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Wednesday is the day of reckoning in South American football as CONMEBOL superpowers Brazil and Argentina go head-to-head at the famous Maracana.
One of the most heavily anticipated fixtures on the international calendar comes at the worst possible moment for the five-time world champions, who are in the midst of a dreadful 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying start.
As the only nation in World Cup history to have featured in every final tournament, Brazil intended to continue their reign of continental dominance following a flawless 2022 qualifying cycle.
Back-to-back wins over Peru and Bolivia to kick things off in the South American qualifying group gave the impression interim boss Fernando Diniz could architect another routine campaign.
However, the wheels have come off, with the Selecao going winless in three consecutive World Cup qualifiers for the first time since 2004 after a 2-1 defeat to Colombia last week.
If it’s any consolation for the Brazilians, their arch-rivals suffered the same fate as Marcelo Bielsa’s high-flying Uruguay side triumphed 2-0 at Boca Juniors’ La Bombonera.
Uruguay’s first victory against Argentina knocked La Albiceleste down from a perfect eight-game record in the wake of their historic World Cup success in Qatar last year.
Lionel Scaloni’s side came into the match confident of protecting their 100% four-game start to the new qualifying campaign, only to end up with their first scoring blank since a goalless draw against Brazil in November 2021.
Superclasico de las Americas often triggers plenty of emotions on and off the field, which could be what Brazil need to go through these unpleasant times.
It tends to get the best out of players, though more often than not, it awakes the worst in them, with the recent meetings between the two South American heavyweights marred by chaotic scenes and dozens of bookings.
Brazil won’t be bothered by another ill-tempered affair as long as they can arrest a three-match scoring drought against Argentina and post their first H2H win since ousting them from the 2019 Copa America semi-finals.
Yet, Diniz’s men find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Though it’s still early to draw conclusions, they sit one point adrift of the four automatic qualification places in the CONMEBOL table.
Knowing a win in Rio de Janeiro could potentially slide Brazil outside the top six – depending on other results – Argentina will have an added motive to recover from their first loss since going down to Saudi Arabia in Qatar.
However, Brazilian soil has not been a happy hunting ground for La Albiceleste, especially when the World Cup is a leading theme, as their last qualifying away win over the Selecao dates back to 1990.
Before the infamous abandonment of their meeting in the last qualifying cycle, Argentina had lost three of their four previous away World Cup qualifiers against Brazil in the 21st century.
Scaloni’s side can draw confidence from their stellar defensive performances since conquering the trophy in the Middle East, having kept eight straight clean sheets before Uruguay shocked Buenos Aires.
Reduced to bare bones after Real Madrid talisman Vinicius Junior suffered a thigh injury against Colombia, Brazil boss Diniz is facing a selection nightmare ahead of the sternest test in his interim charge.
Without Richarlison, Neymar and Vinicius, the Copa Libertadores-winning manager with Fluminense will hope to have Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus back to lead the line. It’s a long stretch, though.
As for Argentina, Manchester United defender Lisandro Martinez remains the only notable absentee. But after an underwhelming showing against Uruguay, Scaloni could make some alterations.
Inter Milan captain Lautaro Martinez and Benfica veteran Angel Di Maria could return to the starting line-up at the expense of Nicolas Gonzalez and Julian Alvarez.
Brazil potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Alisson; Emerson Royal, Marquinhos, Gabriel Magalhaes, Renan Lodi; Bruno Guimaraes, Andre, Douglas Luiz; Rodrygo, Gabriel Martinelli, Raphinha.
Argentina potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Emiliano Martinez; Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Rodrigo De Paul, Alexis Mac Allister, Enzo Fernandez; Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria.
We Say: Brazil 0-0 Argentina
While 0-0 may be the least popular result in football, this encounter has a scoreless draw written all over it, regardless of the intimidating attacking potential on both ends.
The last three clashes between Brazil and Argentina have produced just two goals, both of which were scored by La Albiceleste. But a traditionally hostile atmosphere in Rio could freeze Scaloni’s team.