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Brazil, Argentina meet in dream final

By Brian Homewood
July 23, 2004 15:37 IST
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World champions Brazil meet arch-rivals Argentina in Lima, Peru on Sunday in a perfect finale to the Copa America football tournament that has already surpassed expectations.

The clash in Lima's national stadium comes less than two months after Brazil's 3-1 win in their World Cup qualifier in Belo Horizonte, when Ronaldo won and converted a hat-trick of penalties.

The Real Madrid striker will not be present this time. Along with Kaka, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, he is one of several top players to be rested for the tournament by coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Yet the five-times World Cup winners have still managed to reach the final in an awesome demonstration of their strength-in-depth.

"We've shown the magnitude of Brazilian football," Parreira said.

Meanwhile, Argentina have almost certainly kept coach Marcelo Bielsa in a job by getting this far.

The introverted coach, who last week admitted he had trouble understanding himself, had not been expected to survive a poor tournament after a spell of lacklustre performances and unremarkable results.

IMPRESSIVE SCORING

Instead, Argentina have scored 14 goals and conceded four on their way to the final. Twenty-year-olds Javier Macherano and Carlos Tevez have both looked outstanding and Bielsa appears to have secured his position.

Brazil have also been unveiling alternatives to the old guard, in particular striker Adriano who is the Copa's top-scorer with six goals in five games including a hat-trick against Costa Rica.

The two giants of South American football have not met in the final since the Copa America was re-invented in the late 1980s and it appears organisers did not intend them to clash this time either.

Along with hosts Peru, the pair were top seeds for the three first round groups and would have met in the semi-finals if everything had gone to plan and they had won their groups.

Peru, meanwhile, would not have run into either of them before the final.

However, all three teams finished as runners-up in their groups, meaning that Argentina faced Peru in the quarter-finals while Brazil fell into the other half of the draw.

Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa has refused to accept his team are favourites despite Brazil's absentees.

"The question of favourites is a game which overloads the responsibilities or a team and lightens the load of the other," he said.

"The obligations which we feel arise from the sentiment of wanting to win."

Parreira said: "Argentina are a team who do everything well. They mark well, they run a lot and they play well when they've got the ball.

"They're a team who can play and stop the opposition from playing."

But he added: "There's no reason for us to be afraid of them."

Brazil: 1-Dida, 13-Maicon, 3-Luisao, 4-Juan, 6-Gustavo Nery; 5-Renato, 8-Kleberson, 10-Alex, 11-Edu; 9-Luis Fabiano, 7-Adriano

Argentina: 1-Roberto Abbondanzieri; 8-Javier Zanetti, 2-Roberto Ayala, 6-Gabriel Heinze, 3-Juan Pablo Sorin; 5-Javier Maschero, 16-Luis Gonzalez, 11-Carlos Tevez; 19-Cesar Delgado, 9-Luciano Figueroa, 18-Cristian Gonzalez

Referee: Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay)

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Brian Homewood
Source: REUTERS
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