Everlasting photographs, the adulation of the world, a fairytale story full and the World Cup trophy lofted overhead. As soon as, these chapters and pages appeared to belong to Brazil at worldwide stage, nearly solely at instances, it felt.
Not. It’s over twenty years since the Selecao triumphed on the world stage and now, even worse, it was their biggest rivals who shared their very own ecstasy and jubilation with the planet, their biggest rivals who now come knocking at the door of the Maracana, champions of the world and buoyant with optimism for what lies forward.
Argentina, with Lionel Messi, lastly looks like a mission accomplished. However that doesn’t imply their story is over; simultaneous holders of each world and continental titles, they’ll be aiming to put in writing extra historical past subsequent summer time as they bid to grow to be the first South American nation to ever retain the Copa America whereas additionally being World Cup champions. The one group to essentially come shut was, in fact, Brazil: Copa winners in 1997 and 1999, they reached the ultimate of France’ 98 in between however misplaced out to the hosts.
If all of it looks like the good second for Brazil to rise in opposition to the odds, knock their rivals down a peg and reestablish themselves as Conmebol’s greatest group…properly, it’s true in idea, however there are additional layers of issue given the context of this encounter.
For starters, this 2026 World Cup qualifier takes place at the scene of Argentina’s first win on this cycle: the Maracana, the place they beat Brazil 1-0 in the 2021 Copa ultimate. Add in a attract qualifying for Qatar 2022 and the reverse fixture being cancelled, and it’s properly over 4 years since Brazil final beat Argentina.
In additional instantly regarding issues, the Selecao have gained simply two of 5 qualifying matches this time round, are lacking Neymar, Vinicius Jr and Richarlison by means of damage in assault and a number extra defensively, together with captain Casemiro, Man Metropolis goalkeeper Ederson and Actual Madrid centre-back Eder Militao.
In brief, Brazil are in one thing of a large number, with no simple means out.
Even so, there’s little cause for panic in World Cup phrases; six out of the ten Conmebol nations will mechanically qualify with one other reaching the playoffs; it’s powerful to think about Brazil lacking out both means, although there’s already an awkward-looking hole of 5 factors between themselves and their rivals, after simply 5 rounds of the 18 whole to play.
To repair a lot of this, it naturally falls to the head coach of the day, Fernando Diniz. He’s in the midst of a wildly uncommon time: the biggest of successes at membership stage alongside these struggles on the worldwide scene, whereas additionally solely in a short-term function. Diniz, who gained the Copa Libertadores with Fluminense just lately, has a contract up till summer time, when it’s broadly anticipated Carlo Ancelotti will take over forward of the Copa America itself.
However earlier than then Diniz must get Brazil again on observe from a tactical and technical perspective, even when outcomes don’t instantly come in opposition to Argentina or, in a March pleasant, England. That naturally turns into harder with such damage absences: Vinicius has grow to be a a lot larger a part of the group, Militao was their finest centre-back in kind phrases and Neymar’s standing stays huge even when his recreation has lengthy since dropped off from its highest factors.
Others, together with Antony, Emerson Royal and Renan Lodi appear to be components of the squad who’re out and in relying on availability, but by no means a part of the best-fit plan and infrequently actually trying of the required stage anyway. There’s work to be finished, notably by means of central midfield, and his time with the squad will run down quick.
Diniz could be taking a longer-term view by way of recovering Brazil’s pleasure round taking part in the recreation, however a short-term appointment he stays and nationwide protection of the Selecao – notably in opposition to this rival – will solely ever stay involved about the right here and now. It is not going to go down properly if they’re hammered on residence soil, no matter which foundations are being laid.
And but, regardless of all these points, we’ve seen Brazil bounce again from adversity earlier than. We’ve seen Argentina fail from a place of energy, come to that.
Soccer, being the loopy and changeable sport that it’s, has a behavior of seeing groups rise in the face of improbability – and the lack of jeopardy that La Albiceleste face from this match in isolation may solely add to that.
Argentina’s nice wait is over. Their greatest chapter is rewritten, their biggest hero had his second and the reformation of the facet, their type and the integration of latest gamers to kind the beginnings of their subsequent group, is finished.
Brazil are nonetheless looking for these first steps to take. Maybe they’ll unexpectedly accomplish that right here, on this stadium, simply as the Maracana was the stage for his or her rivals to take an unlimited one in every of their very own nearly two-and-a-half years in the past.