Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Brazil - Argentina live blog

Well, here we go! Apologies for the delay in getting the first posts up: the Internet gremlins seem to have returned with a vengeance, so I had to write these offline and fire them up later again.

First half:

0: The match is indeed being shown on TSN, if any Canadians out there are near a TV and want to watch it. Here's the starting lineups:

Renan in goal, Rafinha, Alex Silva, Marcelo and Breno at the back, Hernanes, Anderson, Lucas, Ronaldinho and Diego in midfield, Rafael Sorbis as the lone striker.

Argentina: Sergio Romero in goal, Ezequiel Garay, Luciano Monzon, Pablo Zabaleta and Nicolas Pareja at the back, Fernando Gago, Juan Riquelme, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano in midfield, Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero up front.

5: Not much action to speak of so far: both sides seem to be feeling each other out cautiously.

8: The Brazilians create a few early chances, with some solid runs forward by Rafinha.

10: A good break for Argentina, and they manage to earn a corner: it's quickly cleared, though.

13: Argentina seems to be controlling a bit more of the possession, but they haven't had any great chances yet.

17: Brazil's starting to create a few chances of their own. They're still having trouble setting up through the midfield, but they're getting some solid runs down the flank.

20: And I'm not the only one with technical difficulties this morning: TSN just lost the commentary feed. You can still hear the crowd, but that's all.

25: The Argentines are finally starting to really put the pressure on, but that final ball just seems to keep eluding them.

28: Another counterattack by Brazil, but it comes to naught.

30: And the commentary's back: that makes it easier to tell which players are doing what.

31: Hernanes tracks back and makes a poor challenge right on the edge of the Brazilian box, and earns a yellow card for his trouble. That was inches away from being a penalty. The resulting free kick is initially cleared, fired back in, and then cleared again.

33: Argentina retains possession, and they set up a great run down the left-hand side. The cross leaves much to be desired though, as it's nowhere close to any of the attacking players.

34: Brazil on the counterattack yet again. Marcelo makes the long run forward from defence and sends in a great cross, but it's headed wide. The Brazilians are doing a great job of getting their defence involved in the attack, one of their traditional strengths. They're still having more success out wide as well, as Mascherano and the rest of the Argentine midfield are clogging up the middle effectively.

35: And probably Argentina's best chance so far, as Messi steals the ball from Breno and breaks in towards the goal. However, he loses the ball to the last defender and it results in nothing.

38: Things have settled down a bit after that flurry of chances: both sides seem to be taking it a bit more defensively now.

41: Messi continues his strong play, breaking in again and forcing Renan into a diving save.

44: The Argentines have picked up the pressure a bit. They take it out wide left and send a cross in for Pablo Zabaleta, who snuck forward from his defensive position and created a quality chance. However, the quality of the cross was again suspect, and it all went for naught.

45: And we're at the half. Argentina's controlling the run of play, and they've had the better chances so far, but Brazil may prove deadly on the counter. Brazil's doing a great job of attacking as an 11-man unit, and that often creates a lot of chances.

Second half:

46: And we're back underway. No halftime changes to report. Update from the other semi-final: Nigeria beat Belgium 4-1. You'd have to think that either Brazil or Argentina can easily handle Nigeria in the final, but upsets do happen, and more often in Olympic soccer than with full national teams.

48: Ronaldinho creates a chance, but he loses the ball.

51: A great counterattack by Argentina this time, as Sergio Aguero (the star of the U-20 World Cup in Canada two summers ago) makes a break and beats one defender, but loses the ball to the second.

53: Goal, Argentina. A great break by Argentina finds Angel Di Maria down the left side, and he sends a bullet cross in that Aguero deflects into the net with his chest for his first goal of the tournament. Brazil will have to pull out of their defensive stance and put pressure on to try and equalize.

55: And Brazil responds: a great chance for Rafael Sorbis, who beats Sergio Romero but drills it off the post.

56: The announcer informs us that Aguero's goal is the first one Brazil has conceded all tournament. They've filled the net at the other end, though, racking up 11 goals, so don't count them out yet.

57: Another solid Brazilian chance, but it amounts to nothing.

58: Argentine free kick on the edge of the box, but they only tap it a short distance to Messi, and he can't do anything with it.

58: Goal, Argentina. Mascherano breaks free down the right and sends a great ball in, and Aguero taps home his second from six yards out. Argentina haven't had that many superb chances, but they've made the most of them, and they're now in the driver's seat. Manager Dunga will have to throw out the defensive playbook and return to the traditional Brazilian attacking still.

60: Messi creates another chance, but some strong defending earns Brazil a goal kick.

61: Double substitution: Alexandre Pato in for Rafael Sobis, and Thiago Neves in for Hernanes.

62: Another interesting comment from the announcer, who seems to be a BBC type: apparently Brazil have never won Olympic gold. Well, Canada won back in 1904, so forget those World Cups: clearly Canada's the better soccer power!

65: A great chance for the Brazilians, but their luck comes up rotten again. A 25-yard free kick from Ronaldinho is typically brilliant and beats the keeper, but rings off the post. Pato, another star of that U-20 World Cup who I saw in person against Poland in Montreal, makes no mistake on firing home the rebound, but it's rightly called back, as he was clearly offside.

67: And Manchester United's Anderson gets booked for a clumsy challenge: he overran the ball and collided with an Argentine, who went down as if he'd just been machine-gunned.

68: Brazil's putting on the pressure now. You have to feel for them: the quality chances have been pretty even, but they've hit the post twice and Argentina hasn't. That's all the difference at this point.

71: Messi takes the ball and runs straight at four defenders. He beats three of them, but loses the ball to the fourth, though. That was inspired play, but poor decision-making.

71: Substitution, Brazil: Diego out, Jo in.

73: And Messi shows that he's got the skills to compete in diving at these games as well, comically falling to the ground outside the box and drawing a free kick. Nothing comes of it though.

75: Aguero proves that he could be Messi's partner in synchronized diivng, flopping to the ground in the box and earning a penalty kick after some mild contact from Rafinha. A pretty ridiculous call: flopping like that shouldn't be rewarded. Rafinha gets booked as well.

76: Goal, Argentina. Riquelme takes the penalty and drills it right down the middle, beating Renan, who dives to the side. It will be tough for Brazil to claw their way back now.

81: And Lucas gets sent off for a boot to the back of his Liverpool teammate Mascherano. That may make things awkward during training!

84: Thiago Neves gets a foot in on Mascherano, who falls to the ground theatrically as if someone pulled the rug out from under him. Maybe he's trying to beat out Messi and Aguero for a spot on that synchronized diving team? Neves gets a straight red, which is a ridiculous overreaction to that challenge: a yellow may have been deserved, but there's no way in Hades a straight red was.

88: Lovely cross in from Riquelme, and it's played on to Messi in space. He hesitates too long, though, and Rafinha slides in to block the shot. Corner to Argentina, but they don't create anything off of it.

90: Substitution, Argentina. Riquelme off, Jose Sosa on. Only one minute of extra time added, which seems low, but it won't have made much of a difference in any case.

91: And there's the final whistle. A deserved win for Argentina, but the score probably should have been closer with a bit more luck for Brazil. A good match, but a tough loss for their side. Argentina will go on to defend their gold medal from 2004 against the 1996 champions, Nigeria, while Brazil will play Belgium for bronze.

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