Brazil vs Argentina: more Messi expectation

A classic for late night football

Spanish terrestrial channel Cuatro have had the nice idea of bringing us the World Cup qualifying game between Brazil and Argentina in the early hours of tomorrow morning. With as many channels as there are and as many games on offer, which are always welcomed, the South American qualification stage for the World Cup, football of the highest order, has been misplaced. Ten teams compete, four qualify automatically and the fifth goes into a playoff. As it stands, Argentina are sixth after ten games so find themselves in the middle of the river where you find the strongest current. And tonight (another late night although not quite as bad as Trump-Clinton) they play Brazil. Kick off is 00:45 (CET).

Brazil's players Neymar and Marcelo take part in a training session ahead of their game with Argentina.

Brazil's players Neymar and Marcelo take part in a training session ahead of their game with Argentina.

A bitter rivalry

Brazil in turn, are top. And no other team drives their desire as Argentina. Brazil is the only national team to have played in all World Cups. Argentina have not failed to qualify since 1970, precisely when Brazil were being glorified. Before that they had only missed two, voluntarily, in 1950 and ’54, after a locking of horns with Brazil who, after World War II, had been given the role of hosts. Pure spite. The history of football between Brazil and Argentina is one of a very long rivalry, with more than just one turbulent episode. Between ‘47 and ’56 they didn’t play each other, with the relationship broken following a match that lasted four and a half hours according to some sources, seven according to others.

Argentina's Lionel Messi training in Vespasiano, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Argentina's Lionel Messi training in Vespasiano, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The weight on an Argentine's shoulders

More recent games have included Maradona’s aggression towards Batista (Spain ’82) and the alleged drugging of Branco (Italy ’90). Now they meet in Belo Horizonte, with Brazil comfortable in first place with 21 points, and Argentina in a rather delicate position, sixth with 16, following the sanctions for Bolivia. Tonight is a tough test for Messi, who is still looked at with some suspicion in his native country, where the love for him is not the same as at Barça. Facing him will be Brazil and Neymar who, ignoring the shadow of Cristiano, is the man that challenges him for the Ballon d’Or. It’s another game where Messi will carry the burden.