Two South American rivals in Brazil and Argentina will take the field on Thursday in what promises to be an intriguing CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying contest.
Matches between Brazil and Argentina have always been intense, and Thursday’s encounter between the two South American rivals will likely offer more of the same.
In one corner is a Brazilian side that has seen fortunes favour them in the recent past. After a disastrous Copa America campaign, the Samba Boys bounced back by snapping the gold medal at the Rio Olympics by beating German in a thrilling penalty shootout in front of a packed Maracana Stadium. Golden boy Neymar guided his country to a coveted gold, and he will looking to keep up his good run when Brazil take on Argentina.
New head-coach Tite is yet to taste defeat as he has guided the Brazilian side to four straight wins and sees his team sit atop the CONMEBOL standings – in pole position to secure automatic qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
However, Argentina, despite the fire-power among their ranks, have struggled to maintain a hold of the South American qualifications and find themselves sitting in 6th place in the standings.
Captain Lionel Messi decided to call it quits from the international scene after a Copa America final defeat at the hands of Chile, but within a few months, the Barcelona star had a change of heart, and rejoined his compatriots.
But, with him being absent for the last three matches, new head-coach Edgardo Bauza has not enjoyed a decent start to his reign as Argentina boss. Complications inside the AFA have not helped the case of the 58-year-old, as he looks to guide his country safely into the group stages of the World Cup.
AS Roma stopper Alisson is set to start between the sticks for the hosts with a defensive pairing of Marquinhos and Miranda ahead of him. Dani Alves is expected to start on the right side of defence while Marcelo is understood to have recovered from an injury to play the full ninety minutes in this game.
In midfield, Fernandinho will play the role of the anchor between the defence and the attackers while Paulinho and Renato Augusto will look to create chances and drift up front.
Barcelona attacker Neymar is expected to play in his preferred left-wing position, moving Philippe Coutinho to the right. Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus will lead the line for Brazil.
For Argentina, Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori is likely to play in a relatively unfamiliar left-back position as the inexperienced Emmanuel Mas is the only out-and-out left-back in the squad.
Moving further forward, Javier Mascherano will revert to his preferred holding midfield position with Lucas Biglia and Ever Banega on either side of him.
The focal point of the Argentina attack will be another Man City forward Sergio Aguero. The 28-year-old has been in a decent goal-scoring run for his club, and will be looking to bag a few in this crucial encounter.
- In 102 matches played between the two, Argentina have managed to win on 37 occasions while the Brazilians have tasted success just two more times, with the other 26 ending in draws.
- The last time these two played, it ended in a 1-1 draw.
- Between them, the duo have won a total of seven World Cups. (Argentina 2, Brazil 5)
- Lionel Messi has scored a total of five goals against the Samba nation and will be looking to add to that tally come Thursday.
- Douglas Costa is likely to make his first appearance for the national side since March 2016.
Watch out for
The Barcelona attacker is the subject of attention everywhere he goes, and Thursday’s game against Brazil could be more of the same. Messi has not played in the last three matches for Argentina and will be looking to hit the ground running against their South American rivals. Also, due to Argentina’s shaky qualifying campaign, the onus will certainly be on Messi to lead from the front and turn the fortunes around for his side.
Brazil 3-2 Argentina
Encounters between these two always account for a lot of drama, entertainment, and thus, goals. The two look extremely formidable in attack, but their defences are relatively weakened compared to their last World Cup campaign. Thus, it is almost a certainty that both teams will score, and given Brazil’s recent form and cohesion between the players, it seems that they might edge it to continue Tite’s unbeaten start.
Goalkeepers: Alisson (Roma), Weverton (Atletico Paranaense), Alex Muralha (Flamengo)
Defenders: Dani Alves (Juventus), Fagner (Corinthians), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Miranda (Inter Milan), Gil (Shandong Luneng), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo)
Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Giuliano (Zenit St. Petersburg), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Lucas Lima (Santos), Willian (Chelsea)
Forwards: Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich), Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras), Neymar (Barcelona), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Mariano Andujar (Estudiantes), Nahuel Guzman (Tigres)
Defenders: Facundo Roncaglia (Celta), Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal), Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton), Emmanuel Mas (San Lorenzo), Julio Buffarini (Sao Paulo), Martin Demichelis (Espanyol), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Guido Pizarro (Tigres), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Marcos Acuna (Racing Club), Ever Banega (Inter), Javier Pastore (PSG), Enzo Perez (Valencia), Fernando Belluschi (San Lorenzo), Angel Di María (PSG)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Lucas Pratto (Atletico Mineiro), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Ezequiel Lavezzi(Hebei China Fortune), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus)
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