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Top Match Preview: Brazil aiming to exorcise Mineirao demons against Argentina

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Top Match Preview: Brazil aiming to exorcise Mineirao demons against Argentina

 

Even two years on, the memories remain fresh. It was a harrowing, indelible night, one that continues to be spoken about with a vague sense of disbelief. There are defeats and then there are defeats, and Brazil's World Cup capitulation at the hands of Germany – 'the 7-1', as it has come to be known – will forever merit the italics. 

On Thursday, the Seleção return to the scene of the criminal defending for the first time, looking to exorcise some of the demons that have taken up residence at the Mineirão. Brazil vs Argentina: it's a match that doesn't really need subplots, but by God, we've got one.

Most of the players, understandably, have tried to play down the significance of the venue. "This is a new Brazil and fans will see that on the field," insisted defender Rodrigo Caio. Dani Alves, one of only seven survivors from the 2014 squad, claimed that there is "no special feeling ahead of the game".

 

Top Match Preview: Brazil aiming to exorcise Mineirao demons against Argentina

 

Others, though, have made allusions to an extra level of meaning that will mark the occasion. Paulinho, somewhat optimistically, called it "a chance to rewrite history". "The scar will always be there," conceded Renato Augusto.

In the present, however, there is little reason for doom or gloom. Since their abject showing at the Copa América Centenário, Brazil's trajectory has been upward: the senior side have built upon the heartening U23 Olympic victory with four straight victories in qualifying, climbing from sixth to first place in the process.

Much of the credit for the improvement goes to Tite, the former Corinthians coach parachuted in to clear up the mess left by Dunga. Measured and studious (he took a year off in 2014 so he could travel to Europe and watch top coaches like Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti up close), the 55-year-old has brought balance and a greater sense of conviction to a side that too often lost the plot under his truculent predecessor.

There have been positives all over the pitch. The defence, bolstered by the return of Thiago Silva, has looked far more solid. Casemiro (absent through injury this week) has spread calm from his spot at the base of the midfield. After a patchy start to life in yellow, Philippe Coutinho - currently the highest rated player in the Premier League (8.09) - has started to show what he can do. Gabriel Jesus, who also ranks first in his league with a 7.46 rating courtesy of 11 goals and 4 assists with Palmeiras, already looks right at home up front, dovetailing well with Neymar as well as leading the pressing effort.

 

Top Match Preview: Brazil aiming to exorcise Mineirao demons against Argentina

 

This will be Tite's biggest challenge to date, but he could hardly be facing Argentina at a better time: the Albiceleste have dropped out of the qualification places after following up draws with Venezuela and Peru with a home loss to Paraguay. That has put new boss Edgardo Bauza, himself only four games into his stewardship, under a touch of pressure ahead of Thursday's grudge match.

Confidence in the squad is not exactly sky high – "We're not in a great position in the table," Sergio Aguero sighed this week – but the return of Lionel Messi to the side after a three-match absence has raised spirits. Case in point: Lucas Pratto, who plays behind enemy lines for Atlético Mineiro, stirring things up by claiming Brazilians are fearful of the Barcelona star. "They all asked me: 'Messi's coming, isn't he?'," said the forward. "They're a bit scared. Maybe more than a bit."

He is probably right about that. But if Bauza's preparations for the game are anything to go by, it's Argentina who will take the more cautious approach to the game. The man nicknamed 'Big Duck' is expected to line up with four players in a flat midfield, sacrificing some attacking thrust to ensure that his full-backs have ample protection. If Messi is to shape the game in the visitors' favour, he may have to do it alone.

If that is an admission of fragility, it is also a mark of respect for their rivals. Brazil's new regime may only be a couple of months old, but the whole dynamic of the qualifying group has changed: it is the Seleção who now have the momentum, leaving Argentina at risk of embarrassing themselves.

Naturally, Tite's side would love to dent their rivals' chances further at the Mineirão. Doing so would also strengthen the feeling that, 28 months after the agony of the Germany game, Brazil are finally heading in the right direction again.

Top Match Preview: Brazil aiming to exorcise Mineirao demons against Argentina

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Comments (3)

 
  • G Jesus is Brazil's man, he is going to come one of the best players ever

  • @mossy- And it's not like Brazilians think everyone who makes an impact in the Brasileirao before their 21st birthday will be an all-time great.....

  • @SteveHyland Don't think it is his brasileirao exploits that are getting them excited, more his form for the national side. They have lacked a dynamic striker for years and 4 goals in 4 games at 19 is very promising.

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