Can Argentina enjoy a change of fortune against Brazil?
Amid all the Euro 2008 fuss, it has nearly been forgotten that one of the world’s great fixtures will be played on Wednesday when Brazil meet Argentina in a World Cup qualifier in Belo Horizonte.
Incredibly, Argentina have lost the last three meetings by three-goals margins — 4-1 at the Confederations Cup in 2005, 3-0 in a friendly in 2006 and 3-0 again in last year’s Copa America final.
That last defeat was particularly painful for Argentina as they had gone into the match as hot favourites. Brazil were missing Kaka and Ronaldinho, both rested, and had struggled through, losing to Mexico in the group stage and getting taken to penalties by Uruguay in the semi-finals.
Argentina, on the other hand, had swept through the tournament with five stylish wins. But, in the final, they were knocked out of their stride by Brazil’s physical power and lethal counter-attacks.
Once again, Argentina appear to start as slight favourites. If Juan Roman Riquelme, Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero all swing into action, they could do Brazil serious damage.
Brazil are also missing Kaka and Ronaldinho because of fitness problems and were beaten 2-0 by Paraguay on Sunday.
Brazil, however, are never as dangerous as when they have just been stung and seem also to revel in facing opponents who actually come out and attack them, leaving spaces at the back, as Argentina do.
Can Argentina end their run of defeats? Or will Brazil again outmuscle them?
PHOTO: Sergio Aguero (R) of Argentina celebrates his second half goal against Mexico with teammate Lionel Messi during their international friendly in San Diego, California June 4, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake