Free the Atletico Three: Live-blogging Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Miranda vs Real Madrid
Currently Atletico Madrid sit tied with Barcelona at the top of the La Liga table. They’ve beaten Real Madrid and gave Barcelona all they could handle during the Supercopa. They’re one of the top teams in Europe, thanks in large part to the efforts of three Brazilians: the forward, Diego Costa, the left-back, Filipe Luis, and the centre-back, Miranda.
Before their match against Real Madrid today, I thought it might be useful to keep a running journal on how the three Brazilians fared. I did this for two reasons. One, for people who didn’t get a chance to watch the match. Two, because the trio’s own actions speak louder than words ever can as to why they should be a part of Scolari’s “family.”
All three men played absolutely key roles today, as they have for years now. I’ve been calling for Filipe Luis ever since Dunga called him up for a qualifer against Venezuela. Injuries prevented him from going to the World Cup, though it was doubtful as to whether Dunga would have recalled him, anyway. Mano completely ignored him. Scolari didn’t make the same mistake, but has inexplicably dropped him after the Confederations Cup.
To me, this is utter madness. In my opinion, Filipe Luis has been nothing less than the FINEST Brazilian left-back in the world for five years now. Marcelo may offer more from a pure attacking standpoint, but Filipe Luis is steadier and better balanced. The alternatives, Maxwell and Adriano, are both fine players. But Filipe Luis should be a no-brainer, not someone on the outside looking in.
I was slower to jump on the Miranda bandwagon, but his performances over the past 9 months have me utterly convinced. He’s physical, good in the air, reads the game well, and is superb at playing the ball out of the back. A quartet of Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Dante and Miranda would be our best since Dunga’s World Cup squad, which boasted Lucio, Juan, Thiago Silva, and Luisao.
Diego Costa is the only one I have reservations about. He has definite qualities and definite flaws. He’s a good scorer, and can finish with either foot or in the air. (I would say that Fred is still the better finisher, however.) He’s far more physical than either Fred or Jo and is exemplary at winning aerial duels. He works far harder than either Fred or Jo as well, both in terms of dropping back to defend or in constantly trying to peel free of his marker. His hold-up play isn’t world class, but serviceable. While his technique is certainly no better than Fred or Jo’s, he makes up for it with better mobility. By this I mean that he ranges all over the opponent’s half, is comfortable receiving the ball on either flank, and constantly looks to break the offside trap. He doesn’t restrict himself to a narrow zone, waiting to receive the ball, but roams like a caged tiger, always looking for an opportunity to strike.
On the other hand, Diego Costa is a bastard. He’s not just combative, he’s a bully. He dives, he both exaggerates and instigates contact, and doesn’t pass up an opportunity to aggravate his opponents. He argues every call, attempts to intimidate officials, and more. In short, he’s a dark cloud on the pitch. Doing one of these things some of the time would be acceptable. Doing ALL of these things ALL of the time is contemptible.
Scolari did not call Costa up again after his brief cameo against Italy. I can only assume that he found Costa too turbulent, too troubling. Perhaps he saw someone like Costa as a potential threat to A Familia Scolari. Someone who could disrupt the team’s chemistry and cohesion. More likely, he saw Costa as someone he couldn’t trust. Players like Costa are always liable to get sent off…death in a tournament setting.
So with Costa, I don’t know. As always, I wish managers would explain their choices rather than leaving fans to simply guess. At the very least, I wish Scolari would have given Costa a longer look. But regardless, Atletico Madrid has three incredible Brazilians, and it’s simply unacceptable that none of them are likely to represent Brazil in 2014.
But why take my word for it? Let’s see them make their own case.
Atletico vs Madrid live journal
4th minute: Filipe Luis intercepts a pass to Di Maria and then feeds Ardo Turan for the counter
6th minute: 6 minutes in and Diego Costa is looking to split the offside trap and receive the ball over the top every time Atleti win possession in the midfield.
7th minute: Filipe Luis intercepts another pass to Di Maria, this time heading away the ball to Godin
Note: 8 minutes in and Diego Costa is arguing with the referee after almost every whistle, whether it’s called on him or not.
8th minute: Miranda sends a wonderful diagonal longball up to Filipe Luis (Miranda’s long balls out of the back were superb all throughout the match, as we will come to see.) Filipe’s first touch takes him past Arbeloa, but not Khedira.
9th minute: Diego Costa tries a dive on the right touchline but the official rightly refuses to fall for it.
10th minute: Filipe Luis with his third interception. He refuses to let Di Maria touch the ball and is reading Illaramendi’s passes in particular.
Note: Diego Simeone has Atleti so well organized – two extremely compact lines of four with either Costa or Villa dropping back depending on which flank the ball is on. Meanwhile, Filipe Luis has almost complete license to roam forward, but is very calculated about doing so. Whenever he does move forward, Koke or Thiago ALWAYS move to cover and Godin stretches farther to the left as well. I think Canteev or someone on this site mentioned earlier that Simeone is very similar to Dunga, and there’s really a lot of truth to that. I greatly admire both men.
11th minute: BRILLIANT by Filipe Luis and Diego Costa! Filipe comes all the way to the center of Madrid’s half to dispossess Di Maria. The ball falls to Koke who slides a lovely thru-ball to Diego Costa. Costa coolly slots past Lopez into the far corner.
12th minute: Filipe and David Villa are looking to combine and doing so to good effect. Filipe is really getting far forward. Arbeloa can’t seem to keep track of him, and Di Maria isn’t doing enough to keep him pinned back. The match is still in the early stages and Filipe already has me hot and bothered. I’m comfortable enough in my masculinity to admit that.
14th minute: Costa sprints forward again. Pepe is so unnerved by his movement that he knocks the ball back for a corner from a position barely past the halfway line.
15th minute: Filipe delivers a good in-swinging cross but Turan can’t quite get his head on it.
16th minute: Costa goes to ground again; the official still doesn’t buy it.
18th minute: Filipe Luis decides to emulate Costa and attempts to break the offside trap before being flagged. If there’s anyone reading this who previously thought Filipe wasn’t an “attacking fullback,” it’s far past time for you to reconsider your views.
19th minute: Costa chests down a high ball at the halfway line and passes back to Godin. In retrospect, I’m not sure why this is important but I remember being impressed when it happened.
20th minute: Costa gets a 1v1 versus Pepe, but after a few stepovers, elects to pass backward.
20th minute: Filipe brilliantly and casually relieves Cristiano Ronaldo of the ball. He made it look so easy, but replays show how focused he was at never taking his eyes off the ball.
22nd minute: Filipe Luis sends a long ball up to Costa but it’s too high. I’m trying to be objective about Filipe here by showing you his mistakes as well as his virtues.
23rd minute: Miranda allows Benzema to get in front of him to connect with Di Maria’s cross but it goes out for a corner.
24th minute: Filipe tries again to dispossess Cristiano, but this time he mistimes his tackle and is whistled for a foul. A bit fortunate not to get carded, there.
25th minute: Filipe gets forward and intercepts yet another pass. He dribbles through Khedira and Illaramendi but is then forced to lay it off to Villa.
28th minute: Cristiano is all but groping Miranda as they jostle in the box before a set piece. Kinky sentence, that.
29th minute: Miranda breaks up two Madrid attacks in the space of 20 seconds. You know, just like Henrique and Rever.
32nd minute: Miranda concedes a throw-in. Henrique and Rever would never do this.
32nd minute: Filipe Luis heads away a cross to Di Maria.
32nd minute: Filipe Luis recovers a loose ball, then sends a lovely diagonal pass up the pitch to Costa.
33rd minute: Miranda fires another long ball up to Costa who goes down at the edge of the Madrid box, claiming an injury. Looked like another dive.
34th minute: Definitely NOT a dive. A close-up of Costa’s leg shows blood. Arbeloa got him with his studs. Mea culpa, Diego. Mea culpa.
38th minute: Filipe’s throw-in falls to Costa, who hits Pepe in the back of his head with his forearm. Pepe goes down theatrically, allowing Costa to round him easily and clip the ball into the box for (I think) Gabi.
Note: Madrid starlet Isco isn’t having any easier of a time against Atleti’s compactness than Neymar did.
41st minute: Pepe is lucky not to get penalized after pulling down David Villa in the box. He probably thought Cesar Muniz was watching.
42nd minute: Costa could have scored! Lopez saves Godin’s header but the rebound falls to Costa. Costa slides in but Lopez gets there first and the two collide.
Seconds later, an “altercation” breaks out between the two. Replays show that Lopez kicked Costa in the back. I’ve decided that Costa is like Emperor Palpatine. Not only does he use the Dark Side, but he gets those around him to use the Dark Side, too.
44th minute: Filipe Luis nutmegs someone (can’t tell who) and tries to feed Koke on the edge of the Madrid box but the pass can’t quite reach its target.
Half-time. Filipe Luis has been brilliant and Costa a constant nightmare for Madrid’s backline. Miranda has been quieter but still solid. As the teams resume play, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale come on to replace Illaramendi and Di Maria, respectively. Illaramendi was very ineffective. As for Di Maria, he did send in a few crosses. Other than that, Filipe Luis basically manhandled him.
47th minute: Miranda fakes a clearance with his right foot, then cuts back and clears with his left. It’s a calm move and a great pass, falling perfectly for Diego Costa near the halfway line.
48th minute: Costa is whistled for a high boot, then talks his way into a yellow. It was a ridiculous call on Costa; Ramos had dipped his head and Costa had withdrawn his boot long before, anyway.
51st minute: Great run by Costa to break the offside trap off a seemingly innocuous free-kick. His 1st touch brings the ball down well but Pepe deflects his shot for a corner.
53rd minute: Miranda dispossesses Bale, then Bale retaliates by fouling him. “I’m the most expensive player in the world, bitch,” an indignant Bale says. Miranda responds by making a heart shape with his fingers. Two of the last three sentences are made up.
55th minute: Filipe Luis slide tackles Bale right on the touchline.
56th minute: Ramos hammers Costa in the back of the head.
57th minute: Filipe Luis plays the ball out of danger and then collides with Arbeloa. He rolls around in agony but no one is buying it, not even his own manager, who waves at him to get up.
61st minute: A wonderful clearance by Miranda leads to a 1v1 for Costa! But his dribbling is poor and the ball seems to get stuck between his legs. By the time he gets it under control, he only has time to shoot straight at Lopez.
If Ronaldo ever decides to hold a clinic on “How to go 1v1 with the goal keeper” then every striker in the world should attend. Every one.
62nd minute: Filipe Luis stretches for a slide tackle on Bale right on the edge of the box, but he can’t quite reach the ball. Bale goes down, Madrid earna free kick on the edge of the box, and Filipe receives a yellow.
62nd minute: The two most expensive players in the world debate as to who should take the free kick. “I make more money,” the most expensive player says. “Not in endorsements,” the second most expensive player responds. The second most expensive player wins.
The second most expensive player blazes the ball into the stands.
64th minute: The most expensive player in the world tries to dribble past Filipe Luis. Filipe wins.
65th minute: Header clearance by Miranda.
65th minute: Costa pushes Ramos in the back and is whistled for the foul.
66th minute: Bale creates enough space on Filipe to squeeze a shot off, but there’s nothing in it.
67th minute: Costa is brought down by Ramos, who gets a yellow of his own.
69th minute: Bale evades Koke but again is blocked by Filipe.
70th minute: This time, Bale gets the ball with a lot of room to gallop forward. All jokes aside, his speed is impressive and when he gets a chance to run at full pace, I don’t know if there’s a fullback in the world who could keep up with him. Filipe can’t, but Godin arrives to knock the ball out of play.
Note: Cristiano Ronaldo is doing no better than Isco against Simeone’s organization. In a related note, Isco is taken off for Morata.
76th minute: Something happened between Miranda and Morata but my feed failed and I didn’t get to see it. Score is still 1-0.
78th minute: BRILLIANT by Filipe Luis. He breaks forward again, stumbles, gets kneed in the back, but still manages to keep his footing before splitting two Madrid defenders.
80th minute: Nice run by Costa to break the offside trap. He wins a free kick right on the edge of the box after Pepe stonewalls him.
81st minute: Wow. Filipe evades a tackle and feeds Miranda between the left edge of Madrid’s box and the touchline. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before. Anyway, Miranda crosses to Costa. Lopez blocks Costa’s shot but the rebound falls to Koke who hits the bar. That rebound falls to Miranda, but his shot is blocked as well.
84th minute: Crucial interception by Miranda to deny a through-ball to Cristiano Ronaldo. He has really come to life in the 2nd half.
86th minute: One Brazilian-turned-wannabe-Spaniard comes off in favor of another as Baptistao replaces Costa.
90th minute: Filipe Luis doesn’t fall for Bale’s tricks and easily dispossesses him on the edge of the box.
Two minutes of stoppage time, and it looks like only a Pepe special can save Madrid now.
FT: It never happens and Atletico see out a well-deserved victory against their inner-city rivals.
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