Football Features

“A master at work” – Winners and Losers from Brazil 2-0 Argentina

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 4:42, 3 July 2019

In an open night of action, Brazil beat Argentina 2-0 in Belo Horizonte.

The win allows Brazil to qualify for their first Copa América final since they last won it in 2007. Meanwhile more heartbreak for Argentina, who have now waited since 1993 to win silverware. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Gabriel Jesus

Before today, Gabriel Jesus had never scored at a major tournament for Brazil. Oh sure he had been prolific in qualifying and in friendlies, but at the World Cup and Copa América he had yet to register. Then 19 minutes into the game that all changed when he appeared on the end of a delightful Brazil attack to stab it home. That could have been the end of it for him, but it was only the beginning.

Jesus proceeded to run Argentina ragged whenever he got near the ball. The Brazilian was harkening back to Ronaldo with his impressive displays of fantastic skill, balance, pace and power. There was one moment in the second half where he pirouetted away from Argentine markers on the edge of their box and fed Coutinho 1v1 (his shot was blocked, obv.)

Then his crowning moment came, not from his goal, but from his assist for the second. He began it by chesting the ball down 35 yards from his own goal and setting off into the Argentine half. There he first dropped a shoulder and blew by German Pezzella as though he weren’t there and then beat Nico Otamendi for pace so thoroughly that his Man City team-mate just fell over, after which he instantly cut back into his right foot, sending Juan Foyth skidding into the mud, and slipped it across for a Roberto Firmino tap-in. A pure masterpiece of a goal.

Loser: Argentina’s defence

Yes, Gabriel Jesus needs praise lavished on him for his play. As do Coutinho and Dani Alves for their part in the first goal. But all of that should be caveated with the fact that the Argentina defence is utter pants.

For Manchester City, Nico Otamendi is often a rock who makes the occasional bad decision. For Argentina it seems as though he is physically composed of bad decisions and terrible haircuts. Anything else to his personage is just matter that has been attracted towards him by the gravitational force of his terribleness, like the rocks that make up Saturn’s rings.

But it’s not like he’s alone. For all of the hype Juan Foyth often looks like a Playstation player, except here instead of a teenager who’s amazing at the game he plays it more like your little brother who is 6 and just randomly and incessantly presses buttons for fun. For Firmino’s goal he let Gabriel Jesus jump and grab the ball uncontested. He ran up to the challenge but then just… didn’t. He started walking! It’s impossible to describe how terrible he, and the whole Argentine defence, is with any language currently in existence. They were a shambles and played a huge part in Argentina’s defeat.

Winner: Dani Alves

Dani Alves peaked back in 2011, really. In fact since then he’s been going downhill. Now when the peak of your career was one of the best peaks of all-time you’ll still be pretty great even if you’re on the downslope, but in the six years since 2013 the only times Dani Alves has played to anything like his level consistently has been when his contract is up for grabs. Having to play for his future motivates him.

Lucky for Brazil, then, that PSG turned down his extension and let him leave the club this summer of a free. The resulting uncertainly regarding his future has left him with no choice but to play magnificently, which is what he did. The way he fought off Lautaro Martinez, flicked the ball over the head of Marcos Acuna and then put Leandro Paredes on the floor with some skill was remarkable to watch.

Dani Alves is true master at work.

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Winner: Alisson

Ever since Christian Atsu and Salomon Rondon scored past him back on in April at St. James Park, Alisson has kept an incredible nine consecutive clean sheets. Some of these games include matches against Barcelona, Spurs and Paraguay. Big semi-finals and finals.

Alisson is an absolute monster in goal. The way he plays exudes authority and that transmits to the rest of the Brazilian defence. You can tell he studies opponents in great detail. There was one final chance but for Argentina, with Leo Messi standing over a free-kick. Everyone knows how dangerous he is from free-kicks and he’s already stitched Alisson up with one earlier this season in the Camp Nou.

This time, however, Alisson had read Messi’s intentions perfectly and before the kick was even taken he had already begun moving to one side of the goal, allowing him to pounce and literally just grab the ball out of thin air like a goalkeeping warlock. Catching a free-kick? A Leo Messi free-kick? This man is definitely a sorcerer of some kind because that shouldn’t be possible.

Winner: Leo Messi

Oops, it happened again. For what seems like the eleventy billionth time, Leo Messi has played really well in an Argentina defeat that has seen his side fail to win to to anything. The Barcelona no. 10 can hold his head up and realise that whilst his team-mates were being absurdly inconsistent, he was relentlessly consistent in the unique way only he can be.

Messi created chances, Messi smacked the ball off the post, and all with minimal help. Hell, poor Messi had to dribble by three or four players every time just to get a clean look at goal. If even just one of his high-powered team-mates would step up and help him (Aguero could have had tap-in had be been on his toes) then Messi could absolutely lead Argentina all the way to true success. Hell, he came damn close for three years straight with barely any help from anyone, such is his individual quality (much of which was on display tonight), that you wouldn’t want to bet against him.

Loser: Leo Messi

But as much as Messi was quality. In the end tonight’s defeat represents yet another international tournament without success for Leo Messi. The great Argentine has been made to suffer over many years, from the agony of not seeing the pitch in 2006 to losing the 2007 final to Brazil to whatever the hell 2010 was. The 2011 Copa loss was brutal, then the three successive final defeats. Now this.

Argentina’s record goalscorer has also seen his confidence shattered by repeated failures for his country. And one only wonders what losing to a Neymar-less Brazil will do to Messi. Sure, he was by far the best thing about Argentina, but that is so often the case and yet it is never enough. All of his genius, all of his magnificence, and it doesn’t make a bit of difference. That has to hurt.

Loser: Argentina

Argentina are not very good, sure, and their form has collapsed tho the extent that they are in all honestly fairly comfortably handled by Brazil despite being able to field the best player in the world has to be disheartening if you’re from Argentina.

There was no escaping it for fans, that unmistakable dread that creeps up the next of your neck. Argentina are going to bottle it, they’re not going to take any of these chances being created for them. Nothing. There is a fundamental flaw in each of their makeups that mean whenever they don the gorgeous (and they are always gorgeous) blue and white Adidas kit, they shrink. They turn into terrified little children who can’t control their own actions. It doesn’t hit Messi quite that bad but even he isn’t immune. It’s quite absurd but the problem is now becoming chronic – and as a result Argentina have not won a major trophy since 1993 despite two generations of superstar talent.

It’d be nice if they could break the streak and actually pick up some hardware, but all signs point to the misery remaining.