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Friday, 16 September 2011

Brazil and Argentina Play Out Sleepy Draw in Córdoba

Rarely can a match between these two most bitter of rivals have been so lacking in spectacle. "Superclázzzzzzzzico," punned Globo, with some reason; Argentina and Brazil sleepwalked their way through 90 goalless minutes in Córdoba. Working on the assumption, then, that one of the few things worse than a dull match is a lengthy article about a dull match, let's keep this brief...

Argentina 0-0 Brazil
With only domestic-based players at his disposal, Mano Menezes fielded a relatively inexperienced lineup. Botafogo 'keeper Jefferson got the nod in goal, whilst Vasco's imperious centreback Dedé earnt a first start for the seleção. The surprise selection was that of Renato Abreu, who, by my reckoning, worked his way into the squad by virtue of being the fourth-best midfielder at Flamengo. Hmm. Only Brazil's attack was truly bristling with international experience; Ronaldinho Gaúcho again started alongside Neymar and Leandro Damião.

Ronaldinho probes for an opening in the Argentina backline.

The latter spurned Brazil's best chance of the first half, hitting the outside of the post when it looked far easier to score. The opportunity was created by some magical work from Neymar; the Santos forward controlled a long ball and feinted his way past two defenders before squaring for Damião. It was a rare moment of quality from the seleção, who, in the absence of a true playmaker, looked rather short of fluency for much of the game. Argentina, meanwhile, did threaten in short bursts, only to be undone by lacklustre finishing. Wigan Athletic fans will know what I'm talking about.

Little changed after the interval. Oscar and Casemiro, heroes of the Brazil U20 side's World Cup triumph, were thrown on for a taste of senior action, and gave a decent account of themselves. Efforts on goal, however, were few and far between. Ronaldinho, revelling in his role as dead ball don, tested Agustín Orión with a series of free-kicks, but couldn't make the difference in open play. Neymar, for all his energy, was similarly unproductive.

The moment of the match arrived with 15 minutes to go, and was greeted with elation by Brazilian observers. Seemingly stranded outside the Argentina penalty area, Leandro Damião produced a jaw-dropping lambreta (or rainbow kick, as I believe the FIFA generation would label it), leaving Emiliano Papa rooted to the spot. Damião then sought to lob Orión, only to see his delicate effort come back off the far post. Marvellous feet for a big man, as the cliché goes. Papa, incidentally, later joked that he "wanted to kill" the Internacional striker. He'd have to get within fifty yards of him first.

(Photo credit; Mowa Press.)

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