The Olympic Football Tournament is the one international tournament Brazil have never won (of the ones they compete in of course, because obviously they’ve never been crowned champions of Europe or what have you), and it will have to remain as such for at least the next four years. On Tuesday the selecção met the selección in a South American clásico in China, and for a change during the finals of a tournament, the result was a resounding win for Argentina. Two strikes from Sergio Agüero and a penalty from Juan Román Riquelme did the business, and the defending champions will meet Nigeria in the final.
Argentina had struggled to hit the heights of four years ago previously in this tournament, but on Tuesday, driven on by an immense performance from the one remaining member of the 2004 squad, Javier Mascherano, as well as superb matches from Agüero, Riquelme and centre half Nicolás Pareja (only in the squad due to Nicolás Burdisso’s injury in the runup to the tournament’s kick off), they finally caught fire. An always spicy rivalry was given added heat by Brazil’s recent victories over Argentina in the finals of the 2004 and 2007 Copas América, and the 2005 Confederations Cup, which ensured that, whatever is said about the Olympic Football Tournament normally, this was never likely to be a match taken lightly by at least one of the participating teams.
Whilst Brazil looked off the pace and lacked pace or imagination, Argentina were motivated throughout the team and after their opponents had held them during the first half, it was Sergio Agüero who broke the resistance in four second half minutes. In the 53rd minute, Angel Di María crashed a ball across the box from the left which might have been a shot, or might have been the most violently hit shot I’ve ever seen in my life. Agüero threw himself into the way, deflecting it off his upper arm and chest, and the goalkeeper stood no chance. The second was an even simpler finish for El Kun, tapping home a right-sided cross from the rampaging Ezequiel Garay. A few minutes later Ronaldinho hit the post with a free kick and Marcelo turned the rebound into the net, but the Uruguayan referee disallowed it immediately for a borderline offside. With just over fifteen minutes left, Breno brought down Agüero in the area, and Riquelme hammered home the penalty.
Argentina’s cyclists claimed one gold medal on Tuesday, and the football team are now certain of another medal on Saturday. Whether that will be silver or gold remains to be seen, but there are some who might not even be too bothered, because finally, in the 21st century, Argentina have beaten Brazil in the finals of a football tournament. If the full senior side were capable of doing that, they might stand a chance of winning something else…
For highlights of the match on Mighty Football, click here.
Alongside Mascherano and Riquelme, Gago was the real standout for me. Brazil’s midfield never got a sniff.
And, both Gago and Masche are young guys, and hopefully will be around for many years to come. Pareja and Garay looked good as well which is another good sign for the future. Romero looked confident.
Dinho looked like he was imitating Riquelme on one of Roman’s bad days, but didn’t receive much help from Diego. Credit Gago and Masche for that.
Di Maria impressed me the most, really seems to have matured into a top player. Of course he’s now attracting interest.