I was quite surprised when SA from Ladies… asked me to help write a preview of tomorrow’s Copa America final. Aside from the World Cup, soccer is somewhat of a new interest for me, and there are several bloggers who are more soccer literate. However, I accepted the challenge. The final is to be waged by two of the most legendary soccer teams in the world, Brazil and Argentina. This made the article much easier for me to write, saving me hours of necessary research on team Uruguay.
Below is what I wrote. You can also see the Ladies… complete Copa America article for more analysis (and by “analysis” I mean “pictures of South American soccer players they think are hot”).
We’re getting to the good game now. Trust me, no amount of fiestas on La Republica Deportiva could make Peru versus Bolivia watchable. It’s now a battle between the two best teams in the American continent, and quite possibly the world, for bragging rights and the chance to give Jozy Altidore a rude welcome to senior international soccer at the 2009 Confederations Cup. It should a very heated game, as Brazil and Argentina absolutely hate each other.
Argentina is the heavy favorite to win this year’s Copa America. They bring with them a team that could be more formidable than their World Cup team. In their five games leading up to the final, Los Albicelestes have outscored their opponents 16-3, including a 3-0 annihilation of Mexico in the semifinals.
A lot of pressure is on Argentina to win. The team has not won any championship of significance since the 1993 Copa America, an unprecedented dry spell for one of the world’s best teams. In Peru 2004, they held a 2-1 lead in the final a against Brazil heading into stoppage time, but Adriano robbed them of a title by scoring in the 93rd minute, in essence when the game was supposed to already be over. Brazil took advantage of their new opportunity, beating Argentina 4-2 on penalty kicks to win. Make no mistake, they need to win this game. For pride. For revenge. To take back their place among the world’s best.
Key Players (club affiliation in parentheses)
- Lionel Messi, striker (Barcelona). Quite possibly the best soccer player in the world right now, and he’s only 20.
- Carlos Tevez, striker (???). Ugly as sin, but he’s the reason West Ham is still playing in the English Premier League.
- Juan Roman Riquelme, midfielder (Boca Juniors). Has five goals in this tournament. Messi and Tevez may be the flash, but Riquelme is the centerpiece, the man that keeps team Argentina running.
Brazil is perhaps the most legendary team in all of sport. At least outside of this country, but we all know that the universe revolves around the U.S. of A. Why else would American football have grown so quickly overseas?*
If you have a hard time recognizing this Brazilian team, that’s because Brazil sent a young, experimental team to Venezuela in order to build for the future. You aren’t going to see names like Ronaldo, Ronaldhino, Dida, Cafu, and Kaká (heh heh, ka-ka). The United States took a similar approach to Copa America. However, Brazil is the soccer equivalent of pre-Coker Miami Hurricanes football. Just about anyone whom they put on the field, even their third and fourth-stringers, can compete with the best teams in the world. The USA, they’re more like Notre Dame; impressive against lesser opponents, but tends not to show up for the big games. (Our youth team notwithstanding, of course. this year they beat Brazil 2-1, and they have a real chance at winning this year’s U-20 World Cup.)
Brazil’s Copa America “B” team was embarrassed by Mexico 2-0 in group play, and nearly lost to Uruguay in the semis. However, anyone wearing those yellow shirts has a chance to win a soccer game, and this Sunday’s final is no exception.
- Robinho, striker (Real Madrid). He leads all Copa America players with six goals in five games.
- Gilberto Silva, midfielder (Arsenal). Captain of team Brazil and a standout midfielder for a British powerhouse.
- Vagner Love, striker (CSKA Moscow). Just because he has the oddest name. Ka-ka would have been funnier, but this will suffice.
The game will be played only on Univision in America. Don’t fret if you don’t speak Spanish; it’s a lot more fun to watch soccer on Univison than on any English-speaking network. I’m very new to soccer, but the past two insanely hot summers would have been unbearable without Fernando Fiore and Pablo Ramirez; instead, I would be worrying about the Red Sox’s dwindling AL East lead, which by the laws of physics will dissolve sometime in August.
I cannot bring myself to root for either team. To be honest, I despise them both. Argentina because they’re smug, holier-than-thou and are the second dirtiest team in the world (Italy being #1), and Brazil because…well, they’re Brazil, that’s why. The ideal situation for me would be for FIFA authorities to find them both guilty of steroid use and award the Championship to Uruguay. However, that’s not going to happen. Brazil will compete well in this game, but they are undermanned against a stacked, angry, and determined opponent. Argentina wins 3-1, but they don’t get the go-ahead goals until the second half.