Tonight from Belo Horizonte, Brasil, the two best teams in the world met in the sixth round of South American qualification. Both teams were coming off of disappointing results in their games over the weekend. A tie for Argentina, and a loss for the Samba King by group leaders, Paraguay. Actually, it was the second consecutive loss by Brasil. The other was a friendly that took place in Boston against Venezuela. Obviously, the millions of Selecao supporters placed much pressure on Carlos Dunga, the Brazilian coach.
Jose' Mourinho, the new coach of Inter Milan, was in attendance to see half of his new team play:Alfio "Coco" Basile, the manager of Argentina, had lost three previous encounters against his fierce rivals.
Adriano, Julio Cesar, and Maicon for the Brazilians.
Nicolas Burdisso, Javier Zanetti (the Inter captain), and Julio Cruz for the Argentineans.
Argentina had more of the ball in the first half. Juan Roman Riquelme had 3 free kicks in the first half hour, along with one later on. Brasil was content to counter attack. On one occasion, Robinho had Roberto Abbondanzieri, the keeper, way off of his line chasing the Real Madrid man, but he could not dribble around him to score with an open net. The Argentine grabbed in vain at Robinho's shirt, and then thought better of it before being called for a penalty kick.
Brasil controlled the dual threats of Messi and Riquelme very well. Up front, the big men, Adriano and Julio Baptista, were imposing but not threatening to the organized Argentine defense. Actually, Adriano was coming back deep into his own defensive end to help out. He looked in better shape after his recent good spell with Internacional of Brasil, and no doubt Inter Milan fans will be pleased to see him return to "L'Imperatore."
The half ended, 0 x 0.
Ronaldinho Gaucho was in the stands talking on his cell phone to Alexi Lalas. ;-)
There have been rumors of another mega deal by the Los Angeles Galaxy to obtain the services of Dinho, since Barcelona has indicated a willingness to transfer him. Before this development, AC Milan and Manchester City (especially the latter) seemed to be his logical destination point. But in world football, especially with a great talent such as Ronaldinho Gaucho, one never knows.
Brasil started to press harder in defense. Adriano was carded for a foul, and Diego should have been. Julio Cruz had a great chance in front of the goal that he blasted into the stands. Julio Cesar was beat, and it might have given this game a different complexion. Argentina was awarded several free kicks, which was an interesting tactic given that Riquelme is one of the best dead ball strikers in the world.
In the 61st minute, Julio Baptista took an excellent free kick that was tipped over the bar by the keeper. Mascherano was carded for a harsh challenge on Baptista, and the announcers stated that 30 fouls had already been committed.
Robinho tried a first time volley that was on target but parried away. Both teams seemed content with a draw, but in injury time, Leo Messi had the best chance to obtain 3 precious points for Argentina, but he shot wide.
A good result for Argentina, and perhaps more criticism for Dunga as Brasil falls to fourth with nine points. But the road is very long to South Africa from the grueling South American qualification zone.
- Colombia remains the only unbeaten team.
- Argentina remains in second place in the table.
- Paraguay was beaten by Bolivia to suffer their first defeat in qualification.