MARACAIBO, Venezuela, July 15 (Reuters) - Brazil produced a ruthlessly efficient performance to beat old rivals Argentina 3-0 on Sunday and win the Copa America for the second time in a row.
Brazil stung Argentina with a fourth-minute goal from Julio
Baptista then Argentina captain Roberto Ayala, making his 115th
appearance, put through his own goal before halftime.
Although Argentina had more possession, Daniel Alves added
a third as Argentina coach Alfio Basile, who won the 1991 and
1993 tournaments in a previous stint, lost a Copa America match
for the first time in a run spanning 19 games.
It was a bitter pill for Argentina, who lost on penalties
to the same opponents in the 2004 final and were favourites to
win this time against a Brazil team missing Kaka and
Ronaldinho, who asked to be rested.
Argentina had scored 16 goals in five games before the
final while Brazil lost to Mexico in the group stage and needed
a penalty shootout to beat Uruguay in the semi-finals.
Argentina were also attempting to end a 14-year title
drought stretching back to their 1993 Copa America title under
With the temperature at kickoff time around 32 Celsius and
the tropical sun still burning, a cagey opening had been
expected but instead Brazil snatched a quick lead.
A long crossfield ball by Elano found Julio Baptista on the
left and, as Ayala held off, the player known as 'the Beast'
advanced menacingly and unleashed a shot into the top right
Argentina nearly produced a quick reply when Juan Roman
Riquelme rifled a shot against the post five minutes later.
The number ten was close again in the 35th minute but his
shot was brilliantly turned away by Brazil goalkeeper Doni.
But Argentina's usual flowing game was interrupted by
systematic Brazilian fouling in midfield, while their defence
always looked shaky against Brazil's counterattacks.
Maicon nearly added a second in the 17th minute when
Roberto Abbondanzieri fumbled his low shot and the same player
forced Javier Zanetti to clear off the line one minute later.
Five minutes before halftime, Daniel Alves, who replaced
the injured Elano, produced a dangerous inswinging cross from
the right and Ayala turned the ball into his own net.
Brazil continued to frustrate Argentina after halftime as
goalkeeper Doni and Gilberto were both booked for time-wasting.
And as Argentina struggled to impose their style, Brazil
produced the killer punch as Vagner Love broke down the left
and fed Daniel Alves, who scored with a clinical shot into the
bottom right-hand corner.