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panoramix
06-09-05, 09:12 AM
Although Argentina fans may not care too much about the manner in which the Albicelestes overcame Brazil 3-1 to confirm their presence at the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 ?, there is always room for a little analysis, particularly on a night as intense and emotionally charged as that experienced in Buenos Aires? Estadio Monumental on Wednesday. Argentina?s magnificent first half performance proved too much for a sluggish Brazil, whose second-half reaction came far too late.
Opportunism knocked
Three shots, three goals: Argentina?s strikeforce was efficiency itself. But there was more to this victory than goalscoring prowess. Once again Jose Pekerman got his tactics right.

Crespo?s early strike undoubtedly changed the course of the game. It came after a free-flowing move that neatly encapsulated events in the first half: the AC Milan striker?s individual flair and trademark opportunism did the rest.


Gabriel Heinze started the move, pushing forward and catching a Brazilian defence overly concerned with Sorin on the left flank off balance. The attacking full-back slipped the ball to an unmarked Riquelme, who found Luis Gonzalez in acres of space, and Crespo nipped in behind Brazil?s central defenders to slide Gonzalez?s pinpoint pass into the back of the net. Surprise, skill and opportunism in a nutshell: 1-0 Argentina.
The smash-and-grab raid unsettled a Brazil side unaccustomed to going behind, and as the auriverdes?s began to lose their shape, Argentina took control of the midfield, moving the ball around with ease. They underlined their supremacy when Riquelme, receiving the ball with his back to Dida?s goal, swivelled to leave Ze Roberto and Emerson trailing in his wake and powered home a vicious left-foot strike. 18 minutes gone: two chances, two goals.

Argentina sit back

Brazil?s defensive disorganisation infected the rest of their game, and lacking the surgical precision of previous matches, their play became predictable with Kaka and Ronaldinho?s lone ventures up front easily snuffed out by the indefatigable Javier Mascherano. With Sorin supporting him in a holding role, Mascherano was in complete command until the Argentines began to sit back in the second half.

Cafu and Roberto Carlos?s habitual raids down the flanks were comfortably dealt with by the Argentine defence, and with Robinho and Adriano marked out of the game, the pace of Brazil?s game dropped. Argentina stroked the ball around as much as they pleased, and a second goal was engineered for Crespo five minutes before half-time, rubbing further salt into Brazilian wounds.

The second-half was entirely predictable: Argentina content to sit back on their lead and hit Brazil on the counter attack. The Brazilians came out with all guns blazing as they sought to restore their wounded pride, Parreira bringing on Renato for Robinho to bring some much-needed balance to a side that finally began to carve out some chances: more through sweat and determination than silky football, however. Roberto Carlos? 72nd-minute thunderbolt proved little more than a consolation and although the world champions never gave up, their first-half lethargy had left them with too much to do, allowing their bitter rivals to seal qualification in the best possible way.

Time will tell whether Jose Pekerman?s side will go on and make history at next year?s finals. For now, though, they can bask in the afterglow of a comfortable home victory over their arch rivals.