Posts Tagged ‘Copa America’
In the Copa America competition, as well as South American football in general, when “giants” of the region are mentioned, it is really referring to only two teams. The two teams are Brazil and Argentina. Copa America itself is actually all about these two teams. It is just like a special festival created just for the clash of these two teams, with the rest of the participating countries in the competition just to make up the numbers and to complete the “Festival”. Just take a glance at the group draw. Brazil and Argentina are allocated to one slot in Group B and Group A respectively. Argentina is in Group A because they are the hosts of this competition. However, Brazil are allocated a different group and not in the same group as Argentina. The reason is of course the seeding system in place in which the giants of the competition cannot be in the same group, and that a group will be comprised of favorites and underdogs. In this set-up, assuming that Brazil and Argentina make it through the group stage and win every single match afterwards, they will only meet in the Final of the competition. To be frank, this is the final everyone associated with the competition wants to see. Clash of the titans, clash of the world’s best players. Dream and epic final. Everything is set, but sometimes scripts are not to be followed. At the time of writing, the quarter finals stage of the competition have been concluded, and Brazil and Argentina have crashed out of the tournament.
Some fans might react to this news just like how English fans reacted to the news of their national team’s shock 0-1 defeat to the United States in 1950. They might think that there are printing errors in the newspapers or websites that they are reading, or disruptions in the radio or television signals. The final of Copa America have been contested between Argentina and Brazil in the past 2 editions since 2004, and this is a period of 7 years. Fans are sure to have got used to this final match-up. It might be weird to see the semi-final consisting of Venezuela, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. This is so even though these teams have their superstars as well such as Jose Paolo Guerrero (Peru), Juan Fernando Arango (Venezuela), Diego Forlan and Luiz Suarez from Uruguay, as well as Roque Santa Cruz and Nelson Haedo Valdez from Paraguay. Still, Copa America seems to have just lost most of its gloss with the demise of BOTH Argentina and Brazil. Their demises can be summed up by the abbreviation “IOU” which is in this case stands for Ineptness, Overhyped, and Unfocused.
The first component of the IOU is Ineptness. For fans of Brazil and Argentina, especially those in those countries, associating these teams with the word “inept” is certainly an outright blasphemy. However, ineptness can be identified within the two South American footballing giants and they have themselves to blame for their predicaments. For Argentina, it was widely expected that they would have steamrolled past their group matches against Colombia as well as the two minnows Bolivia and Costa Rica. Argentina failed to win their first two matches, and in these matches Argentina struggled to find the winning formula suited for them. It seemed that they were without clear and coherent plan as they mixed and match tactics and formations on these two matches. The inclusion of Tevez is another one, in which the manager Sergio Batista had made it clear Tevez will not feature in his plans. However, Batista, seemingly being indecisive or succumbed to the relentless media pressure, includes the Manchester City (for now) forward at the very last minute. For Brazil, their ineptness stems from the fact that they do not look like a team at all. They simply do not operate as a unit, more of a hastily assembled individual stars with little team chemistry. The focus is on individuals instead of the team, such as how in the tournament it could be seen –and not helped by the media hype- that Dani Alves and Maicon are jostling really hard just to grab the right back berth in the team as their own. Only victories in their respective last group matches propelled them through the group stage.
At this point, it seemed that order had been restored. Despite their atrocious starts, both Argentina and Brazil managed to get through their groups and now it seemed that the much anticipated and hyped final between the two giants are on again. Turned out that their slow starts were not merely “warming up” before the competition gets to the crucial knockout stages. They were duly knocked out in the quarter finals stage. While many would ardently argued that the manner that both team lost was a lottery (ie. Penalties), with the stars at their disposals, Brazil and Argentina should have the firepower to see off Paraguay and Uruguay respectively before 90th minute.
The second component is Overhyped. To be air to both teams, the catalyst of this is undoubtedly the media. Almost if not all of the spotlights in this competition are aimed at the two teams alone. The other 14 teams seem to be left in the dark with no attention whatsoever to them. As mentioned earlier, Copa America is only hyped as the battle of supremacy between Argentina and Brazil. The media does not stop there, however. They even create another battle to be hyped up at the micro level, which is the battle between Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s rising star Neymar. This battle is so hyped up that the media have started to compare this battle with the gigantic battle between Diego Maradona and Pele himself.
While it is true that the Argentine and Brazilian superstars are supposed to be able to professionally handle such media pressure, it cannot be denied that such pressure will adversely impact the whole teams’ morale. Every inch of their movements are being assessed thoroughly. Any misplaced pass, any small trip, every blade of grass covered by the players, especially Messi and Neymar are put under scrutiny. No matter how professional of superstars they all are, they are after all human beings. They will be affected by the gaze of the whole world on them. Sub standard performance follows, and knock-out the next to follow. While they are being scrutinized 24/7, other less heralded teams in the competition such as Peru and Venezuela can go about doing their business in the competition with less pressure away from the glaring spotlight and media scrutiny.
The third and last component of the IOU would be Unfocused. While players of teams like Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Paraguay simply focus on the task at hand, focusing on how to bring glory to the shirts that they have rightfully earned, the Argentine and Brazilian players are already focusing on the glaring and glamorous lights of Milan or Madrid rather than the competition. We could see how firstly, Neymar and Ganso are already busy looking forward to their European adventures as top clubs all over Europe are constantly jostling with each other to get their signatures, while players like Aguero are more focused on stating how unhappy they are in their current club and wanting “new challenges” in a more glamorous and richer club. All of these European transfer speculations can only be detrimental to the performance of these Europe based players and also those about to make the great leap forward in their careers by securing moves to top clubs such as AC Milan and Real Madrid.
However, to be fair, especially for the last part (unfocused), the sub standard performance of Argentina and Brazil can be attributed to the fact that most of them have been in a grueling season. They have played as many as 50 high stake matches week in week out, and the last thing they want to do is to still be toiling around those pressure cooker matches during what is supposed to be their well-earned summer break. This issue can be related to the “club vs country” debates that are always perennially raging across the football world.
A Copa America without Brazil and Argentina will feel dull and incomplete. However, we have to give credits where it is due. This Copa America somehow shows how football has won. This phrase is almost always used when less heralded underdogs have risen against the supposedly superior teams. Copa America has been hyped up as the battleground of only Argentina vs Brazil, and the stage and arrangements have been set so that they will meet in the final of the competition. Despite this, the underdogs have risen, and they have deserved their slots in the semi-finals with their tough fighting spirits until the end. Let us enjoy the semi-final stage onwards where those who have been in the shadows have finally risen to take their deserved spotlights.