Giant on the move
South American rivalry to spice up the Games
The Olympic soccer tournament does not cut much ice in Europe but it is taken much more seriously in South America. Brazil have won the World Cup five times, the Copa America eight and the Confederations Cup twice and their failure to add an Olympic gold to their collection rankles.
It would be especially painful if their latest attempt to win the competition is ended by their greatest rivals.
So, when the two sides meet in the Beijing Workers Stadium in Tuesday’s semi-final, it will not be quite the real thing but almost — possibly around 70 percent.
The Olympic tournament features under-23 teams but both teams have taken advantage of a rule which allows up to three overage players per team. Brazil have selected Ronaldinho as one of their quota while mercurial playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme is part of Argentina’s.
Argentina also have Lionel Messi, who falls within the age limit. Several other players make regular appearances at senior level including Fernando Gago, Javier Mascherano, Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta.
On the Brazilian side, Anderson and Diego make frequent appearances at senior level while Marcelo, Rafinha, Hernanes and Breno appear set to break into the squad.
At senior level, Brazil have enjoyed some recent dominance. They won three matches in a row by three-goal margins — at the Confederations Cup final in 2005, a friendly in 2006 and the Copa America final in 2007 — before the run was ended with a 0-0 draw in a World Cup qualifier in June.
Argentina are just about the only team with the courage to go out and attack Brazil, but in doing so they have often played into Brazil’s hands.
A more cautious approach might be advisable this time.
PHOTO: Argentina’s Lionel Messi (C, top) celebrates with team mates Angel Di Maria (11), Sergio Aguero and Juan Roman Riquelme (L) after scoring his team’s first goal against the Netherlands in their Beijing 2008 Olympic Games men’s quarter-final soccer match at the Shanghai Stadium August 16, 2008. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci