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Sunday, July 15, 2007

2007 Copa America Final: Brasil 3 x Argentina 0

In the first half, Julio Baptista scored in the 4th minute on a blast from the right side of the penalty area that flew by Abbondanzieri into the right corner of the Argentine net. Despite the fast start, the Argentines didn't panic. In the 8th minute, after an excellent triangle by Cambiasso, Veron, and Riquelme, the latter beat Doni with a left-footed shot but not the left post.

In the 17th minute, Maicon crossed the ball into the Argentine goal mouth, and Gabriel Heinze nearly slotted it into his own goal. It would prove to be ominous. Elano, the quick right Brasilian wing, was injured in the 33rd minute, and quickly substituted with Daniel Alves. A minute later, Argentina had another excellent chance to equalize, but Doni parried Riquelme's right-footed shot that seemingly was going into the net.

In the 39th minute, Roberto Ayala sweeped a cross into his own goal past a helpless Abbondanzieri. I counted three times that the Argentines tried to clear balls very close to their goal mouth. Of the three, perhaps only one was necessary. Brasil went into the locker room ahead, surprisingly to many (myself included), 2 x 0.

The second half started off slowly. The first real chance for Argentina came in the 56th minute. Ayala headed a corner kick straight down to the ground with an open goal at his disposal. Pablo Aimar replaced Esteban Cambiasso, and then Basile brought in Lucho Gonzalez for Juan Veron. But in the 66th minute, on a brilliant counter-attack started by Robinho, Vagner Love's perfect through pass that split the Argentine defense in half was one-timed clinically by Daniel Alvez to sink any Argentine hopes.

The keys to this game were the Brasilian back four and their keeper, Doni. Gilberto, Alex, Maicon, and Juan controlled this game and kept the young Argentine superstars, Leo Messi and Carlitos Tevez, controlled with rare exceptions. Riquelme also was neutralized. This game, perhaps out of all of them, highlighted the importance of Hernan Crespo. Argentina was able to outclass the previous opposition; however, today, the well-organized Brasilian defense may have exhibited their one weakness: The lack of a target man with the predator's touch such as Crespo. Riquelme was their leading scorer (5) in Venezuela, but he is a playmaker. Today, Argentina failed to create goal-scoring opportunities despite an abundance of free kicks and corner kicks (48). As you will see below, they had only 5 shots for the entire game.

On a psychological basis, this Brasilian victory has to rub the salt further into the Argentine wounds. This was not the best Brasilian team (missing Kaka' and Ronaldinho), and Argentina sent their "A" team to Venezuela. Until this game, they dominated the competition. Brasil, despite a first game defeat by Mexico, along with many critics against Coach Carlos Dunga, persevered to win their 8th Copa America. They were the only team to shut-out (clean sheet) the potent Argentine attack in this competition.

Well done, Brasil. For video highlights. please click here.

Here are the stats courtesy of ESPNSoccernet:

Shots (on Goal) 3 (1) 5 (1)
Fouls 37 21
Corner Kicks 4 9
Offsides 1 3
Time of Possession n/a n/a
Yellow Cards 5 2
Red Cards 0 0
Saves 1 1


Notes:
  • Brasil has won 4 out the last 5 Copa America tournaments.
  • Brasil and Argentina have faced each other 10 times in the final. This was only the second win for Brasil. Maradona and Pele' never won the Copa America.
  • Robinho, with 6 goals, was awarded the trophy as the top scorer.
  • Alfio Basile, the coach of Argentina, lost his first final after two previous successes in 1991 and 1993.
  • FIFA President Joseph Blatter presented the Copa America to Gilberto Silva of Brasil. He failed to do this last summer when Italy won the World Cup in Berlin, Germany.

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