On paper at least, Wednesday’s friendly between the two great South American powers of Brazil and Argentina has the distinct appearance of a mismatch. A cursory look at the squads of each nation speaks volume about the relative strength of both the Brasileirão and Argentina’s Primera División.
The Seleção, in keeping with coach Mano Menezes’ commitment to base his teams around local players, does not look much different from the Brazil side that has represented the nation for the last two years. Stars like Neymar, Leandro Damião, Lucas Moura (still eligible as he awaits a move to Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the year) and Dedé are all present and correct, bolstered by veterans who have moved back home to take advantage of the booming local economy and its attendant boost to the football scene.
Luís Fabiano gleefully blasted two goals past Argentina last time he crossed paths with them in Rosario, the then-Sevilla man helping condemn Diego Maradona’s side to a 3-1 defeat which put their 2010 World Cup hopes in serious doubt. Now playing for São Paulo, the prolific striker will be hoping to once again sink the team who, according to Youwin, start as outsiders in Goiânia.
It is true that, in terms of financial power and playing numbers, the Argentines cannot hope to compete against their rivals; and Alejandro Sabella’s picks have only added to the pessimism. Players such as Leandro Somoza, Leandro Desabato and Germán Re have been called up despite mediocre recent form and look lightweight compared to the much more hyped and lauded wonderkids who will line up opposite, while more than one message board wag on websites such as Olé took the opportunity to pose the eternal rhetorical question: ‘are we really going to take on Brazil with Rogelio Funes Mori?!’
It would be foolish, however, to rule out an upset. As the old cliché goes, clásicos do not respect the formbook or logic, they have to be won on the day and more often than not it comes down to who has the most desire. And despite a few odd selections, there are plenty of names to be excited about for the away side as they prepare for the opening clash of the Superclásico de las Américas. Óscar Ustari has been in sparkling form since moving to Boca Juniors and finally leaving that injury-plagued spell with Getafe behind him, and if picked the goalkeeper has the talent to frustrate even Brazil’s attacking superstars.
There are also the inside agents. Players like Juan Manuel Martínez, Hernán Barcos, Walter Montillo and Pablo Guiñazú all strut their stuff in the Brasileirão and know exactly what to expect from Neymar and Co, all four also enjoying a sterling reputation behind enemy lines for their talents. Vélez Sarsfield defender Sebastián Domínguez is another man with Brazilian experience, having played for Corinthians in the same infamous MSI era as Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. Calling him a star would be stretching the definition, but the centre back is an uncompromising character who marshals one of the toughest backlines in Argentine football, and is a natural choice as captain.
The Estadio Serra Dourada is expected to be full to the brim on Wednesday when Brazil walk out to defend the Superclásico title they lifted in 2011 with a 2-0 victory in Belém, and those 42,000 will almost to a man be expecting similar success from a Seleção for whom victory is never anything less than a necessity. Nobody in the team will be taking their rivals lightly, however; the team sheet might not glitter quite as brightly as the one in Mano’s hands, but Argentina have nothing to lose and have the ability to make life very difficult for the stars of the Brasileirão.
This was a guest post by my Hand Of Pod colleague Dan Edwards.
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