Argentina and Brazil provided something very special on June 9, putting on a great exhibition for a massive crowd that came from all corners of America and Canada to see Messi, Neymar and their national teams. Rather than going through the motions at the end of a long season, the players sensed the exceptional energy of the stadium and put on an amazing display, giving people everything they came to see, and more. Despite the expensive tickets exacerbated by the Ticketmaster scam, $25 parking and $12 beers, the crowd went home exuberant to have witnessed this thrilling match, another indication that there is no problem filling stadiums in America when the quality is there.
Surrounded by a happy, loud, singing, dancing and drum-banging sea of yellow and green, and blue and white, two titans of international soccer played the international friendly match for continental pride. Despite the weekend’s kickoff of the Euro Cup competition, a sold out crowd of 81,994 watched Brazil and Argentina in a game that featured many of the world’s best players, including Messi and Brazil’s teenage sensation, Neymar. The match was close, but in the end Argentina and Messi—who scored a hat trick—won this chapter of the fabled rivalry, 4-3.
“No one has found a solution yet, that’s why [Messi] is the best in the world??? said Brazil manager Mano Menezes, through a translator. “That’s why he got four balls all game, and scored three of them.???
Brazil dominated possession early, with close shots from forwards Hulk and Neymar, and in the 23 minute, midfielder Romulo found the back of the net with a caroming shot off keeper Sergio Romero. Argentina had their chances too, though many were thwarted by bad touches, offsides and good defense. But in the 31st minute, Gonazalo Higuain fed the ball through Brazil’s back line, finding Messi, who took one touch and buried the ball in the corner from just inside the 18.
The poise and precision of the goal compared Messi with his counterpart Neymar, who seconds before squandered a chance by being unable to stay on his feet. Minutes later, Messi earned his second goal on another breakaway, showing why he is the leading scorer in Spain’s La Liga, as well as Europe. Messi, while playing for FC Barcelona, set the European club record this year with an astounding 73 goals in all competitions, passing Bayern Munich’s former striker Gerd Mueller. Messi also had 29 assists to accompany his goals.
Argentina started the second half on top, but managed to keep their lead for only a few minutes. In the 56th minute, Brazil equalized when forward Leandro Damiao found midfielder Oscar streaking through the middle of the field. Brazil took the lead in the 72nd minute, when Neymar’s corner kick was volleyed in by forward Hulk after the ball bounced through Romero’s hands. But as was the game’s trend, Argentina fired back, as an unmarked Frederico Fernandez headed in substitute Sergio Aguero’s header in the 75th minute.
Brazil looked as though they would regain lead in the 80th minute, but Neymar’s open-net opportunity was thwarted by a sliding Fernandez. Probably the most spectacular goal came in the 85th minute, by none other than Messi, when he earned his hat trick by streaking up the right side, turning into the center, and curling the ball into the upper 90 with his left foot from just beyond the 18—a move that has become his trademark.
A memorable experience for all. The crowd was the largest for a soccer game in New Jersey history.