A brace from Luis Fabiano helped Brazil book their place at the 2010 World Cup following a 3-1 victory over Argentina that leaves the host’s qualification hopes for the tournament in serious jeopardy.
The encounter was played out at the smaller Rosario stadium in Argentina with the intention of giving the home side an advantage with a close intimidating atmosphere. However, it was the Brazilians who capitalised on two shocking pieces of defending to consolidate their place at the top of the qualification table.
As Brazil named their familiar balanced 4-4-2 line up, Maradona once again baffled experts and supporters with his choice of personnel and formation. After naming a squad the previous week that included 35-year-old striker Martin Palermo and the uncapped 36-year-old defender Rolando Schiavi, the Argentina coach selected a starting eleven that saw the inexperienced duo of Nicholas Otamendi and Sebastien Dominguez thrown into the occasion as a centre back combination. Add to that the omission of the in form Sergio Aguero for the misfiring Carlos Tevez and it’s not hard to see why the public reception for Maradona is rather negative at present.
Even so, it was Argentina who started the better of the two teams with a free flowing move between Tevez and Juan Sebastien Veron nearly catching Brazil off guard in the first minute of the match. This signalled the pattern for the first 25 minutes as Argentina controlled the tempo and possession without ever looking like breaking through the underrated Brazilian back line.
Against the run of play, Brazil took the lead in the 25th minute. A simple free kick from Elano found centre back Luisao in acres of space to powerfully head past Andujer for a 1-0 lead. The goal simply told a story of its own as Argentina’s untried and fragile backline crumbled on the first occasion that Brazil mounted any form of attacking threat.
Dunga’s side doubled their lead just five minutes later as Argentina’s marking once again rendered non-existent. An Elano free kick deflected into the path of Kaka who pulled back to Felipe Melo just inside the penalty area. Melo’s shot was well parried by Andujer but the rebound was anticipated by Luis Fabiano ahead of the flat footed Argentine defenders leaving the striker with a simple tap in.
To their credit, the supporters inside the Rosario Stadium stuck by their underperforming side and they were nearly rewarded just before half time as Tevez squeezed in a cross from the right but Maxi Rodriguez’s close range shot was well saved by Julio Cesar.
Sergio Aguero was introduced at half time for Maxi Rodriguez in an effort to give Argentina an extra threat going forward. However, it was another small dynamic player that gave Argentina a route back into the match. Left winger Jesus Datolo, playing in only his second international match, picked up the ball from fully 35 yards before launching an unstoppable drive into the top corner to reduce the deficit to 2-1 in the 65th minute.
Maradona’s joy was short lived as just two minutes later, a fantastic through ball from Kaka that left the Argentine defence in tatters saw Luis Fabiano run through and place the ball over the advancing Andujer to give Brazil a 3-1 lead.
The home side had several chances to score a second but Diego Milito and Lionel Messi saw chances go begging as the game drifted to the inevitable conclusion. The result does not kill off Argentina’s qualification chances but it leaves little room for error when they travel to Paraguay on Wednesday as just four points separate 4th place Argentina from 8th place Venezuela with only three matches remaining.