Friday, July 13, 2007

Brazil and Argentina

I recommend Tim Vickery's excellent piece at on the paths taken by Brazil and Argentina since getting embarrassed by Clockwork Oranje in 1974. It's definitely counter to the typical view of Brazilian football, which is that style is elevated as a paramount concern, co-equal with obtaining a good result. Upon reflection, Vickery has a point. Brazil '82 is lionized as a glorious failure (sorta like every Dutch team I've ever supported, save for the ugly ducklings of the last World Cup), but ever since, Brazil have struggled somewhat to produce a really attractive side. Neither the '94 winners, nor their compatriots in '02 were viewed as playing true "Brazilian" futebol, although that might be the result of being held to an impossible standard.

After Mexico beat Brazil in their Copa America opener, Stephen Cohen was discussing on the World Soccer Daily podcast (which I can't recommend enough; I listen every night when I'm cooking dinner [steaks marinated in Chimichurri in honor of Leo Messi last night]) that he can't remember the last time that Brazil really looked like Brazil. The implications from Vickery's piece is that we're looking for something that doesn't exist; that Brazil have emphasized the result over all else and physical dominance in the midfield for some time. I got a lot of my ideas on the Brazilian style from Pete Davies' Twenty-Two Foreigners in Funny Shorts in the run-up to the '94 World Cup as I was becoming more of a footie fan. He described the side as playing a wonderful passing style that was foreign to European sides. It might be time for a rethink on that belief.

(I doubt that Vickery is right when he says that Brazil losing on Sunday will force a re-think in that country. It will be far too easy for the CBF to rationalize this defeat by pointing out that Ronaldinho and Kaka were on vacation and Brazil currently lack a top-level striker because of Ronaldo's decline and Adriano's distractions.)

I'm also having to re-evaluate my views on Argentina, which were formed as a result of their reprehensible show at the Italia '90, when they embodied everything that was bad about the tournament. FIFA responded to the negative display by banning keepers from picking up back-passes and by awarding three points for a win instead of two, so I guess Argentina deserve a little credit. Since then, they haven't produced an unattractive side and their '06 side in Germany were the only one of the traditionally attacking side (Brazil and Holland being the others) who stayed true to their roots. I don't think I can ever become an out-and-out fan of Argentina; the rivalry I had with my brother formed from hundreds of Brazil-Argentina matches in SNES Super Soccer is too deep. That said, this side of Messi, Riquelme, Tevez, and a rejuvenated Veron is almost irresistible. Riquelme has taken the mantle from Zidane of the best old-school footballer on earth, from the passing skills to the lack of pace to the moodiness. This team has come full circle from the unwatchable '90 squad.


Anonymous said...

have you been watching any of the us u-20s? their wins over brazil and uruguay were quite fantastic. adu is playing as if all the hype was true. his juggling against brazil that split two defenders and eventually led to altidore's goal was amazing.

Michael said...

I saw most of the Brazil match and we looked really good. It was neat to see a US side trade punches with the canary shirts for 90 minutes. It was also neat to see some real skill in front of goal, which we've never really had. I did not see the Uruguay match, although I did watch the highlights at Dodgy at Best. It sounds like we ground a result out. I'm planning on watching the Austria match tomorrow.

LD said...

I didn't think Argentina played attractive football in France '98 (against decent opponents I thought they were plain). And 2002 they were an embarassment (2 goals, elimination in the group).

I do think you're right about the current generation of Argentinians. They most certainly play better and more attractive football than their forefathers.

Michael said...

Argentina played fairly well against England, although their cheatery in getting Becks sent off, combined with their refusal to go for the jugular with a man advantage, were not to their credit. They played well against Holland, but their cheatery backfired and they lost. I'm not sure what to do with their diving; I never liked it, but Leo Messi dives and he is incapable of doing wrong. (Look at his cherubic face!)

In '02, they were fairly boring, although they had plenty of talent, so I'm at a loss to explain whether they didn't try hard enough to score or they were just inept at doing so.

They've been fun to watch in '05 (Copa America and Confederations Cup), '06 (WC), and '07.

Anonymous said...

In '02, they were fairly boring, although they had plenty of talent, so I'm at a loss to explain whether they didn't try hard enough to score or they were just inept at doing so.

The '02 squad put on a show of how to shoot at the near-side side netting. Never in my life had I seen a team put so many shots off target. It was borderline ridiculous. Also, the idea that the success of the team might help bring the country out of the economic depression it was suffering might have put a little pressure on the squad, I'm guessing.

Dave Tootill said...

Well, speaking ahead of Sunday's final, which is normally fatal, Argentina look like the best side in the world. Tevez & Messi were, as I recall, a bit young at the World cup & were on the bench a lot. Not sure what Riquelme did, but he is equally the best in the world today. The point is, there is an Argie style which is recognisable back to 1978, scoring by going through the middle of defences by sheer class, via close control.