South Amer­i­can qual­i­fiers heat up

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

IN­JURY-HIT Ar­gentina re­sume their bid for a berth at the 2018 World Cup to­day as Brazil head into the lat­est round of South Amer­i­can qual­i­fiers hop­ing to build on their Olympic gold medal tri­umph.

In the five months since the last batch of games in South Amer­ica’s marathon qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign, both Brazil and Ar­gentina have un­der­gone mas­sive up­heaval, with each side part­ing com­pany with their coaches.

Brazil kissed good­bye to 1994 World Cup-win­ning cap­tain Dunga af­ter a dis­mal cam­paign in the Copa Amer­ica Cen­te­nario which saw the five-time world cham­pi­ons knocked out in the group stage.

Ar­gentina mean­while split with Ger­ardo Martino fol­low­ing his team’s Copa Amer­ica fi­nal de­feat to Chile in June, a loss which prompted a tear­ful Lionel Messi to an­nounce his re­tire­ment from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball.

Messi was sub­se­quently coaxed into a U-turn by new coach Edgardo Bauza, con­firm­ing in Au­gust that he would con­tinue to be avail­able.

But the Barcelona su­per­star is un­cer­tain for to­day’s show­down with his­tor­i­cal ri­vals Uruguay in Men­doza, with the 29-year-old strug­gling to over­come a groin in­jury.

Messi has trav­eled to Ar­gentina to join the squad and was seen tak­ing part in light drills in train­ing on Au­gust 30.

How­ever at least two other key play­ers – Manchester City’s Ser­gio Aguero and Paris Saint-Ger­main’s Javier Pa­s­tore – are both def­i­nitely out.

Aguero suf­fered a calf in­jury in the week­end’s 3-1 win over West Ham while Pa­s­tore has a torn right calf mus­cle.

Ar­gentina, who face a trip to Venezuela on Septem­ber 6 af­ter the Uruguay game, are cur­rently third in the stand­ings with 11 points af­ter six of 18 games in the round-robin for­mat.

Uruguay, who will have star striker Luis Suarez and de­fen­sive linch­pin Diego Godin back in the same start­ing XI for the first time since the qual­i­fiers kicked off last Oc­to­ber, lead the stand­ings on goal dif­fer­ence from Ecuador with 13 points.

While Bauza faces a dif­fi­cult start to his reign against the in-form Uruguayans, Brazil have a po­ten­tially awk­ward trip to the thin air of Quito to face Ecuador.

Al­though the Brazil­ians have an im­pres­sive over­all record against Ecuador – win­ning 24 of 30 games since 1942 – the Sele­cao have never won a World Cup qual­i­fier in Quito, which is sit­u­ated a dizzy­ing 2850 me­tres (9350 feet) above sea level.

New Brazil coach Tite, ap­pointed in June, has drawn heav­ily on Brazil’s vic­to­ri­ous Olympic squad for to­day’s game against Ecuador, which is fol­lowed by a chal­leng­ing date with Colom­bia in Manaus next week.

Barcelona su­per­star Ney­mar, Gabriel Je­sus, Gabriel “Gabigol” Bar­bosa and four other mem­bers of the Olympic squad are in the 23 for two games.

For­mer Corinthi­ans boss Tite warned Brazil – who are out­side the au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion po­si­tions af­ter win­ning just two of their first six games – they could not af­ford to as­sume they would turn their cam­paign around. Brazil has never failed to qual­ify for a World Cup.

“We’re not in the qual­i­fi­ca­tion zone,” Tite said. “Of course there’s a risk. If we don’t ac­cept to see the risk, we’re flee­ing re­al­ity.

“I’m here be­cause we haven’t got the re­sults. But there has been qual­ity in the work that’s been done.”

In other games to­day, Chile travel to Asun­cion to face Paraguay, still buoy­ant af­ter seal­ing back-to-back Copa Amer­ica crowns with their vic­tory over Ar­gentina in June.

Chile’s com­bat­ive Bay­ern Mu­nich mid­fielder Ar­turo Vi­dal said the squad would not be af­fected by the ab­sence of cap­tain and goal­keeper Clau­dio Bravo, who has just com­pleted a move to Manchester City from Barcelona.

“He is im­por­tant but the suc­cess of this team has not been down to one player,” said Vi­dal. “We’ve proved we are one of the best teams in the world. We’re at a high level and hun­gry to keep win­ning things.”

Chile, fourth in the stand­ings with 10 points from six games, face Bo­livia in San­ti­ago next Tues­day. The Bo­li­vians face Peru in La Paz to­day.

In the other game, Colom­bia host Venezuela in Bar­ran­quilla. –

Photo: EPA

Lionel Messi, who has re­tired and then un-re­tired from in­ter­na­tional play in the past two months, will miss Ar­gentina’s bid to qual­ify for the 2018 World Cup.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.