Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Another Bad Flashback

It was like a bad flashback of last year's World Cup defeat. Two days later... and the bitterness of witnessing a flaccid and haggard (the mid-day heat and humidity couldn't have helped) Argentine squad come undone at the feet of Brazil in the Copa America final still burns. Although no one in their right mind before the match believed that Argentina was going to destroy Brazil, equally no one expected that the creative, imaginative, progressive Albicelestes (with one of the most extraordinary lineups that I've seen since I've been watching football) would be so thoroughly canceled out by a ruthless Brazilian defense. It was to be a battle of old school artistry (Argentina) versus ugly pragmatism (Brazil).

It would, of course, be disingenuous and misleading to suggest that Brazil plays without any trace of their old trickster ways--though the memories of those "golden days" are dimming with every passing year and will soon be nothing but fable. Only a complete novice to the sport or a willful liar would claim otherwise. But Dunga's efficient machine, as we all saw on Sunday, were quite capable of the big gesture (that first goal from Baptista was mighty nice), and the even bigger win. They fouled (37), played in a choppy, uncreative manner, wasted time, and hijacked the game from a more lucid, attractive, and ultimately befuddled (though arguably better) team. But Brazil's timing was jaw-droppingly perfect. They sure did know when to pounce when the counter-attack mattered most.

Argentina's loss is tragic for anyone who truly loves entertaining, attractive, progressive football. They may have brilliantly blown it (much like their World Cup disintegration in last year's World Cup quarter final against Germany), but I would rather watch the Albicelestes lose it all playing beautifully (of course, even this was unavailable to them) than witness them win playing like automatons with no ambition toward creativity. Is it more fulfilling to watch a club who plays dreary, defensive-minded, utilitarian football hoist up a trophy or a team who takes the risks, has the talent to pull it off, but strangely enough burns out in the end? It may hurt more, but I know who I'll stand with in the end. Why else do we watch football if not to be entertained?

So here's to the Glorious Losers! I hoist my cup to thee and drink longingly! I've no doubt that I'll get to see Argentina one day win a major trophy again, but my heart aches knowing that it will never be this squad to do so. It is a strange, painful, joyous game indeed.

Here's a link to BBC columnist Tom Vickery's assessment of the game and of the never-ending battle between football romantics and the pragmatists. Good stuff.


linda said...

Beautifully said. I couldn't agree more.

futfan said...

Brazil 82, they had a team full of stars and the real jogo bonito. No prizes, though.

My heart is tattooed with the albiceleste. I saw this team as a good foundation for the future. A mix of these players with the emerging Banega, Aguero, Maxi Moralez, Christian Ledesma will give it another excellent possibility.

My deepest sorrow will be that Riquelme might not line up in 2010. Hope he remains with Boca. It seems to make him happy to play there.

Derek said...

Futfan: I hope Riquelme stays with Boca as well. He's happiest there it seems. And Brazil '82.... All you need to know is one name: Socrates. Wish I had seen them play back then.