Manchester United’s pre-season tour to Asia kicked off with a 2-2 draw with J-League champions Urawa Reds in Saitama tonight.
United last played the Reds in 2005 winning 2-0 with a goal from Wayne Rooney being the highlight of the match.
This time it was 2-2 at Saitama Stadium. United’s goals came from Darren Fletcher and Cristiano Ronaldo, Urawa replying with strikes from Hideki Uchidate and Shinji Ono in front of a passionate home crowd.
Urawa partially model themselves on Manchester United, with a lot of Bayern Munich thrown in to the mix. The Mancunian Red Devils traditionally include a fixture with the team from the working class suburbs of Tokyo on their pre-season East Asian money-making jaunts.
A 4-1 loss has never been so satisfying.
Co-host Vietnam squeaked into the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup on Monday as Group B runners-up, despite receiving a footballing lesson from defending champions Japan at My Dinh Stadium.
Vietnam booked their ticket to the knockout round in place of Qatar, who crashed out of the competition with a 2-1 loss to the United Arab Emirates in Ho Chi Minh.
News of that loss triggered wild celebrations across Hanoi that lasted well into the night. The humbling loss to Japan was quickly forgotten, as was the match-fixing scandal that sent seven of the team’s players to jail only three months before the tournament. Monday night was all about celebrating the present; there was no need to dwell on the past.
The team most pundits predicted would lose three straight had reached the second round of a competition they hadn’t appeared in since 1960, and nobody could dampen their spirits.
“I think it’s a sensation,” gushed Vietnam coach Alfred Riedl, who earlier called the match against Japan the biggest in the nation’s history. “It is very good for Vietnamese football, a good education for us. Very few people expected us to go through.”
Flag-waving fans on motorbikes tore through the capital honking their horns and chanting “Vietnam! Vietnam!” for hours after the match.
One of them, Ngo Ngoc Khanh, was overcome with joy. “This is the best Judi Online thing to happen to Vietnam in years,” said Khanh, adding that he was unfazed by the prospect of Vietnam having to play its remaining games away from home. “I don’t care about that. It would be nice to see them play in Vietnam, but the important thing is that we got to the quarterfinals. Vietnam is number one!” Riedl also said he wasn’t bothered with having to play play Group A winners Iraq in Bangkok.
“It’s not where we play that’s important but how we play when we get there against a strong opponent,” Riedl said. “I don’t see any problems with our fitness or anything else just because we’re in a different country. We may surprise again. You never know.”
Japan, meanwhile, will stay in Hanoi for their Final Eight match against Australia on Saturday after topping Group B with two wins and a draw.
Brazil win 2007 Copa America
Brazil confounded the doubters to bag their fourth Copa America title in five, beating much-fancied Argentina 3-0 in Maracaibo, Venezuela.
The two South American giants had met in the previous final in 2004 in Peru, which Brazil had won on penalties after a 2-2 draw, but it was their old rivals who had been the more impressive going into this game.
Brazil had lost their opening match 2-0 to Mexico while Argentina had dazzled the tournament with some fireworks football, blitzing all opposition including Mexico 3-0 in the semi-final.
Much was expected of their three musketeers of Juan Riquelme, Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi, but before the albiceleste could find their feet in the 34C Venezuelan afternoon, Julio Baptista gave Brazil a dream start with a thumping strike in the fourth minute.
Baptista, who was on loan at Arsenal from Real Madrid last season, picked up a long spear from Elano, took two taps to beat veteran Roberto Ayala and then rifled past a frozen Roberto Abbondanzieri in the Argentina goal to give Brazil the lead.
Riquelme hit the post with Argentina’s first attack five minutes later and a dream final looked in the making.
Argentina then took the game to Brazil but always looked vulnerable to a swift counter from their more muscular opponents.
Riquelme then drew a diving save from Brazil goalie Doni before disaster struck again for the albiceleste.
Five minutes before the break, Daniel Alves swung over a cross from the right and the unlucky Ayala, threatened by the lurking Vagner Love, stretched and turned the ball into his own net.
Two-nil down, Argentina laboured hard in their efforts to eke out a comeback, only to succumb again to a break in the 69th minute.
Vagner Love carried the ball forward against the retreating Argentina defenders before releasing Alves, who found the net with an inch-perfect diagonal drive to make it 3-0.
Carlos was the victim of a split-second offside call error late on as he found the goal, but otherwise his country was well-beaten by the hitherto-underrated holders.
Brazil’s strength and power comfortably dominated Argentina’s skill and finesse, and every time the albiceleste strove to drag themselves back into the match, their silky techinique ran aground against a yellow wall of rugged tackles and massed defending.
The trophy represents a triumph for coach Dunga, golden boot winner Robinho and the Brazilian national team as a whole after the let-down of the 2006 World Cup.
The victory also reminds the rest of the football world that you write off the seleçao at your peril. With Brazil top of the South American tree once more, normal service is restored to world soccer.
Copa America Final 2007, Maracaibo, Venezuela
Brazil 3:0 Argentina
Julio Baptista 4’
o.g. Vagner Love 40’
Argentina: Abbondanzieri, Zanetti, Ayala, Milito, Heinze, Veron (Gonzalez 67′), Mascherano, Cambiasso (Aimar 59′), Riquelme, Messi, Tevez. Coach: Alfio Basile.
Brazil: Doni, Maicon, Juan, Alex Costa, Gilberto, Elano (Alves 34′), Mineiro, Josue, Julio Baptista, Robinho (Diego 90′) , Vagner Love (Fernando 90′). Manager: Carlos Dunga.