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Archives for October 2012

River Plate v Boca Juniors - where has the magic gone?

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Tim Vickery | 08:52 UK time, Monday, 29 October 2012

The biggest occasion in South American domestic club football was back on Sunday when River Plate met Boca Juniors in a league match for the first time in almost 18 months.

The big Buenos Aires derby is followed all over the continent for a number of reasons. One is the historic role played by Argentina in the consolidation of South American football. The British introduced the game to the South Cone. More than anyone else, the Argentines helped the spread of the game northwards. In terms of playing styles and fan culture, much of the continent takes its cue from Argentina.

The second reason is the content of the derby, the forces which are being represented. Both River and Boca began life in the working class docklands area of La Boca - literally 'the mouth' of the River Plate - where, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century immigrants poured in in their millions from Italy, Spain, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

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Brazil look on target without a number nine

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Tim Vickery | 10:10 UK time, Monday, 22 October 2012

"I was too busy scoring goals to learn how to play football," says Dario, a legendary figure in Brazilian football from the 1960s and 70s. A charismatic character, Dario invents phrases as easily as he used to put the ball in the net. "There's no such thing as an ugly goal," he once said. "Ugly is not scoring goals."

If both remarks sound a little defensive, it is easy enough to explain. Brazilian football has been gifted with so many artists - players capable of snapping their marker in two with a sway of the hips, wrong-footing the keeper and then sliding home - that a little prejudice sometimes persists about the centre forward. The target man number nine whose game is restricted to getting the ball over the line can be seen, at best, as the exponent of a minor art.

Since the Olympics, Brazil coach Mano Menezes has been working along the lines of doing away with this creature in his starting line-up. There was no specialist centre forward in the team that beat China last month, nor in the side that would have played three weeks ago in the abandoned match against Argentina.

The absence of a number nine opens space for an extra player to elaborate the moves. When it works it is very easy on the eye - the whole world drools at the pass-and-move game of Barcelona. But there are very few teams capable of playing their way through the opposition with the exuberant ease of Lionel Messi and company. And Leandro Damiao, Brazil's centre forward, seems to be developing well. He was top-scorer at London 2012.

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Venezuela profit without kicking a ball

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Tim Vickery | 11:16 UK time, Sunday, 14 October 2012

A gap has opened up as South America's World Cup qualification campaign reaches the halfway stage. Victories on Friday for Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador mean that three teams have pulled away from the pack.

But the round had another winner, who did not even take the field on Friday. It was sixth-placed Venezuela's turn to take a rest, and their position improved while they sat and watched as Uruguay and Chile, the teams above them, both lost.

Three rounds ago Chile were first and Uruguay were second. Now they seem to be in free-fall. On Friday all they managed to accomplish was further damage to their goal difference - and things could get still worse for them in Tuesday's 10th round.

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Argentina & Uruguay back on road to Brazil

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Tim Vickery | 11:01 UK time, Monday, 8 October 2012

The so-called 'super-classic of the Americas' descended into the farce that it probably deserved last week.

Argentina against Brazil is one of football's greatest rivalries.

But the occasion and its tradition are undermined when the matches are staged outside Fifa dates using only domestically based players - which in current conditions pits an understrength Brazil team against, at best, a C-strength Argentina side.

The idea might be more bearable without the hard sell - this is clearly not the 'super-classic' of anything at all. It looks more like a "product" cynically cooked up to fill TV schedules.

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Can Colombian football launder its past?

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Tim Vickery | 08:25 UK time, Monday, 1 October 2012

Veteran Colombian midfielder Gerardo Bedoya came up with something special for his record-breaking 41st sending off.

Playing for Santa Fe in the big Bogota derby against Millonarios, first, in full view of the referee, he flattened Jhonny Ramirez with an elbow.

The red card had been already brandished, but Bedoya was not finished. Before taking his leave, to his own subsequent mortification, he stuck a boot into the face of his prone opponent.

Some of the predecessors of Ramirez in the blue shirt of Millonarios are feeling similarly violated. Last week Felipe Gaitan, the club's new president, floated the idea of giving up the league titles won by Millonarios in 1987 and 88, the last two championship wins in their history. It has provoked a furious reaction from the coach and some of the players of that team. Elsewhere, though, the idea has met with a positive response, since the motives behind it are clearly noble.

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