Sun, Jul 25, 2004 - Page 22 News List

Argentina, Brazil meet in epic battle

COPA AMERICA When they meet today, the latest clash in a running tug-of-war more than 90 years old will decide bragging rights, Latin honor, national pride


Renato of Brazil juggles soccer balls at training session in Lima, Peru. Brazil faces Argentina in the Copa America final, today.


They are South America's soccer powerhouses, with seven World Cup titles between them and a bitter rivalry as storied as any in sports.

"It's the final that everyone was waiting for," said Brazil striker Adriano. "It will be an unforgettable match. I hope Brazil ... will keep making history."

Said Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano: "Playing against Brazil is a match no player ever wants to miss. Winning always has a special flavor."

To Argentines' everlasting distaste, their giant neighbor has won five World Cups to their two, while Brazilians' stomachs knot at the fact that Argentina is the only country with a winning record against them.

Historically, the two teams have played 90 games since 1908 with Argentina winning 36 and Brazil 33. They have drawn 21, including the very first, 2-2 on July 2, 1908 in Sao Paulo.

At the time, the great rivalry of the region was between Argentina and Uruguay, but as Uruguay declined, Brazil slowly overcame its underachieving record.

While Argentina excluded itself from the World Cup for 20 years to 1954 for political reasons, its great sides of the day feasted on Brazil in South America.

At the 1937 Copa, Argentina beat Brazil twice, the second in extra-time, to take the title, and in 1940 it enjoyed its biggest win over Brazil, by 6-1.

In 1946, Argentina won the Copa final 2-0 after the game was suspended in the first half for more than an hour when a player from each side was sent off.

Brazil has never beaten Argentina in the finals, not even when Pele made his one Copa appearance in 1959. Pele scored a tournament-high eight goals but his 1958 World Cup-champion side could only draw Argentina 1-1 in the final, handing the home side its 12th Copa title.

The last five results

* June: Brazil 3, Argentina 1

* 2001: Argentina 2, Brazil 1

* 2000: Brazil 3, Argentina 1

* 1999: Brazil 4, Argentina 2

and Argentina 2, Brazil 0

Parity has largely characterized the series since the late 1970s, with 11 ties in 25 games.

No team has won by a margin greater than two goals since Brazil beat Argentina 4-1 in 1968.

Brazil didn't even play in one of the greatest controversies between them, at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Argentina had to beat Peru 4-0 to edge Brazil on goal difference and make the final, and ended up winning 6-0 in a match long regarded suspiciously for goal-rigging.

At the 1982 World Cup, Brazil won 3-1 and Argentina's first-round exit was embarrassed by Maradona. He'd been hacked at all game by Batista, and when he'd had enough he kicked Batista in the groin and was sent off.

The following year, Argentina ended a 16-year winless streak against Brazil in the Copa, and in 1990 eliminated Brazil 1-0 in the second round of the World Cup.

But in 1995, Brazil knocked out Argentina in the Copa quarterfinals thanks to Tulio's hand-ball goal which leveled the score at 2-2 and forced a penalty shootout which Brazil won.

In the 1999 Copa, Dida saved a penalty kick by Roberto Ayala to uphold Brazil's 2-1 victory,

Over the last five years, Argentina and Brazil have met six times with both teams winning three games apiece in matches played both at the Copa America and in World Cup qualifying.

The final of the South American championship comes nearly two months following the last installment in their rivalry. In June, Brazil defeated Argentina 3-1 in a World Cup qualifier on a hat trick of penalty kicks by Ronaldo.

The teams are placed 1-2 in South American qualifying with Brazil on top with 13 points after seven games, holding a one point edge over Argentina.

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