Brazil v. Argentina: The 90-Minute Snoozefest

Khalifa Stadium

Khalifa Stadium

This was the reason I came to Doha. I came to witness the Gods of Football play the beautiful game in its purest form. I came to witness the spectacle of best friends and worst enemies met in battle for bragging rights.

What I got was anything but.

This was not one of those hard-fought 1-nil victories where the two teams played battled back and forth or where goalkeepers made impossible saves. This was the kind of 1-nil victory where neither team ever really had their heart in it and by shear luck someone managed a moment of brilliance to save an otherwise forgettable 90-minutes.

I have decided that unfortunately people in this region don’t really know how to enjoy a football match. Yes, they understand the game, but they only know the superstar players. In the first 10 minutes of the match, the crowd would go absolutely ballistic anytime Messi or Ronaldinho touched the ball. For every other player: crickets. Eventually even Messi and Ronaldinho lost their lustre and the crowd settled for only cheering when either team shot on goal.

I especially like this summation of the game:

3 min: The camera angles for this match are wrong, all wrong. It’s as if they only brought one camera to the game and then added insult to injury by putting the lense on backwards.

16 min: “The Qatar World Cup bid is a non-starter,” writes Justin Kavanagh. “I went to see Brazil play Sweden in the Silverdome in Detroit in 1994 and despite the presence of rowdy Brazilians, the atmosphere was flat. The indoor venue was a cross between a hamburger-smelling circus tent and a fridge. The grass was dying after two previous games and dust flew up with every bounce of the ball. Plus it was about 100º outside where the rest of the games were and Steve Staunton and Denis Irwin nearly combusted.”

21 min: Well, I say nothing, but we almost saw a comical own goal from Javier Mascherano. With Brazil pinging the ball around the hinterland surrounding the Argentina penalty area, Neymar pulled the ball diagonally across the box from the byline, prompting Mascherano to welt it out for a corner. He miscued his “clearance”, however and came perilously close to rifling the ball into the roof of his own net.

31 min: Neymar lays the ball off to Andre Santos on the edge of the Argentina penalty area. He tries to get a shot off, but his effort is blocked. Meanwhile ESPN publish an apology for “the poor quality of picture”. Well they might, although it’s not their fault – the location of the cameras are avant garde, to say the least.

39 min: “International Friendly, eh?” writes cynicism’s Gary Naylor. “No doubt contractually obliged by Nike or whoever, so it must be ‘prestigious’. Anyway, I expect Argentina to win as, like their fellow self-regarding preening drama queens of top sport, the All Blacks, they are the world’s best … until it matters.” Oof! Take that Argentina! Take that All Black bottlers! Take that Swoosh-merchants!

Half-time The referee brings a reasonably entertaining first half to a close. There was some excellent play and occasional flashes of brilliance, but one can’t help but feel that a goal or two would have livened things up no end.

Half-time punditry: “Barry, I set you the challenge of making an ill-informed, myopic judgement on whether or not Pastore is in fact worthy of the title ‘the new Riquelme’ by the end of this game,” writes Gavin Sweeney. The new Riquelme? What’s wrong with the old Riquelme? To be honest, I’m too worried about the number of Nike-approved substitutes each team might bring on for the second half, to concern myself with languid Palermo midfielders. We haven’t had so much as a team line-up on this broadcast to date, so I’m not holding out much hope of ODing on information about replacements.

Not long now: Having left Brazil waiting for several minutes, Argentina finally emerge for the second half. Brazil are definitely unchanged, while Argentina have replaced Gonzalo Higuain with Napoli striker Ezequiel Lavezzi, who scored against Liverpool in the Europa League a couple of weeks ago.

46 min: Argentina get the second half started. We could really do with a goal to prevent this encounter descending into Typical International Friendly Second Half Farce, involving multiple substitutions of players who’d much rather be elsewhere.

60 min: “Mano Menezes is picking a lot of Brazilian based players right now,” writes Stewart Faith in Sao Paulo. “He is either being very political and giving the Brazilian media/public what they want or is embarking on a long term plan for 2014. Picking Ronaldinho makes me think that the former is probably closer to the mark. Everybody here in Brazil still thinks he is good.”

64 min: “America’s ESPN 2 has just informed us that the USA’s upcoming match with South Africa is ‘the truest meaning of the word friendly’,” writes Ross McKenzie. “Steve McManaman is in the studio pretending to be American. His hair is slicked back like Antonio Banderas’ and he’s waving his hands around with the kind of idiotic enthusiasm you usually only see on Fox News.”

76 min: Another Brazilian substitution: Neymar off, Fenerbahce’s Andre Santos on. His feathery mohawk is even more preposterous than that of the man he’s just replaced.

80 min: There’s a brief interclude as a fully-clothed “streaker” invades the pitch and sprints the length of it, with seven or eight stewards in hot pursuit. They catch him … eventually. I’m not too well up on the Middle Eastern judicial system, but couldn’t he get slung in the jug for a verylong time for that? Or possibly even put to death?

84 min: We are officially in the realms of the Farcical Friendly, as international caps are doled out like snuff at a wake. Ramires off, Jucilet on. I have no idea who he is.

87 min: What began as a promising enough match has now completely died on it’s arse. The players are just going through the motions, with one eye on the clock hoping to get their private jets back to wherever it is they have to get back to, sooner rather than later. Still, at least we got an entertaining 45 minutes, which is probably one half’s worth of fun more than England reserves will put on against France’s Under-12s at Wembley tonight. Football friendlies – one word: why?

GOAL! Argentina 1-0 Brazil (Messi 90+2) Messi wins the game for Argentina with a sensational goal in injury-time. Picking the ball up on the halfway line, he pinged it forward to Lavezzi, sprinted ahead of his team-mate and picked up the return pass. With four – yes, four! – Brazil defenders surrounding him, he jinked right, then left and drifted a little more left before firing a low drive across Victor’s bows and into the bottom right-hand corner. A marvellous goal from the Atomic Ant, who gets harshly booked for his celebrations.

  • Khalifa Stadium
  • Brazil and Argentina Fans
  • Players Enter the Field
  • Line-Ups
  • Brazilian National Anthem
  • Argentinian National Anthem
  • Ronaldhinho Free-Kick
  • Ronaldinho
  • View from Our Seats
  • Argentina Throw In
  • Robinho and Mascherano
  • Messi (10)
  • Brazilian Defense
  • Corner Kick
  • Pitch Invasion
  • Catching the Streaker
  • You're Under Arrest
  • Messi Thanks the Fans
  • Game Over

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