Mascherano’s national team wrote history: it won a “very final” against Brazil and qualified for the Paris 2024 Games

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If there was an ideal way to qualify for the Olympic Games, it was by beating Brazil in a decisive match. And Javier Mascherano’s Under 23 team succeeded. It was a hard-fought but deserved 1-0 at the Brígido Iriarte National Stadium in Caracas. Argentina, led by a steady Thiago Almada, a key Luciano Gondou, an influential Valentín Barco and a confident Leandro Brey, won the classic and thus got tickets to Paris 2024.

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So also in this Pre-Olympic the four competing teams reached the last round with the possibility of either qualifying or being excluded. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela, anyone could dream. And the dream has come true for the Albiceleste team who will aim for their third gold medal.

There was determination to join the national team. He came out to put pressure on Brazil aboard the 4-2-3-1 that Mascherano had in this decisive match, with four changes compared to the initial plan of the heartbreaking draw with Paraguay. The return of Valentín Barco (who served his suspension) gave him depth on the right wing.

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Colo’s interventions have always worried the Brazilian last line of that team. From there several centers fell, but no advantage could be taken. The entry of Luciano Gondou for Pablo Solari was the Argentine coach’s great tactical innovation. Thus, Santiago Castro went down to the right, Thiago Almada positioned himself behind the center forward and Cristian Medina went to the left.

Barco fought a lot but he also played: he scored a center of the goal.  Photo: AP Barco fought a lot but he also played: he scored a center of the goal. Photo: AP

There were moments of good touches in that midfield. But there were also several sections where nerves and inaccuracies dominated. In fact, the few approaches that Brazil had in a very discreet first half were due to mistakes by Argentina. Clara was just one of Menezes’ team: Alexsander’s left-footed shot came close.

A free kick from Almada on the post was the best situation for the Albiceleste. Then Masche’s team dominates, without however managing to enter the yellow-green area. There was a lack of change of pace in a team that found it difficult to break out of the box to break a rival whose greatest virtue was the defensive order.

Brazil did not show an aggressive attitude; quite the opposite. He crouched down and, for example, the times he relied on the power of the ball to impose his weight, he didn’t. On rare occasions he crossed the halfway line.

Some changes were needed in the second half, but Mascherano moved to the bench only in the 19th minute of the second half, with the introduction of Solari for Castro, who never felt comfortable as a right midfielder.

The one who made some variations first was Menezes in Brazil. He introduced John Kennedy, the figure from Fluminense, who began to make the difference with his interventions and forced Leandro Brey to show off with a couple of spectacular point-blank covers.

Given the difficulty of the preparation, the dead ball was welcome for the white and blues. From a free kick from the right, Nicolás Valentini’s header comes close to the post. The most dangerous thing does not happen through collective play or individuality.

With 15 minutes left he walked in Claudio Echeverri for a weak Medina, who had a great header opportunity before leaving, but his header went wide. El Diablito doesn’t succeed, but Argentina finds the goal they need thanks to his beacon in the area.

El Diablito entered in the hottest moment of the match.  Photo: AP El Diablito entered in the hottest moment of the match. Photo: AP

Gondou, who got tired of fighting in and out of the area, he capitalized on a nice cross from Barco and with a header between the two rival central defenders he finally beat the zero on the scoreboard. The national team would have deserved it, more for enthusiasm than for clarity, but in the end they deserved it.

The goal unleashed Argentina and further sank a bewildered Brazil. The Albiceleste cast could have done a couple more from there. Thiago Almada got bigger to command the actions and get air in that final stretch, receiving several infractions. He retaliated with another free kick, but this time Mycael took it.

Barco hit the crossbar with his left foot. And Solari missed an ideal one-on-one to finish him off. The victory, however, was not in danger. Brazil could no longer react. Argentina once again ruined his plans, leaving him without Paris and left with a place for the mid-year event.

Source: Clarin

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