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Last Updated: Monday, 16 July 2007, 08:19 GMT 09:19 UK
Tim Vickery column
The Brazil squad celebrate their Copa America triumph

Tim Vickery
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

The romantics met the pragmatists in the final of the Copa America.

Brazil's 3-0 win means that it was a resounding triumph for the pragmatists.

Argentina coach Alfio Basile says again and again that he is not simply interested in winning - it matters to him how the victory is achieved.

His critics would argue that he favours 1940s football, but all the way through the tournament right up until the final his side were looking good value in the 21st century.

Brazil's players have been built for explosion... quick breaks replaced the intricate passing moves of old

Their patient passing game was a joy to watch, tiring the opponents and then turning on the talent in the second half.

But it failed to spark against Brazil. And it didn't work for the very reasons that led to Brazil abandoning such a style in the 1980s.

Argentina were outdone because they were unable to cope with the physical power and the speed on the counter-attack of the Brazilian side - weapons that were used against Brazil in the past, but now work firmly in their favour.

Brazilian football was thrown into confusion by the great Holland side of 1974. The Dutch are remembered for their constant inter-changing of positions, but they also put enormous pressure on the opposition when they wanted the ball back.

Brazil tried to copy them in 1978 and when that didn't work, they tried to turn the clock back under their last romantic coach, Tele Santana, in 1982 and 1986.

The failure of Santana's side left deep scars. Current coach Dunga has referred to them as "specialists in losing."

The conclusion was drawn that the physical and tactical development of the game made it much more difficult for a team to play its way through packed defences as Brazil had done in the past.

Scared of the physical strength of the Europeans, the Brazilians set out to match it. Nowadays they claim their physical preparation specialists are the best in the world. Brazilian players have become bigger and stronger.

When they finally faced Germany in a World Cup match, in the 2002 final, they did so at no physical disadvantage. On Sunday in Maracaibo they won the key 50-50 balls, especially the one in which Julio Baptista was able to free Daniel Alves to cross for the vital second goal.

Juan Roman Riquelme
Riquelme shows his frustration on a bad night for Argentina

Brazil's players have been built for explosion and the style of play reflected this. Quick breaks replaced the intricate passing moves of old.

Brazil had five shots to Argentina's eight and lost the corner count eight to four, but they won the game because the pace of their counter-attack was too much for the Argentina defence.

And because at the other end Brazil were able to hold Argentina with a midfield based more on lung power than finesse.

Defence and midfield stayed compact, Mineiro and Josue kept snapping away, and Argentina were stopped by fair means, and by foul.

Brazil's total of 37 fouls was high, but the objective was achieved. The niggling stoppages prevented Argentina from building up their rhythm.

But pragmatic does not necessarily mean defensive - as arch-pragmatist Dunga showed when injury meant he had to substitute Elano in the first half.

Brazil were already a goal up, and some coaches might have been tempted to bring on holding midfielder Fernando.

Instead Dunga introduced flying right-back Daniel Alves and played him on the right of midfield.

It was his pace on the counter that brought Brazil their second and third goals and puts another cup in their bulging trophy cabinet.


Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at

Having looked at the sublime footballing skills of Argentina in this year's Copa and the emergence of even more promising youngsters in the Under-20 World Cup in Canada, do you see Argentina being the team to beat in the next decade or so, provided Alfio Basile utilises the experience and youth well?
Shafkat Mahbub

A question that was sent before Sunday's final, but it opens up an interesting area - what do Argentina do now? The lack of titles is eating away, several of the side need to be replaced soon and they also have to convince themselves and their public that they have what it takes to win something.

The purists - I'll put myself among them - will be hoping they continue on current lines. They have some players coming through - passing midfielder Ever Banega, little striker Sergio Aguero - who fit into the current philosophy.

I do think they need more height and power - Racing Santander centre-back Ezequiel Garay could be a good long term bet, perhaps Gonzalo Higuain of Real Madrid can develop into Crespo's replacement up front, because I think a target man was also missed against Brazil.

I liked what I saw in Venezuela of Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago in the same midfield, so maybe that combination has a future.

I used to watch the Copa America to be able to spot a future Brazilian star and I was spoiled by the likes of Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho and Adriano. This year all I see is an average, boring team with an average, boring coach. What has happened to Brazil's famous conveyor belt of world-class players?
Marcus Chew, Ireland

Another one that was sent before the final! The talent is still there, but as the article above tries to explain, the collective end product is not as pleasing on the eye as it used to be.

The big hope for Brazilian central midfield is Lucas, now of Liverpool - who is big and strong, but also talented, and loves to burst forward.

And the best of all is 17-year-old striker Alexandre Pato, who has been touched by the hand of genius.

Brazil victorious in Copa America
16 Jul 07 |  Football


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