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Argentina prove too lightweight for Brazil's power

July 16, 2007 10:20 IST
Brazil's disappointingly one-sided win over Argentina in the Copa America final was a victory for muscle over finesse and could prompt the losers to revert to a more physical, less entertaining, style.

Argentina have repeatedly won plaudits for their flowing, passing game at recent tournaments but, sadly for the purists, it has failed at the crucial moment.

At the 2004 Copa America under Marcelo Bielsa, Argentina played the best football throughout the tournament but lost on penalties to Brazil in the final.

In 2006, the Argentines, under Jose Pekerman, again won praise for their style, especially in the 6-0 World Cup drubbing of Serbia & Montenegro.

But that campaign also ended prematurely with a quarter-final penalty shootout defeat to hosts Germany.

This Copa America was no different.

Argentina delighted crowds and television audiences, scoring 16 goals in five games on the way to the final, but they were outdone in the final by the more powerful Brazilians.


Strikers Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez were repeatedly bundled off the ball

by Brazil's muscular defenders while playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme did not seem to have the stomach for the fight.

Argentina has long been divided into two schools of thought.

In the one corner are the so-called "Menottistas", followers for 1978 World Cup winning coach Cesar Luis Menotti. In the other are the "Bilardistas", admirers of Carlos Bilardo, who guided the side to 1986 glory.

Menotti is known for favouring the current attacking style while Bilardo prefers a more pragmatic, often ruthless, approach.

Current coach Alfio Basile is seen as an old school romantic from the Menotti camp.

But Sunday's defeat came on a day when Argentina had hoped to win their first title for 14 years and is likely to give more ammunition to the Bilardista school of thought.

After his team demolished Peru 4-0 one week ago, Basile delighted his audience by saying: "It's not just about winning. You can simply win a game, but to win the way we are doing makes me proud."

But, after losing a championship final to Brazil for the third time in four years, the pressure will be growing for more silverware -- no matter what the cost.

Brian Homewood
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