Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, Buenos Aires
12th November, 2015, Midnight GMT
While the two traditional giants fight it out against each other for a place in the 2018 World Cup, they know that it is no more a battle for supremacy. In fact, their fall from grace seems to have been catastrophic in the ongoing 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign, as neither Argentina nor Brazil are in the top-four (direct qualification spots).
The league format of the South American World Cup Qualifiers has, since 1998, afforded the lower countries more exposure, and the likes of Uruguay, Colombia, and Chile seem to have grabbed this exposure with both arms, as they are now challenging the traditional supremacy of the giants.
While neither Argentina nor Brazil have been particularly great in the World Cup Qualifiers, there seem to be enough challengers to stop their progression this time, and they need to really dig into it, to reaffirm their status as South American giants. But first, they need to fight out this battle.
Team News & Tactical Brief:
La Albiceleste have not had a particularly good spell in the last couple of years in spite of playing well in the big tournaments. Losing out in the finals of the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Copa America would really have dented their spirits. Also, the fact that they have not won any major titles in spite of having four-time Ballon Da Or winner Lionel Messi leading them, is something that would be bugging Argentina.
However, an immediate issue that would be worrying Argentina manager Gerardo Martino is that he has a long list of injuries, especially in the world-class forwards lineup that he has at his disposal. Messi, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez have all been ruled out of the match with injuries.
However, the 52-year-old has a wealth of attacking talent at his disposal, in the form of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higua n, Angel Correa, and Paulo Dybala. However, even though the latter two are in good form, it is unlikely that Martino would go for them as he traditionally prefers experience over exuberance, and in a high-pressure match it is more likely that he would go with his more battle-worn warriors. Thus, we could expect Lavezzi, Higua n and Di Maria to line up in the top three.
Pablo Zabaleta and Ezequiel Garay are the defenders who would be missing from action, and this is something that could come into factor, against a potent Brazilian attack. The likes of Emmanuel Mas and Ramiro Funes Mori are expected to start as the fullbacks, although Marcos Rojo is another contender for the left-back position.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Romero, Rojo, Demichelis, Otamendi, Funes Mori; Kranevitter, Mascherano; Lavezzi, Pastore, Di Maria; Higua n.
The Selecao seem to have lost most of their shine, and have more or less turned into a one-man team over the past couple of years, pinning most of their hopes on the young shoulders of Neymar. So far, this has not worked one bit, as they found out against Paraguay in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Copa America and more emphatically so, in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup, against Germany who beat them 7-1.
Coach Dunga, who is known to be a disciplinarian has set his side up in a way that makes Neymar the central protagonist, but there are other in-form players who could do a lot of damage to the Argentine backline.
The likes of Douglas Costa and Willian have been performing extremely well at their respective clubs, and could provide FC Barcelona star Neymar with a lot of ammunition to fire in the goals against their biggest rivals.
One big surprise however, is the absence of in-form Philippe Coutinho from the Brazilian squad. Dungaa s decision to go for 33-year-old Kaka instead of Coutinho (who has been scoring wonder goals at Liverpool FC) has baffled one and all. One can only imagine that Dunga has preferred Kaka over Coutinho because the former AC Milan star played an instrumental role in Brazila s 3-1 victory over Argentina in the 2009 World Cup Qualifier in Rosaria.
That however, was almost six years ago, when Kaka was in the prime of his career. It would be interesting to see whether Dunga does bring on Kaka, and whether the 33-year-old makes a difference on the field of play.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Felipe Luis, Miranda, David Luiz, Alves; Gustavo, Elias; Costa, Oscar, Willian; Neymar.
Players to watch out for:
Gonzalo Higua n, Striker, Argentina
The 27-year-old seems to have found his scoring boots again at Napoli, and is in the form of his life right now. With nine goals from 12 appearances for Napoli, this season, Higua n will be the one that Brazil defenders David Luiz and Miranda would be most wary of. With the likes of Messi and Aguero injured, Higua n could be the one to put Argentinaa s campaign back in track.
Douglas Costa, Left Attacking Midfielder, Brazil
Costa has been a part of a rampant Bayern Munich that has swept most of their opponents off their feet, this season. With seven assists from 11 matches, Costa has become the best goal-creator in the Bundesliga this year, and has helped the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller score many goals. With quality players like Neymar, Oscar and Willian alongside him in attack, Costa could yet again prove to be crucial in taking Brazil back into the top-four World Cup qualification spots.
Argentina 3-2 Brazil
Both the teams have enough firepower to trouble their opposing defence, and a goalfest is exactly what we can expect in Buenos Aires. However, Higua n’s goalscoring form and the home support at the Argentine capital may be all that La Albiceleste may need to win this match.
Blast from the past