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Last Updated: Monday, 26 July, 2004, 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK
Argentina win friends
By Tim Vickery

Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa
Bielsa has put together an impressive Argentine side
After so long without a title it will come as no consolation.

But although Argentina lost the Copa America their performance will have won them friends all around the world.

Brazil against Argentina is a match that brings out all kind of lazy cliches - usually about the snarling gang of thugs versus the samba stars.

The final of the Copa America showed how useless and dated these stereotypes have become after Brazil ran out winners in a penalty shoot-out.

Anyone who was expecting the stereotypical game must have been very surprised by what happened on Sunday.

But the pattern of the match was very similar to the recent World Cup qualifier in Belo Horizonte when Argentina played most of the football and Brazil won 3-1.

Argentina under coach Marcelo Bielsa are a delight to watch - the side is full of attacking ambition and invention.

In technical terms - in terms of creating space on the field by passing and moving at pace - they are well in front of Brazil.

But in terms of physical strength there is no contest. Brazil are a tall, strong side, a point underlined by both of their goals in Lima.

Argentina lack a striker who can score goals from nothing with a burst of powerful acceleration - such as that used by Ronaldo to win three penalties in the recent World Cup qualifier.

And they lack a striker with the strength to spin and score a goal like Brazilian Adriano's dramatic injury-time equaliser.

Then there was the glancing header of the giant Luisao that gave Brazil their first-half equaliser.

It is not the type of goal traditionally associated with Brazilian football but as their players get taller it is becoming increasingly important.

It is worth noting that when Brazil won the World Youth Cup last year the important goals were all headers from corners.

Some of the old guard in the Brazilian game, such as Romario, argue that the obsession with physical preparation has gone too far and that progress has been made to the detriment of traditional skills.

The lack of imagination of their midfield play tends to support such a view but while they keep piling up the titles there is little incentive to change.

After failing to deliver yet again there is plenty of incentive for Argentina to change.

I, for one, hope they don't.

Football needs coaches like Marcelo Bielsa with their commitment to attack.

Against Brazil his side came second but they deserved better.





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