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Sexy Football's Newest Icons?
Argentina might eclipse Brazil as everyone's favorite team
Asad Yawar (AlexYawar)     Print Article 
Published 2006-06-21 22:57 (KST)   
During the European Championship finals of 1996, a new phrase entered the footballing lexicon courtesy of then BBC television pundit Ruud Gullit, the profoundly flamboyant attacking midfielder who was an essential component of the Holland and AC Milan teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s. "Sexy football" was a term that Gullit used to describe teams who played the game in a smooth, elegant and effortless style: teams comprised of artists who could evoke the highest spiritual consciousness through exceptional technique and intimacy with the ball.

Gullit has used the term as a synonym for sides such as the Portugal team of the mid-1990s and more recently, European Champions League holders Barcelona. But many other outfits have been associated with the concept. Since the relatively recent emergence of the "magic quartet" of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano, the Brazilian national team have drawn plaudits for the purity of their attacking play. This was especially evident at the 2005 Confederations Cup, when the selecao's brilliantly fluent attacking combinations propelled them to an exhilarating 4-1 final victory over eternal rivals Argentina, who were unable to compete with Brazil despite the brilliant promptings of Villarreal orchestrator Juan Roman Riquelme.

However, after two rounds of the group stage at the 2006 World Cup, the Brazilians appear to have lost their sensual appeal, while Argentina have taken on the mantle of football's sexiest team with the ease of a nation fulfilling a twenty-year dream of attaining global domination of the beautiful game.

A comparison is illustrative. Brazil opened their tournament against Croatia, a very useful side containing several excellent players such as midfield starlet Niko Kranjcar, flank workhorse Darijo Srna and the physically imposing Dado Prso; however, the Brazilians would, we were assured, make light work of them. In the event, one breathtaking strike from Kaka and some rather uninspired Croatian finishing were all that separated the sides.

Brazil's second game against Australia revealed a similar pattern: the Australians set out first to stop their illustrious opponents, and then carve out chances of their own. And despite an eventual 2-0 win courtesy of second-half goals from Adriano and substitute Fred, the Australians largely achieved their objective in so far as the "magic quartet" were rendered ordinary. Ronaldinho, the world's best player, was made to feel such by stifling Australian marking; Ronaldo, flabby and soda-fuelled against Croatia, looked sharper but still conspired to miss a superb chance created for him by the ever-majestic Kaka.

The Brazilians currently come across as physically unconditioned, lacking in imagination and relying on power as the source of their success. In other words, they resemble a Latin American Germany.

By direct contrast, Argentina have imparted an image of joyous, tactile soccer, with Riquelme giving the Neapolitans more than a touch of genius in the centre of proceedings. He dominated the first half of Argentina's opening contest against the outstanding Ivory Coast, setting up both Argentina goals, one with a deliciously-flighted free kick, another with a sublime bisecting pass.

And while against the West Africans the Argentines evinced a tendency to defend their lead to a fault, versus Serbia and Montenegro, who had topped their qualification group ahead of Spain and Bosnia-Herzegovina -- conceding only one goal in the process -- they embraced attack with riotous abandon as they cascaded past their Balkan opponents 6-0. Argentina's second goal -- a tapestry of twenty-four passes culminating with a wonderful finish from Internazionale셲 Esteban Cambiasso, nominally a holding midfielder -- rightly dominated the international media's attentions, but a marvellous individual effort from substitute Carlos Tevez was illustrative of the range of talents available to coach Jose Pekerman.

Of course, the World Cup is still in its incipient stages. There is plenty of time for Brazil to get into their samba rhythm, and it would take one crucial mistake to force Argentina to postphone their dreams of emulating Diego Maradona's attainments of 1986. But for now, the omens are clear: the colors of sexy football are light blue and white.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Asad Yawar

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