The phrase “nothing but a win will do” seems perfectly apt for Maradona’s Argentina side as they head into their crucial World Cup qualifier against Brazil. With Dunga’s men virtually on the plane to South Africa next year, the Brazilians can approach the match with little pressure on their shoulders albeit with the incentive of putting Argentina’s qualification spot in serious jeopardy.
Argentina come into the match with the confidence of beating a strong Russian team 3-2 in Moscow and the knowledge that they held Brazil to an away 0-0 draw earlier in the campaign. However, recent competitive form has been shaky with defeats to Bolivia and qualification rivals Ecuador. Nevertheless, Argentina seems to be one of them teams who perform at their best when it matters most. The challenge of overcoming Brazil to put them a step closer to South Africa is one that the likes of Lionel Messi and co will rise to. Even so, the Argentine strategy may play into the hands of Brazil as their quick counter attacking football is likely to flourish away from home.
Under pressure manager Diego Maradona also has to cope with key defender Martin Demichellis out injured along with Jonas Gutierrez. The Argentina squad mainly contains the familiar European based names along with a handful of players in the Argentine league. Perhaps the two biggest surprises are the call ups of 35-year-old striker Martin Palermo and 36-year-old uncapped defender Rolando Schiavi. Schiavi’s call up is particularly bewildering considering defender Daniel “Cata” Diaz, who performed admirably in the Russia friendly, has been left out altogether.
Dunga’s selection is much more straightforward as Real Madrid defender Marcelo is the only real injury worry. Bigger news is the recall for formerly out of favour striker Adriano, who now plays at Flamengo in Brazil, and for Liverpool midfielder Lucas who last played for the national team a year ago. With the team in good form having won the Confederations Cup during the summer, it is largely expected that the Brazilian line up will be relatively similar to the one that beat the USA 3-2 in the final back in June.
The game promises to be filled with passion and beautiful football as both sides look to send their supporters’ home happy. The general feeling is that the result of this match will indicate what way the Diego Maradona reign as manager will go. A win for Argentina may prove the catalyst to a successful year whilst a defeat will see them travel to Paraguay on Wednesday under immense pressure. This is a very tough one to predict but I can’t imagine a World Cup without Argentina so I am going to tip them to come good just in time!
Predicted line ups:
Argentina: Andujer, Zanetti, Burdisso, Otamendi, Heinze, Messi, Gago, Mascherano, Datolo, Aguero, Tevez
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Luisao, Andre Santos, Ramires, Gilberto Silva, Kaka, Felipe Melo, Luis Fabiano, Robinho
Prediction: Argentina 3-1 Brazil