CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying - Fixtures/Stats
Argentina lined up as divulged by Maradona earlier, with Carlos Tevez playing just behind Lionel Messi.
Brazil, meanwhile, fielded a familiar line-up, with Luis Fabiano leading the line.
The Albiceleste were under considerable pressure going into this game, and they made their intentions clear very early on, with a brilliant sequence of one-touch play straight from the kick-off ending in a corner after just 40 seconds.
However, after that early burst of inspiration, the game struggled to find any rhythm, with the nerves on both sides evident. Lionel Messi showed a few glimpses of skill, but would have been disappointed with his first shot, an effort from distance that flew well wide.
Argentina were certainly monopolising possession, but apart from the occasional dribble from Messi, they were failing to threaten Julio Cesar's goal. The decision by Maradona not to play a genuine striker, with Tevez and Messi both roaming, meant that there was often no-one in the box to collect the final ball.
Brazil had hardly left their own half, but on 24 minutes, they took the lead completely against the run of play. Elano whipped a free-kick in from the right, and Luisao rose unmarked to head home, once again highlighting the frailties of the home side's defense.
Minutes later, Juan Sebastian Veron whipped in a free-kick of his own, and it would surely have resulted in an equalizer had anyone got a touch. It was a tale of set-pieces though, as the Selecao capitalized on yet another one to extend their lead.
Elano's direct effort from range deflected off the wall, eventually making its way to Felipe Melo. His shot was saved by Mariano Andujar, but the rebound fell straight to Luis Fabiano, who tucked the ball away, compounding the misery for Diego Maradona's men.
On 37 minutes, Argentina finally created something of note, when Tevez's cut-back was met by Maxi Rodriguez, only for Julio Cesar to deny him from point-blank range. The home side's woes were summed up soon after, when Veron completely missed an attempted volley in the box.
On the stroke of half-time, Brazil nearly scored a third after yet another Elano free-kick. Luis Fabiano got his head on the cross, and only Andujar's outstretched hand prevented more embarrassment for Argentina.
There was still time for Argentina to mount one final attack before the break, when Datolo's shot flew inches wide of the far post. That proved to be the final chance of the half, as Maradona took his side into the sheds for the most important team talk of his managerial career to date.
The Argentina boss wasted no time in making changes, bringing Sergio Aguero on for Maxi Rodriguez. The Albiceleste started brightly again, but still looked dangerously susceptible to the counter-attack.
The game was now being played entirely in Brazil's half, but the Selecao always seemed to have an extra defender to cut out the final ball. As the hour mark approached, the whistles rang around Rosario, with the home side still looking unlikely to find a way back into the game.
Messi continued to dribble past opponents with ease, but playing in his deep role, he lacked any support to make it worthwhile. Meanwhile, Luis Fabiano flashed a shot wide from distance, as Brazil continued to create the better chances, despite hardly having any possession.
Then, out of the blue, came the lifeline for Argentina. Receiving the ball around thirty yards out, Datolo, who had flashed many a shot wide already, decided to have another go. This time, it flew into the top right hand corner, to the delight of the crowd.
It proved, however, to be a false dawn. With the fans still celebrating, Kaka played a special through ball for Luis Fabiano, who latched onto it and chipped it brilliantly over Andujar, thus restoring the two goal deficit.
Both managers then made further changes, with Ramires and Daniel Alves replacing Elano and Robinho, while Diego Milito came on for Tevez. The Inter striker nearly had an immediate impact, shooting straight at his Intern team-mate, after being set up by Messi.
With less than 15 minutes left, the goalscoring hero, Luis Fabiano, was replaced by Adriano. Argentina were still pouring forward, but they continued to be hampered by sloppy passes and misplaced shots. With five minutes left, Julio Cesar thwarted Milito from point blank again.
The home side failed to find a way back in the game, thus deepening their qualification problems, with a tricky trip to Paraguay on the horizon. Brazil, meanwhile, can book their tickets to South Africa.
Arjun Miglani, Goal.com
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