Sheik, battle and goal as Messi downs Brazil

Argentina 1 Brazil 0

What a week it has been for fans of South American football, a brace of mouth watering ties taking place in the space of two days.

First off River Plate beat Boca Juniors in a Superclásico high on intensity but short on quality. Now Argentina celebrate their first win over Brazil in five years after a match which was short on intensity but boasted quality all over the park.

The neutral venue of Doha in Qatar, sapped much of the edge off the most keenly contested fixture in international fixture but at last the deadlock was finally broken. Lionel Messi unpicking the Brazilian defence as three minutes of second half injury time began to count down.

A smart one-two with second half substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi left the Barcelona forward with a clear run at Brazil's defensive pairing of David Luiz and Thiago Silva. Messi evaded the challenge of David Luiz and shrugged off the attentions of Lucas snapping at his heels. All that was left to do was place a left foot shot through the legs of Thiago Silva and inside the post.

Messi had been more vocal than usual in the build-up to this friendly and issued his team-mates with the battle cry "Now is the time to beat Brazil." Argentinian football fans still view La Pulga with suspicion after his teenage defection to Catalonia; a winner against Brazil will do plenty to heal the rift between supporters and player.

Brazilians will be as bitter about the result as much as Argentinians will crow about it but as a game of football, the match was instantly forgettable.

The game produced far too few clear cut chances and too many individuals failed to step up to the plate. At the root of this was the 4-2-1-2-1 counter-attacking formation employed by teams, the sheer number of enforcers on the pitch forced the game to become a cagey affair.

Brazil's head coach Mano Menezes was brave to gamble with a forward line of Ronaldinho, Neymar and Robinho, the latter handed the captain's armband. For Ronaldinho the match represented a shot at redemption but the only time he looked threatening was when lining up a free-kick. Like so many of his set-pieces Ronaldinho's performance failed to hit the target.

Neymar and Robinho, team-mates at Santos for a large chunk of this year, did not look dangerous up against an Argentinian defence which featured a 37-year-old. Brazil has too much talent to be carrying passengers so expect a shake-up in attack ahead of their next game.

There were few positives for Menezes to take out of the game but at least left-back André Santos finally looked like he had made the position his own with an all-action first half display. However, when the full-back's game was put under the microscope in the second half with the introduction of Lavezzi the old frailties were soon apparent once again.

Its hard to feel any great sympathy for Menezes after he suffered his first defeat as head coach of Brazil. Things clearly were not working for him in the attacking department early on but he held out until the last 20 minutes before making his first change.

So with Brazil turning in such a limp display why did it take a piece of individual brilliance in injury time to win it for Argentina? The simple answer is because Argentina were not that great either.

There is plenty of hope invested in stylish midfielder Javier Pastore, the weekend before this game he had put away a hat-trick in Italy's Serie A. The long term thought is to mould Pastore into a give-and-go playmaker who can help get the best out of Messi. There were flashes of the masterplan coming together but these glimpses were few and far between.

Elsewhere in the Argentinian midfield Javier Mascherano and Éver Banega did what they do best, protecting the back four. When you have Argentina's two defensive midfielders facing Lucas and Ramires in the middle of the park it does not matter if you dance the tango or the samba, not much is getting through.

Its hard to blame Argentina for plumping for a pragmatist like Sergio Batista after the madness of Diego Maradona and this win over Brazil makes it look like a solid appointment. Its worth remembering though that Maradona plotted a 1-0 win over Germany in Munich in the build-up to the last World Cup.

So who shoulders the blame for the second South American clásico in two days to fall short of expectations? My first instinct would be to say those people who have the expectation of a good game in the first place.

Also at fault is the system employed by both teams - vintage Brazil 1982 it was not nor was it Argentina circa 2006. Its worth noting that both of those teams walked away from World Cups with nothing while this defensive counter-attacking formation has proved successful for many clubs in Europe.

Blame on this aspect should be shouldered by the football associations of Brazil and Argentina who seem happy to cast off their fine traditions in search of short-term success or more importantly, cash.

Its the financial issue that grates most of all, should these two teams meet in the final of next year's Copa América then we will be in for a far different spectacle. Even a friendly in Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro would have had been an entirely different ball game.

Argentinians will gloat and Brazilians will not be best pleased, but come on, a friendly game kicking-off on the other side of the world at two in the afternoon on a Wednesday? That's just not cricket.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015