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While Europe concentrates on Euro 2016 qualification play-offs and a raft of international friendlies, South America is gearing up for the third round of 2018 World Cup qualification games. The stand out tie of the week is the monumental clash between Argentina and Brazil in Buenos Aires which will be played at midnight GMT on Thursday night/Friday morning.
While it’s a long and drawn out qualification process in the South American section, it’s fiercely competitive and both Argentina and Brazil have had poor starts to the campaign. That puts even more pressure on this match, and if either side loses, their prospects of reaching the World Cup will be severely damaged.
It would be fair to say that this is one of the biggest rivalries in world football. Dubbed the ‘Superclasico de las Americas’, this week’s game has all the more significance due to the poor starts suffered by both teams. Brazil have managed three points from their two opening games, but Argentina have only gained a single point from theirs.
The match at the Estadio Monumental looks too tight to call, and the draw makes considerable appeal at 23/10 3.30 +230 2.30 2.30 -0.43 with BetVictor
Argentina usually play a dominant attacking game, but without some of their key strikers and creative players, there may be a more cautious approach to this match, particularly with such high stakes. Brazil meanwhile, have reverted to a more practical, counter-attacking style under former midfield spoiler Dunga, but that has won him few fans among Brazil’s public who expect their team to play with a reckless all-out attack.
Argentina Team News
Argentina head coach Gerardo Martinez is under increasing pressure after their poor start to the campaign which has seen them gain just one point from two games. He has also been shorn of attacking quality for this fixture, with the most high-profile absentee Barcelona star Messi. The diminutive creative player is still recovering from a knee injury and will take no part on Thursday night. Unfortunately for Argentina, the men most likely to replace him in the side could also both be missing, with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero unable to play due to his ongoing hamstring problems, and Carlos Tevez a doubt after sustaining a knee problem during Boca Juniors league and cup double-winning season.
Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain was left out of the squad last month, but he has already been recalled by Martinez, and the former Real Madrid striker could well be the man to lead the Argentinian forward line against their deadly rivals. Beyond his experience, Argentina only have the young and precocious talents of Juve’s Paulo Dybala and Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa.
Brazil Team News
Things are a little rosier for Brazil and Dunga, and they will have Neymar available, who has picked up the mantle for Barcelona in Messi’s absence. The young playmaker is crucial to Brazil’s chances – as the 2014 World Cup demonstrated – and he could be a thorn in Argentina’s side. He has completed a suspension form this year’s Copa America, and will be fit and raring to go for his country.
Dunga has made some brave selection decisions for this squad, leaving out the Liverpool pair of Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, with the former entitled to be more than a little disappointed after his blistering form for the Anfield club this season. Another surprise is the call up of 33 year-old veteran Kaka, who has been plying his trade with Orlando City in the MLS, but hasn’t played for over two weeks since the season ended. Kaka was a truly world-class player in his prime, but whether he retains the ability to influence matches at the highest level is open to question.
Brazil also have a problem in the goalkeeper position, with Dunga electing to drop Botafogo’s Jefferson after the defeat to Chile, and replacing him with Internacional’s Allison. Both are included in the squad along with the uncapped Cassio of Corinthians, but Dunga must decide who is going to be his number one.
On the positive side, the Selecao have Willian, Douglas Costa and Hulk to support the enigmatic talents of Neymar, and they are more than capable of causing Argentina problems.
Qualification in the Balance
Qualification for the World Cup is over a long-haul of 18 games in the South American group format, so there is still plenty to play for, but both Brazil and Argentina have given themselves work to do after poor starts.
Dunga has often been criticized in the Brazilian press for his ‘defensive’ style of play, and he appears to have created a team in his own competitive likeness. A sound defensive base and a counter-attacking style is alien to Brazil fans and players alike, and while Dunga will buy himself time with results, when things go wrong the knives are quickly out. His side lost their opening qualifier 2-0 to Chile, and although they bounced back with a 3-1 win over Venezuela, they will make life difficult with another loss here.
The situation is worse for Argentina, who let’s remember were World Cup and Copa America finalists. They lost their opening game 2-0 at home to Ecuador in a shock result, and followed it up with an insipid 0-0 draw in Paraguay. With the likes of Uruguay, Ecuador, Chile and Paraguay having good starts, the four automatic qualification places are no forgone conclusions. One team finishing fifth will have the chance to get through via a qualification play-off, but neither Brazil or Argentina would ever imagine themselves being in that position.
Argentina also tend to defend very well and rely on their attacking talent to do the rest, and with Brazil expected to sit back as well, this could be a tense and turgid affair rather than the end-to-end thriller we’re all hoping for. With so much at stake, no-one will want to give anything away and a point will probably suit both teams in the circumstances.
Argentina and Brazil to Draw
Friday 13th November 00:00 GMT
Odds: 23/10 3.30 +230 2.30 2.30 -0.43
Argentina v Brazil Correct Score 0-0
Friday 13th November 00:00 GMT
Odds: 17/2 9.50 +850 8.50 8.50 -0.12