Argentina v Brazil, 2010 World Cup qualifier, September 5, 2009
This clash between the two South American giants has almost everything and could well be a cracker. The home side need the win as their qualification chances are not as certain as one would think with the talent at their disposal. Whilst Brazil (5/1 second favourites to win the 2010 World Cup) probably need one more win to secure qualification to South Africa, they are eager to heap the pressure on their great rivals and have the defensive solidity and counter-attacking game to win the match.
To add just a little more spice to the match, if any were needed, Coaches Dunga and Maradona are known not to see eye-to-eye and the two former World Cup winning captains will be desperate to get one over their old rival.
Argentina (11/2 third favourites to win the 2010 World Cup) are five points behind the Samba Boys and standing on shaky ground knowing that second-placed Chile and third-placed Paraguay are facing relatively easy games at home to Venezuela and Bolivia respectively. Fifth placed Ecuador, just two points behind Argentina, also face a winnable game against Colombia. Maradona simply cannot afford to see his side fail to pick up maximum points.
Such is the desire for the home side to win the match that it will be played at Rosario central stadium rather than River Plate’s Monumental in the hope that the fans, who will be closer to the pitch, will be able to inspire the home side to a much-needed victory. All eyes in the 40,000 all-seater stadium will be on Lionel Messi (6/1 to score first), undoubtedly the current best player in the world who was born in Rosario.
In training Maradona has reportedly been playing Messi up front alongside Carlos Tevez (2/1 to score), as a result there may be no place for Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero (2/1 to score). Further back Javier Mascherano and Juan Veron will be looking to control the middle of the park and there have been some suggestions in the Argentinean press that Lanus starlet Eduardo Salvio may get a game.
The attacking players in the Argentina squad are a far cry from those available at the back. Whilst the likes of Diego Milito, Lisandro Lopez (11/2 to score first), and Ezequiel Lavezzi can be called upon up front, the defence could well include Gabriel Heinze, Nicolas Burdisso and Nicolas Otamendi - which will leave Kaka (9/4 to score), Robinho and Luis Fabiano licking their lips.
On paper this Brazil side is almost perfectly set up for a match of this type. Befitting a team led by one of the finest defensive midfielders seen in world football, the Samba Boys are not quite the free flowing side that sells yellow Nike shirts, but are very strong at the back. (Brazil are 5/2 to keep a clean sheet.)
This Brazil side have let in four goals in World Cup qualifying and also showed their resilience at the recent Confederations Cup. The likes of Julio Cesar, Lucio and Maicon are world class and Argentina may find it hard to breach even with the world class attacking talent they possess.
Midfielders such as Felipe Melo and Ramires (6/1 to score) also give the flair players such as Kaka, Robinho and perhaps even Alexandre Pato the freedom to break quickly and this could be the undoing of the home side who will be urged to attack from the first whistle.
This has all the makings of an epic encounter with the world class attacking players on the pitch. Somehow all the pre-match prattle about the two managers does a disservice to the players and the bottom line is that Brazil are well drilled with better players throughout their team which could make all the difference. Although this does not take into account the vociferous home support and the fact Lionel Messi is due an exceptional game in an Argentina shirt.
101gg predicts: Argentina 2 – Brazil 2 (14/1)
Full match odds here.