Brasil 3, Argentina 0 -- Copa America Final, Maracaibo, Venezuela
As I feared, Brasil walked away Sunday with the 2007 Copa America. I thought it would be luck that pushed the Seleção to the trophy. It was hardly luck, they thrashed a surprisingly sorry Argentina team, a team that was clearly the tournament favorites throughout. To paraphrase 'Airplane', they, "picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue."
Julio Bapitista's fifth minute goal was a display in power and finesse as he controlled a nice, curling (Dutch) ball at the top of the area, powered past his marker and fired a darting ball that curled over the bar and past a helpless Roberto Abbondanzieri.
Clearly this was the worst case scenario for Argentina, who'd gone through the tournament without taking a punch to the mouth like that. BOOM!
Argentina -- which had outscored opponents 16-3 and hadn't conceded in the two knockout games -- obviously didn't have a game plan for falling behind with 85 minutes left to play. Whatever Alfio "Fat Tony" Basile had cooked up in the dressing room went out the window with Roberto Ayala's disastrous own-goal in the 40th minute turned out to be the knockout blow.
For a team as classy across the board as Argentina to give up a goal like that makes you scratch your head. Whether it was a mix up in communication between Ayala and Abbondanzieri (does that count in Scrabble?) or not, a team supposedly this good can't let that happen.
And you know what, that was two straight knockout games in tournaments that Abbondanzieri killed his team. Back in the 2006 World Cup he had to come off due to an injury in the quarterfinals vs. Germany early in the second half. Was this the reason they eventually lost in penalty kicks? No, but it did contribute to keeping Lionel Messi on the bench. Sunday, Abbondanzieri wasn't terrible and was hit for two pretty nice goals by Brasil, but it looks like his days as the No. 1 are over.
Sunday you could tell the Argies missed Hernan Crespo, too.
Almost all their danger came via free kicks and corner kicks by Juan Roman Riquelme -- by my unofficial count about a dozen. Never did they threatened as the massive Brasil central back pairing of Alex and Juan dominated in the air. As great as Messi and Tevez are, they aren't aerial players.
Call me crazy, I don't get the love affair with Esteban Cambiasso for Argentina. He's the weakest link in the field and had to be subbed off for offense again.
Oddly enough, maybe the turning point came when Cambiasso inadvertently stomped Elano in the 34th minute, which prompted Dunga to bring on Daniel Alves. The insertion of the Sevilla-man turned Brasil's already good counter-attack into a lethal one as witnessed in the textbook perfect 1-2 combo from Vagner Love and Alves that sealed the deal in the 69th. (What was with Alve's kissing his tattoo celebration?)
Sans-free kick abilities, Alves is clearly the successor to Roberto Carlos as an attacking back for Brasil, albeit on the right. Though they will be tempted by mega-bucks from clubs like Chelsea, two-time defending UEFA Cup winners Sevilla ought to hang onto him, especially with Champions League football in the fall.
There's really not much more to say.
Brasil didn't look great, but since they wear the yellow and blue, found a way to get the results. Yes, they were extremely, extremely luck to get past Uruguay in kicks. And yes, they didn't thrill with the typical joga bonito we've grown accustomed aside from a few moments from Robinho.
Still, give Brasil credit they won a tournament without Kaka and Ronaldinho and took the final without skipper Gilberto Silva. I was almost ready for a 'Is Brasil in trouble' post after the Group Stage, coupled with the underwhelming U-20 World Cup showing. Good thing I held off. Egg is tough to scrub off your face in this sweltery summer heat.
In the end, it goes to show you don't need a million attackers at every position to win games. Brasil might have had as much flair as Dunga's buzzcut, but good organizational football gets the results all the same.
Of course, that's easy said than done.
Well, maybe not when you're Brasil.
(Coming later this week -- MLS All Star shenanigans. SCCOOOOORRRREEEEE!!!.)