on the pitch; the one happy to put the team on his shoulders and accept responsibility.

    This for me is the main reason why Messi’s doesn't reproduce his club form at international level. Unlike Guardiola, Argentine coaches of the past few years - including Maradona himself - seem to of misjudged Messi and handled him the wrong way. They expect him to be the leader, to be Maradona, but the truth is he never will be; it's not in his nature.

    Lucas and Ramires are both decent players, but compared to Brazilian midfielders of the past, its like chalk and cheese. For those not old enough, imagine Xavi with the skill and flair of Ronaldinho. The death of the Brazilian ball-player has been one of the greatest tragedies in football.

  • Comment number 72.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 73.

    33. Don't know what game you were watching...#40 got it right. Alves was Brazil's best player, Ganso was a disaster. I think too that Brazil ran out of ideas pretty quickly.

  • Comment number 74.

    The problem with Argentina is that they still haven't been able to replace Riquelme. His importance to the NT is still severely underestimated by a lot of people.

  • Comment number 75.

    Why is Lucas Leiva in the national team when he can only just hold down a position in a mediocre Liverpool midfield. I don't understand what- in the past two premiership seasons- he has shown to the Brazilian coaches that merits a first team place. Surely Brazil has higher standards than Lucas?

  • Comment number 76.

    Leiva is a favourite of Menezes because he coached him back when Gremio made the final of the Copa Libertadores.

  • Comment number 77.

    Lucas leiva is like a typical English midfielder very good at 5 yard sideways passes, no dribbling ability no vision cant commit any opposition players not in Sandro's league in brazil squad. For England's Lucas read Jack Rodwell!

  • Comment number 78.

    @73: what? LMAO. I know what game I was watching... the game where Alves missed several passes and made several blunders... as he has been doing in all Brazil games. Take out your azulgrana glasses pal.

    Ganso was not very good... only his 2nd match after two/three months of injury. But he was better than Alves.

  • Comment number 79.

    I cannot understand all this 'Dunga-bashing'. Carlos Dunga, despite his pragmatic approach and playing style, made Brazil the number one footballing nation. He won the Copa America 2007, the Confederation Cup 2009, qualified in first position for SA 2010, beating uruguay and even Argentina away. Yes they lost in the QF 2010 against a cynical Holland team. They should have wrapped up the game in the first half with all the chances they had. Along the way they beat Chile in the 2nd round in style. Also beat Ivory Coast convincingly in the group phase.
    A lot is being made of Uruguay's progress to the semi finals but their route was a lot easier, beating South Korea and Ghana along the way. Even then they made hard work of it. Then they were beaten convincingly by the Dutch.
    The current Brazil team seems to lack cohesion and a proper strategy, yes they are preparing for 2014, but after a number of friendlies they should by now have a settled team. Mano Menezes is still struggling for ideas and personnel. At least Carlos Dunga knew what he was doing and had a clear plan of the players he was going to use.

  • Comment number 80.

    @68: well, I dont consider writing only specific words in capital as shouting. Have you ever seen anyone shouting only a few words in a sentence? I consider those capitals the same as if I put them in bold. Or underlined. Or if it was paper, a marker pen over them.

    I do agree Messi can surpass Maradona. But I learned to be patient and wait, unlike some people who hype everyone. When Ronaldinho was at Barça, I remember lots of people saying he was better than Pelé and Maradona already, and look what happened. Everybody changed their mind.

    What I already know is that I wont ever consider him the best ever if he fails to shine in any other team than Barça.

  • Comment number 81.

    @79 "...At least Carlos Dunga knew what he was doing and had a clear plan of the players he was going to use"

    Agree, and he was also very much aware of Brazil's limitations. They no longer had superstars like Romario or Ronaldo so he developed a very strong defense and lethal counterattack which worked very well, except for a single game last year. Sure, it wasn't attractive, but it was very effective.

    Now, Brazil are deluded into thinking they can go back to their 1970 or 1982 style but forget they don't have the players to do that.

    Argentina?, they haven't played as a team for years and it has showed in their failure to even compete with the best for a while now.

    Messi? way to mark him is to put him in an "Albiceleste" shirt.

    Unfortunately for South American teams, most if not all their players play in Europe, Mexico, etc so they struggle to show cohesion when they come together. Hopefully, as the tournament progresses, that'll improve.

  • Comment number 82.

    Well in my opinion Carlos Dunga let Brazil down badly. He never let them play to their full potential, in South Africa,

  • Comment number 83.

    Copa America coverage...
    A good blog, and some comfort to those of us despairing at the lack on the rest of the site.
    Chile have looked the bestteam so far, I'd say - an interesting outside bet?

  • Comment number 84.

    Oh, I heard that Spain were offered an invitational place this year - if only they had taken it, we might have had some coverage...

    Who might be likely to take up the invitations in future - and are they likely to ask Europeans again?

  • Comment number 85.

    I agree with those wanting to see Menezes drop Robinho against Paraguay to accommodate an extra attacking mid; not just because (as some on here have pointed out) it will help Ganso creatively, but because it would also allow Neymar to play as a 2nd striker, getting him off the left wing, where I felt he was too isolated against Venezuela. But going on Menezes latest press conference this seems unlikely.

    As for the bigger picture; I think the real issue lies with modern Brazilian coaches being such slaves to holding midfielders. I know it’s a formula that has served them well (especially in the 90s) and I can understand it’s logic, to accommodate attacking full-backs. But most top teams now play with attack minded full-backs and seem to get on perfectly well with just one holding mid. So Brazilian coaches obsession with playing 2 (or even 3 in Dunga’s case) seems out-dated and a route cause to Brazil’s creative problems.

    Listening to Menezes over the past year; talking about the need to play a more possession based game; it’s disappointing to see him sticking to such a tired formula and playing with 2 DM’s. I know some may argue that Ramires is slightly more offence minded than your average DM, but he’s a player who’s qualities lie with athleticism. And call me old fashioned, but I still believe any good midfielders main quality should be in their ability to pass the ball.

  • Comment number 86.

    It is interesting this talk of assumed inevitability of Neymar going to Europe. It is an assumption that good Brazilian players do this. However, do the economic boom here in Brazil - in sharp contrast to Europe's present position - and the rise in value of the real against the euro,this might not be so cut and dried a process. According to figures published in the media, earnings from domestic football are of quite significant amounts and growing. It may not prove worth while for a young Neymar to leave family, friends, culture and climate to go to rainy Chelsea or for a hugely successful cup winning side like Santos to sell him. I imagine thta they will at least hld out for more than 35 million.

  • Comment number 87.

    I'm also a Chile fan and am very excited to see them in this year's Copa. The team Bielsa created was underappreciated, I thought, at the World Cup. Sure, they lost to Spain, but they were the only team who took them on and got a good portion of the ball (before getting snowed under by cards which were mostly undeserved, I thought).

    Their style of play is one other teams should look at seriously. It's dynamic, exciting to watch and it's been very successful, though I think the main reason is that it's helped the players play as a team, with spirit. They have an almost Barca-like aggressiveness in closing down the other team. Now that Sanchezis maturing into a big star (who would be perfect for Barca, I think) they really have a chance to take the tournament--if they can ever figure out a way to beat Brazil, who's been their impossible team.

    I also think England isn't half as inept as they looked at the last World Cup. So much depends in a top level game between two sides more or less comparable in talent to a team's group psychology, tactics and luck.

    Barca's better because they're more of a team than anyone else, even more than the fact that they have so much talent. Barca's "player" in a sense, has six feet while others have two.

    I also have a hard time rating Messi with Maradona, simply because Maradona was even better as a playmaker than he was as a scorer, whereas central playmaker is not a role Messi has.


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