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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Copa America Final Preview

Tomorrow in Maracaibo at 1700 local time, the two tigers of South American soccer will meet for the 92nd competitive time in their collective histories. Between them, they have won seven World Cups, and 22 Copa Americas. Brasil leads the overall series with 35 wins, but Argentina is closely behind with 34.

Argentina has won five straight games in this competition without a significant struggle. Brasil, on the other hand, lost their first game against Mexico, 0 x 2. They reached the final after a thrilling penalty kick shoot-out over Uruguay; however, their captain, Gilberto Silva, will not play due to two yellow cards. Robinho, with six goals, is the leading scorer of this Copa America, and has been their most impressive player. Of note, Ronaldinho and Kaka' did not participate in Venezuela.

For me, Argentina has played virtually flawless football. Orchestrated by Juan Roman Riquelme, and despite losing Hernan Crespo, their lethal striker, in the second game, they have moved forward in the their unique style in the hot, tropical, and festive Venezuelan nights. But tomorrow's game will kick-off in mid-afternoon, with temperatures approaching 40 Celsius. Coach Alfio Basile is not pleased with this development, but as we know, both teams have to deal with the oppressive heat. A slower pace may favor Brasil, but Argentina has shown their excellence at ball possession throughout this tournament.

Before the tournament, I picked them to win. Unless Brasil, who most likely will have the neutral support of the Venezuelan fans, finds a way to shut down Riquelme et al, Argentina will win their 15th title. They have too many weapons, and arguably, are the best national team in the world.

Notes:

  • Hernan Crespo has recovered from his injury, and will be available to Mister Basile from the bench.
  • The 2004 Copa America final finished 2 x 2 after 90 minutes. Adriano scored deep into injury time, and then Brasil won the penalty kick shoot-out.

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