Brasil´s 8th place finish at the 2011 Copa America is the lowest finish by any Brasilian side in the history of the tournament. With just three years until the country hosts the 2014 World Cup finals there is suddenly huge pressure on the management of the national team to turn things around. Is Neymar good enough? Is Lucio past it?
At Cordoba central station I grab a taxi for the 15-kilometre drive to the stadium, which is looking like one big traffic jam.
Against all the odds, and almost 24 hours on from when I first tried to set off from Mendoza for Cordoba, I make it to the stadium with an hour to spare. Leamington Spa comes and meets me outside with my ticket and I'm in!
The Mario Kempes stadium is named after the star of the 1978 World Cup, which was held in Argentina. That tournament was when I first fell in love with football, aged 7. Thirty years later it feels like a great privilege to be here.
Just taking my seat, who should stride past, dropping his shoulder to sidestep curious onlookers, but the great man himself. Yes, it is Mario Kempes in the Mario Kempes stadium, while down on the pitch below a new generation of Brasilian stars such as Neymar are just beginning their journey of fame.
Brasil are fancied to easily overturn Ecuador, but it is 28 minutes before Pato gives them the lead with a header thanks to a nicely floated ball from the left flank. But, Ecuador,aren't about to roll over and reply inside ten minutes with a speculative shot from Caicedo from outside the box, which squeezes horribly under Cesar.
Brasil retake the lead early in the second half thanks to a great strike from Neymar but, Caicedo not to be outdone, conjurs up another long range effort that this time easily beats Cesar to make it 2-2. Brasil look rattled but the mark of a class side is to retake the lead when their backs are against the wall. Neymar gets on the end of a loose ball to make it 3-2 on the hour mark, and when Pato scores his second and Brasil's fourth with 20 minutes remaining, it destroys what was left of Ecuador's valiant effort to qualify for the quarter finals.
Final score: Brasil 4 Ecuador 2
After 4 matches, only 3 goals have been scored at the 2011 Copa America:
Following on from that opening Argentina 1 Bolivia 1 match, Columbia grabbed a narrow 1-0 victory in their opener, while Brasil v Venezuela and Ecuador v Paraguay each ended 0-0.
Special mention must go to Venezuela who put in a spirited performance against Brasil, with great performances from the likes of Rincon, Gonzalez and their assured keeper, Hernandez. Brasil had enough chances in the first half to win the match through Neymar and Robinho but, as it went on Venezuela grew in team spirit and character and could even have grabbed the three points near the death.
Copa America 2011
A blog from the 2011 Copa America and road trip around Argentina.