Their paths to the final, were contrasting. Argentina topped their group, three wins out of three. Brazil finished second, behind Mexico, who they lost to 0-2. In the knockouts, the story was similar. Argentina 4-0 Peru, Argentina 3-0 Mexico. Brazil on the other hand, were taken to penalties by Uruguay in the semifinal.
After losing to Brazil in a shootout in the 2004 Copa America final, the Albiceleste’s path to the 2007 final suggested one outcome — that they would make up for that loss against their biggest rivals. They even had a certain Lionel Messi everyone seemed to be talking about. He would partner another little Argentine genius up front — Carlos Tevez.
Brazil on the other hand, had Julio Baptista. Not much of a match-up, that. The forward had just completed a loan spell at Arsenal, where he scored three goals in 24 appearances.
In the fourth minute, he made it 1-0. Elano played a long ball from around 50 yards to Baptista who controlled well, took a touch to send defender Gabriel Milito the wrong way, and blasted the ball into the back of the net.
The goal probably made Italian side Roma try their luck with him. But with 12 goals in 57 appearances over three years, it is safe to say it did not work out. Argentina had 86 minutes to come back, but their opponents’ game plan was obvious, and effective.
Dunga set his team up to defend, a rare sight for fans of the Selecao, used to seeing beautiful interplay between players with the possession stats firmly in their favour.
The match seemed like an exercise in patience for Argentina. Cross, cleared. Dribble, challenged. Set piece, nullified.
In the 32nd, Brazil were dealt what seemed like a blow, with Elano coming off injured. Dani Alves would replace him and would turn out to be the catalyst behind the 3-0 rout. Minutes after his introduction, the rightback put in a cross for forwards Robinho and Vagner Love to attack. Under pressure from the pair, Argentina defender Robert Ayala would score past his own keeper.
It was all over in the 69th. Love played in a charging Alves who just had the keeper to beat, and the then Sevilla player would provide a finish a striker would be proud of. The rout was complete, and Brazil would show they were more than capable of changing their tactics and playing to their strengths.
If only Dunga had done that this year.
5th minute: Elano plays a 50-yard diagonal ball from the right to Julio Baptista who volleys in from just inside the area. He controls with one touch that fakes out Milito, then roofs it.
39th minute: Roberto Ayala leaves his keeper with no chance as he slides Daniel Alves’ cross into the back of the net from six yards. He didn’t have much choice here: Robinho and Vagner Love were dangerously close.
69th minute: With the entire Argentina team up for the free kick, Robinho breaks to find Vagner Love just inside the halfway line. He tears into the Argentina half and bisects the defence to find Alves on the right, who hits a low drive inside the far post.