The great debate
Readers sound off on Brazil's style -- or lack thereof
Posted: Tuesday July 24, 2007 12:05PM; Updated: Wednesday July 25, 2007 10:26AM
"Brazil won. End of story!"
That was the short, sharp message in my inbox from Ramona of Caracas, Venezuela, after the Copa América final.
But it clearly isn't the end of the story.
One of the greatest things about soccer is the opportunity to debate the match after the final whistle: What was the referee doing? Why didn't our team make its substitutions earlier? How could the center forward have missed that chance, and so on.
A splendid debate raged in my mailbox after Brazil beat Argentina 3-0 to win the Copa América, with the standout comments coming from Brazilian readers.
To set the scene, I should mention that I wrote an article before the match expressing the opinion that a win for Argentina would be for the good of the sport. Winners are usually imitated, and the current Argentine philosophy -- also on display in the U-20 World Cup -- goes against the grain of a powerful movement, which I personally see as a threat to the future of football. That is, the drive toward greater athleticism, with taller, stronger players, midfields primarily concerned with destruction, teams taking few risks while looking to win the game on a rapid counterattack.
Argentina still has plenty of space for the small player with a low center of gravity, and rather than force its way, seeks to play its way through the opposing side. More sides used to play this way, Brazil among them, and I was hoping that a win for Argentina might even persuade Brazil that so-called 1940s soccer was still a feasible proposition in the 21st century.
Instead, Brazil was the better side on the day. The Brazilians' tactical intelligence, physical strength, and pace and skill on the break proved too much for the Argentines, as I wrote just after the final.
The result, of course, was celebrated by the majority of Brazilians, some of whom came gunning in my direction.
Micah Goulart, for example, attacked: "All this criticism of Brazil, the winners, and where's the beef with Argentina, who should have won, according to you. Nary a word. It seems your beef was more with Brazil than in support of Argentina given the lack of mention of Argentina in the article."
This shows, I think, the classic failure of the nationalist to see events through any prism other than his own. He has missed the point. I am not cheering for Argentina or against Brazil. My loyalty is to a certain interpretation of football, regardless of who produces it. Nowhere did I write or say that Argentina "should" have won.