The storyline for Saturday's Brazil-Argentina World Cup Qualification match was whether Lionel Messi would continue to go missing against Brazil. The answer to that - a resounding yes - helps create another potential missing-person scenario for the Argentina squad, as coach Diego Maradona could soon disappear following Brazil's victory over Argentina in in Rosario.
Superior finishing and team speed were the keys for Brazil, as Argentina controlled possession throughout the match. Nonetheless, Brazil - led by a dominant performance by Kaká - controlled the scoreboard with two goals by Luis Fabiano and one from defender Luisão. More importantly, Brazil officially qualified for the 2010 World Cup and almost assuredly insured that often embattled coach Dunga would lead his squad to South Africa.
While Argentina often dominated the ball, it produced few solid scoring chances in a hard-fought game. Messi was completely ineffective throughout the match as he and Carlos Tevez continue to struggle to mesh.
Both teams came out aggressively, but neither had a solid opportunity until Luisão headed in a precision free kick entry pass from Elano at the 24-minute mark. Seven minutes later, Fabiano slotted a lose ball in front of the net past Argentina keeper Mariano Andújar.
Maradona brought in his son-in-law Sergio Arguero to start the second half, and the talented attacker brought a new life to the team. Nonetheless, Brazil's defense was solid, and César was a commanding force in the net.
Argentina showed the briefest sign of life as Jesús Dátolo put a laser-shot past César at the 65-minute mark. The hope the goal ispired was quickly extinguished as, after a Messi give-away, Fabiano made a perfect run and connected with Kaka's entry pass for a lobbed shot past Andújar. The play was pure class, and Argentina's hopes and inspiration seemed to evaporate completely.
For Brazil, it was a stellar victory over its main rival that has endless positives - they've now qualified; they put another roadblock in front of Argentina's path to qualification; and they may have sent Maradona packing. Because as much as Argentina pulled a disappearing act, Saturday night, this Brazil team appeared on the radar as one of the teams to beat in South Africa.