Gregory Sica asks whether Argentina have what it takes to overcome their arch-rivals?
Can Argentina Claim Maximum Points?
They certainly could, but it won't be easy. Due to their disastrous form in the World Cup qualifiers, many believe Argentina will be trampled all over by Brazil. Since Diego Maradona was appointed the head coach of the side last year, they have struggled heaps. Argentina were thrashed 6-1 by Bolivia in a qualifier in La Paz in April, and obviously ever since that moment heavy pressure has mounted on Maradona and his under performing squad. Is this a joke? Is Maradona even qualified to be a coach? Can Alfio Basile still return? These were some of the questions asked by the local press and supporters of the national team.
Maradona was brought in as national team coach instead of several other more experienced coaches, and this decision has certainly backfired for Los Albicelestes. Like Pele recently said, Maradona has everything that it takes to become a great coach in the future, but perhaps it would have been a better idea to bring him in at another time, but not when Argentina are desperate for points in order not to miss out on their first World Cup since 1970, a tournament which was won by Pele and Brazil.
What Argentina Need To Do To Win
The struggling Argentines are up against the most in-form side in world football right now, and will certainly need to be at their very, very best in order to claim the desired result, which is obviously a victory. Argentina have won only one of their last seven matches against the Brazilians, and are fully aware that unless things go exactly to plan they will suffer another painful defeat.
But Argentina count with a very impressive squad, who are more than capable of beating the very best teams in the world. With the likes of Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano, Carlos Tevez and Juan Sebastian Veron, Argentina have sufficient firepower to unsettle the Brazilians. It is only a matter of getting the side motivated, and Maradona is an expert when it comes to this. With tactics aside, over the last few days Maradona has stressed the importance for his players to believe in themselves and to really believe that they can beat the Brazilians.
Argentina will surely be highly motivated to confront their arch-rivals, but this alone won't earn them the three points. What Argentina have to do is make life extremely difficult for Brazil by pressuring them throughout the entire ninety minutes, but of course by not getting too carried away and allowing the speedy Brazilians to explode on swift, deadly counterattacks.
Another important factor is for pressure to be taken off Messi. The Barcelona superstar is an absolutely sensational player, but even if he scored five times in a recent outing against Tristan Suarez, he can't be given all of the responsibility to perform against Brazil. When the teams met in the first round of the World Cup qualifiers in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Messi was relied upon to do pretty much everything, and obviously couldn't carry the entire load by himself. This time it has to be a team effort. The only way Argentina can beat Brazil is by playing as a coherent unit.
No matter what form you are in, playing at home is always a significant advantage for the home side. Maradona & co. switched from their normal venue, the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires to the Gigante de Arroyito stadium in Rosario. The purpose? To feel the comfort of the home fans. Not only is the stadium a very compact one that tends to be intimidating for opposing teams, but Rosario is a football-mad city and their fans are described as being some of the most passionate not only in Argentina, but in the whole world. This could definitely be a bonus for the side, and a significant disadvantage for the Brazilians. The rivals met at the venue in the 1978 World Cup, with the match ending in a violent goalless draw. The match is commonly known as 'The battle of Rosario'.
"The War Of Words"
Over the past week lots has been said about the big game. The Brazilian press accused Maradona of being the first to provoke Brazil, after claiming to be "a better player than Pele was" and that "Argentina have a better team than Brazil". But the Brazilians haven't been silent, and Pele responded to Maradona by affirming "I'm confident in Brazil, most of all against teams who we have always been superior to, like Argentina" and "we already know who Maradona is...what he says isn't worth taking into consideration."
Players from both teams also exchanged opinions, with Messi insisting that Argentina are more than capable of beating Brazil "comfortably." Robinho on the other hand claimed to be ready for "a war-type climate", while his strike-partner Luis Fabiano agreed by saying that the Argentines are already "trying to provoke, trying to make the climate a tense one."
Everything has been said, let the best team win!
Goal.com asks: Can Argentina Defeat Brazil? Or Will Brazil Prove Superior Once Again?
Gregory Sica, Goal.com
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