x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Brazil and Argentina match far from friendly

With new coaches at the helm, both Brazil and Argentina in need of winning result in Qatar.

Between them, they have won seven World Cups and produced arguably the two greatest players of all time. Brazil and Argentina, the South American neighbours who bear a grudge, go head to head in a friendly tonight in the unlikely setting of Doha.

The rivalry is long-standing and intense, with a history of epic clashes between these South America powerhouses. Two of the best came at the highest level in the World Cup finals.

Despite being outplayed, Argentina knocked Brazil out of the 1990 World Cup with a single goal following a moment of genius from the half-fit Diego Maradona.

That came eight years after a Brazilian attacking masterclass featuring Zico, Socrates and Falcao swept the world champions Argentina aside 3-1 in Spain.

The rivalry goes beyond football. So long the region's economic power, Argentina has been eclipsed by a booming Brazil, where Brazilians tells jokes at the expense of Argentines.

"Why don't Argentines marry?" they ask. "Because they'll never find a woman who loves them as much they love themselves."

But football is where the rivalry is most tangible. Brazil boast five World Cups to Argentina's two, but under new coaches, both sides are keen to look forward and not back as they hope to establish winning systems to take them forward before next July's Copa America in Argentina.

The two giants, who were both beaten in the World Cup quarter-finals in South Africa, quickly appointed replacement coaches after disappointing tournaments. Mano Menezes succeeding Dunga for Brazil, Sergio Batista taking over from Maradona for Argentina.

Brazil will host the next World Cup in 2014 and Menezes, the 48-year-old former coach of Gremio and Corinthians, is keen to impose his style on the national team.

Menezes wants to stay in charge for the World Cup, but with big names such as Luiz Felipe Scolari declaring that they would like to lead Brazil on home soil in the next World Cup, anything but a continued winning run will leave Menezes exposed in the hottest of managerial seats.

Menezes claims that every coach needs time, saying: "Spain got to where they are now after a long period of stability and improvement. They won Euro 2008 and then the World Cup. I need time before Brazil have the basis of a great side."

With three wins from his three games in charge so far, Menezes has recalled Ronaldinho, whom Dunga left out.

Ronaldinho has not even been a regular for his club, AC Milan, but Menezes has faith that the two-time World Player of the Year can resurrect his international career, 18 months after his last Brazilian performance.

Menezes's squad includes home-based emerging stars such as Neymar, who is back in contention after an absence due to disciplinary reasons.

He has also included several players who have been playing well in Europe, such as Liverpool's Lucas Leiva. The holding midfielder has seen more action in the English top-flight since the departure of Javier Mascherano, the Argentine, to Barcelona.

Alex and Ramires, the Chelsea pair, have also been called up, although Alex was last night witdrawn as he faces eight weeks out with a knee injury. Rafael Da Silva, Manchester United's 20-year-old right-back, and Alexandre Pato, Ronaldinho's Milan teammate, will be absent, while Kaka remains sidelined along with Maicon.

Despite the absences, Brazil's squad is stocked with quality and, while the game may be a friendly on paper, no such thing exists when Brazil meet Argentina.



9pm, Aljazeera Sport 2 & +3