Brazil and Argentina drew 0-0 in a World Cup qualifier in which the two top-ranked teams known for their offensive fire became locked in a defensive battle on Wednesday.
Top-ranked Argentina played conservatively in the first half, not allowing Brazil to take many clean shots on goal. Brazil tried to be aggressive while its defense quickly snuffed out any spark of offense from Argentina.
The defenses tired in the second half and the strikers on both teams had chances.
Argentina’s Julio Cruz hit the crossbar in the 56th minute, and five minutes later Brazil’s Julio Baptista curled a free kick over Argentina’s defense but past the goal.
Argentina star Lionel Messi was the most active player on the field, dribbling around Brazil’s defense and taking several shots. He nearly gave Argentina a win in injury time, sending a left-footer off Julio Cesar’s hands, then putting a rebound just over the net.
The result will partially pacify Brazilian fans after watching their team lose a friendly to Venezuela this month for the first time ever, then lose 2-0 on Sunday to Paraguay, which leads the South American standings.
“We played a great team with a lot of experience,” Julio Cesar said.
“We played completely different than we did against Paraguay – we played a great defensive game but just couldn’t get a goal, unfortunately.”
Argentina was coming off a fortunate 1-1 draw against Ecuador on Sunday, and can’t have been too unhappy with the draw – the team had lost three straight to Brazil, being outscored 10-1 in those matches since 2005. Argentina hasn’t won on Brazilian soil since 1998.
Paraguay led the standings with 13 points, Argentina had 11, Colombia 10 and Brazil 9.
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Juan, Lucio, Juan, Gilberto, Gilberto Silva, Mineiro, Anderson (Diego, 33; Daniel Alves, 78); Julio Baptista, Robinho, Adriano (Luis Fabiano, 74).
Argentina: Roberto Abbondanzieri, Fabricio Coloccini, Nicolas Burdisso, Gabriel Heinze, Javier Zanetti, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Gago, Jonas Gutierrez, Juan Roman Riquelme (Jonathan Battaglia, 83), Lionel Messi (Rodrigo Palacio, 89), Julio Cruz (Sergio Aguero, 70).