South American powerhouses Argentina and Brazil will rekindle their explosive rivalry when they lock horns with each other in the third round of the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers at River Plate’s iconic Estadio Monumental on Thursday night.
As far as loyalties go, the Argentina-Brazil rivalry splits the football world down the middle. This age old rivalry between the two South American footballing giants is arguably the fiercest and the most passionate duel in international football.
Through the course of history, these two teams have clashed against each other 96 times — Argentina winning 36, Brazil winning 36. Thursday’s crucial match-up between the two colossal giants of world football may end up deciding who edges ahead.
At the biggest stage of all though — the FIFA World Cup — Brazil have established a clear edge over their bitter rivals. While the Selecao have managed to lift the famous Jules Rimet trophy on 5 occasions (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002), the Albiceleste have won it only twice (1978, 1986). Argentina came excruciatingly close to reducing the deficit in last year’s World Cup final against Germany.
However, despite Brazil’s higher success rate in the tournament as compared to their rivals, the Argentinians have been the more dominant force in recent times. After their fairly successful World Cup campaign, the Sky Blue and Whites attained the number one spot in the FIFA rankings and held on to it for a long period of time. This summer, the Argentinians reached the final of the Copa America 2015 where they were beaten by hosts Chile after a dramatic penalty shootout.
Brazil, on the other hand, endured their most torturous World Cup campaign as they were unceremoniously dumped out of the competition on home soil after being massacred 7-1 by eventual champions Germany. In the Copa America earlier this year, the Selecao laboured through to the knockout stages of the competition only to be eliminated by Paraguay at the first hurdle.
The most recent high profile meeting of the two sides took place in the semi final of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where Argentina beat Brazil by a convincing 3-0 scoreline. They eventually went on to claim the gold medal after beating Nigeria 1-0 in the final.
Unconvincing Brazil set to battle against Injury ravaged Argentina
After having reached the final of last year’s World Cup in Brazil, La Albiceleste have made a miserable start to the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign after amassing a solitary point from their opening two matches. After a shocking 2-0 defeat at the hands of Ecuador in the opening qualifier in Buenos Aires, Tata Martino’s men played out an uninspiring 0-0 draw against Paraguay.
Dunga’s Brazil have fared only slightly better than their Argentinian counterparts. After being thoroughly outplayed by South American champions Chile in the opening round, Brazil roared back to record an impressive 3-1 win over Venezuela at Estadio Fortaleza.
Although the Argentinians have the home advantage against Brazil on Thursday, their squad has been ravaged by crippling injuries to several first team players. Three time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi will miss the encounter against Brazil as he is still recovering from the knee injury he suffered while playing for FC Barcelona in September. They will also be missing the explosive firepower of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez up front, with the pair ruled out due to injury. At the back, first choice centre-back Ezequiel Garay and veteran right-back Pablo Zabaleta will also miss out against the Brazilians through injury.
Dunga’s appointment as the head coach of the Selecao following their humiliating exit from the World Cup was met with brickbats and bouquets. The former Brazil captain has been tasked with infusing the necessary defensive steel and grit into the national team — something that was clearly missing in the 2014 World Cup. However, on the flip side, Dunga’s pragmatic ways are often criticised by several Brazilian fans who have grown accustomed to watching their national icons play scintillating football on the field.
Fresh from their 3-1 win over the Venezuelans, the Brazilians will be boosted by the return of their talismanic frontman Neymar, as the FC Barcelona striker has served out the remainder of his 3-match ban. Neymar’s presence up front will add firepower to the much maligned Brazilian forward lineup.
Despite the injuries to Messi, Aguero and Tevez, Tata Martino still has a plethora of world class attacking talent at his disposal (Di Maria, Higuain, Lavezzi, Pastore, Dybala). However, one can be forgiven for feeling, that this may just be Brazil’s best chance yet to get one over its greatest football rival on away soil.