Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Argentina 3 - 0 Brazil, Olympics Semi-Final, 19 August 2008

Or Messi vs Ronaldinho. And on the current form of those two players, Argentina won comfortably in the end.

I missed the first 30 minutes or so, and judging by the end of the first half, perhaps that was merciful for me. Argentina went ahead early in the second half through a whipped cross from the left, which was chested into to goal by the on-rushing Aguero (fortunately in my opinion). Brazil then decided to try and play and hit the post soon after, but just before an hour, Argentina crossed in from the right this time and poor marking from Brazil allowed Aguero to score a second one. Ronaldinho hit the post again with a free kick, and Pato stuck the rebound in for Brazil, only to have his goal chalked off for off-side. A penalty dispatched by Riquelme for Argentina after a poor challenge wrapped the match up for Argentina, and a petulant Lucas was sent off for a hack late in the match, soon joined by Thiago Neves for a trip, both on Mascherano.

The Olympics tournament is a strange one - I'm not altogether sure how teams qualify for it (and too lazy to read Wikipedia to find out), but there are undoubtedly some great players playing there, but it just doesn't sit right with the other international tournaments and therefore flies under the radar somewhat. I understand that it's a very bg deal in South America: Dunga is managing the Brazilian team, as they were in pursuit of the only footballing tournament they've never won. Perhaps because it's given less TV coverage because of the other olympic events, perhaps it's because the players are largely unheard of as they aren't the finished products and most are still based in their domestic leagues, perhaps it's not a big deal in the UK because of the lack of a UK team.

Argentina vs Nigeria should be an interesting final (although unfortunately for UK audiences, the kick-off is at 5am UK time). Many of the Argentina squad that played in the 2004 final went on to big things, as did some of the Nigeria squad at the 1996 Olympics. There's calls for the tournament to become an U-20 or U-19 due to the demands on some of the "big players" in an already crowded international and domestic calendar, so maybe the football will become even less of a big deal in the future. To an extent, I agree, as the concept of highly-paid professional footballers sits somewhat outside the Olympic ideal, especially after Barcelona went to court to try and secure the retained services of Lionel Messi for Champions League qualification, but I suppose the Olympics prefer the exposure the more familiar players bring. I can't see an U-20 tournament filling stadiums in the 2012 Olympics. On the other hand, the Olympic football tournament is the only tournament left that isn't horribly diluted by massive sponsorship, which makes it fairly special in my opinion.

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