FIFA Club World Cup

Barcelona wins, but South Americans shine

Pedro saves Barcelona

Soccer and snow – not so good together. So I’m stuck indoors today, watching a brilliant display by Barcelona as it comes from behind to defeat Estudiantes de la Plata in the FIFA Club World Cup.

It was one thing to see Pedro score the equalizer in the 89th minute on a header that just barely floated over the head of goalkeeper Damian Albil, who had some great saves in the game but couldn’t stop that one.

But then Lionel Messi sneaks into the box to score the game-winner with his chest? Are you kidding me? Just a brilliant goal to cap a historic 2009 for his squad.

The shame is you wonder how many people actually followed the match in what’s often an overlooked tourney. (Even I briefly forgot about the one match I knew I wanted to see today, but that’s because I was I gleefully watching Fulham pummel Manchester United.)

As good as the UEFA Champions League is, it’s just that – a club title for Europe.

Regardless of what the Eurosnobs may say, there’s some great soccer being played elsewhere in the world, particularly in Argentina and Brazil’s leagues, which may be the world’s most competitive but  rarely find their way to American viewers. Estudiantes showed they belonged on the pitch with Barca, just barely missing a regulation win when Albil couldn’t stop Pedro. Even at the end, they had one last shot to tie, as a header off Juan Sebastian Veron’s free kick slipped outside the post by mere inches in the game’s final minute.

Having married into a Brazilian family of Atletico Mineiro supporters, I’ve seen firsthand that not all fans worship at the altar of European soccer.

With parity growing in the Argentine and Brazilian leagues, they’re becoming arguably the world’s most exciting, because you simply never know who’s going to win on any given day. Banfield won Argentina’s Apertura championship last Sunday for the first time ever. Longtime Argentine giants River Plate and Boca Juniors finished 14th and 11th, respectively. Imagine Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea finishing out of the top 10 while Fulham or Hull City won the EPL championship. It’s like that. That makes for an unpredictable competition.

And I get to work on my Portuguese.

How many of you out there follow these leagues? Definitely curious to hear what you think and whether you, like me, find yourself sometimes more interested in Atletico Mineiro and their likes than you are in which one of the Big Four will win the EPL this year.

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  1. Ed Farnsworth says:

    I try to watch Argentine matches on FSC but the scheduling is erratic and the match broadcasts are often not live. Probably like many people my introduction to that league was through the rivalry between Boca Juniors and River Plate, perhaps the most intense derby in world soccer. I agree that the top flight is very competitive in a way that is virtually nonexistent in top flight leagues in Europe (Germany lately maybe providing a glimpse of similar competitiveness) and the fans are absolutely mental. One of my all-time favorite club names belongs to an Argentine club: Newell’s Old Boys.

    GolTV has been showing more Brazilian football since they lost Serie A to FSC. I started watching matches in that league primarily because of Ronaldo the First’s return to competitive football with Corinthians, a move that surprised many Flamengo supporters since he had been training with them and said he was a fan of Flamengo. I know little about league football there but have the impression that corruption is somewhat rampant.

    I imagine if one had a subscription to one of the exclusively Spanish-language sports channels one might see more from both of these leagues. (I’m not sure if a Portugese-language channel is available that covers Brazilian football – maybe with one of the satellite-providers?) At present, for those of us who only speak English and only have access to cable, GolTV, rather than FSC, is by far the better source for South American soccer in general. I don’t know what’s available via the web for watching Argentinian or Brazilian matches live but MyP2P is probably a good place to start.

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