The State of Play
It’s arguably the most glamourous game in international football – two global heavyweights slugging it out for the right to call themselves top dogs in South America. The 69,000 tickets were sold out in hours.
Yet, both teams come into this encounter on the back of defeats. Brazil were beaten by two Luis Diaz goals for Colombia on an emotional night in Barranquilla while Argentina suffered their first defeat since winning the World Cup in going down at home to Uruguay.
Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina still top the qualifying section with 12 points from five games but the situation does look a little more perilous for fifth-placed Brazil, even though six teams go through automatically into the expanded, 48-team World Cup in 2026.
The five-time champions are in a relative crisis. They have taken one point from their last three games – they’ve lost four of the eight matches they’ve played in 2023 – and are without a raft of key players for the visit of Lionel Messi and Co to the Maracana, a ground on which the visitors won the 2021 Copa America title.
Brazil are without five key players – Neymar, Vinicius Jnr, Casemiro, Danilo and Richarlison. Coach Fernando Diniz will likely stick with the bulk of the team that played well against Colombia until Diaz struck twice late on. Gabriel Jesus trained fully over the weekend and could start.
Scaloni has stressed no changes will be made to his team due to poor performances against Uruguay but he is likely to freshen up his attacking options with experienced duo Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez expected to come in to replace Julian Alvarez and Nico Gonzalez.
Brazil: Alisson; Emerson, Marquinhos, Gabriel, Renan Lodi; Bruno Guimaraes, Andre; Raphinha, Rodrygo, Martinelli; Gabriel Jesus
Argentina: E Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico; De Paul, Fernandez; Mac Allister, Messi, Di Maria; L Martinez
What They Said
Diniz on facing Lionel Messi
“You can’t help but worry about a player of his stature. But we have to play him. We can’t escape his characteristics but at the same time [we have to] try to contain him and the creative capacity he has.
“I expect a great game. They are a quality team and have one of the greatest players in history. We have prepared a lot for the game and hope to play a great match.”
Scaloni on the chance to bounce back from the Uruguay defeat
“We have analysed why the defeat happened, we have our ideas and the important thing is to digest it quickly. We are lucky that we have another game right away. It would be harder to not see each other for a while. Now we have to bounce back, that is the most important thing.
“If you watch Brazil’s game against Colombia, you can say they were beaten but they played a good game until the 76th minute. The result was misleading. Brazil are a good team.”
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 17, 2023
When and how to watch
The game kicks off at 0030 UK time, in the early hours of Wednesday morning. It is not being screened live in the UK.
Brazil will be desperate to get out of their recent slump, and who better to do it against than their eternal rivals? But Argentina are a tough nut to crack and it’s unlikely they will lose two on the bounce. Expect a score draw that will satisfy both teams.