As a prelude to the upcoming Copa America final, I thought I would recap the semi finals. Both matches were incredibly entertaining and well worth the price of admission. It is a bit disappointing to have a Brazil/Argentina final, only in the sense that it seemed predestined. The final is sure to be class in every way. It is just unfortunate that industry has lost out to imagination.
Brazil 2-2 Uruguay (Brazil win 5-4 on penalties) This match was fabulous. Uruguay worked so hard, but you got the feeling it would never be enough to get over the hump. Brazil, in this game as in all the others of this competition, played lackadaisical with the occasional sprinkle of magic. Each time Brazil scored it seemed to be the end for Uruguay, but to their credit they never gave in.
Forlan was at the top of his game. The first goal was very well taken and the flick on to Abreu for the second was genius. I've never particularly liked Uruguay, but when the ball tumbled over the keeper, I jumped from my couch. It may have been a little schadenfreude, but it was mostly just the culmination of a truly exciting match. And I know Brazil should have had a few penalties calls and should never have been in the position to go to penalties. They may have had some good karma on their side because of it.
As for the shootout, Uruguay had every chance to send Brazil home and failed. Forlan delivered what could be one the worst spot kicks I have ever seen. From hero to goat seems to be his lot in life. And after so many shots off the post, Uruguay stood with one kick for victory, and it hit the post.
Now I don't agree with the way Brazil won, and I wish FIFA would address this (and I'm a Liverpool fan), but as I said, Brazil had some karma in the bank. Maybe the blackout in the middle of the match was foreshadowing for Uruguay. I do have to say that Uruguay have been incredibly poor sports about losing. Both in this competition and in the U-20 World Cup, Uruguay start fights after the final whistle. Overall, though, a very respectable tournament for them. And there is yet another final for the Brazilians.
Argentina 3-0 Mexico This scoreline is deceiving. The match was much closer than 3-0 and Mexico was unlucky to fall in the way that they did. But football is all about finishing, and that's what separated these two sides. Mexico would have been up 2-0 in the first half but for a few inches and some white posts.
Riquelme was transcendent, despite being hacked down constantly. The free kick that resulted in the opening goal was nothing short of incredible, good finish from Heinze as well. Again in the second half, Mexico had opportunities and went begging.
Then their was the Messi wondergoal, which, for me, was the goal of the cup. He will soon be pressing to be the best player on the planet, if he isn't already. Riquelme put the icing on the cake with a very Zidanesque penalty on a soft foul call at the edge of the box. Nonetheless, considering how he has played, you'd have to say he deserved it.
(Side note: While writing this, I'm watching the '93 Copa Final, which Argentina won over Mexico thanks to a Batistuta brace. It's funny how you remember these players as great, but it's not until you see the replays years later that you appreciate how truly skilled they were.)
So on to the Final, which is destined to be filled with skill, trickery, and bit of histrionics. Brazil has the class to win, but you would have to favor Argentina. Riquelme, Tevez, Messi, and the high-scoring Mascherano (who knew), will just be too much for the Brazilians to contain.