Argentina v Brazil: Galacticos clash in glamour friendly
Prestige and pride will be at stake for Argentina (6/4 to win) and Brazil (9/5) as they face off for the 46th time in their history, but the attention-grabbing clash will also be the first true test of two teams in transition.
The South American superstar-filled sides have not encountered each other since 2012, with the Samba Boys narrowly escaping the horror of having to watch their eternal rivals lift the World Cup on Brazilian soil this summer.
In this duel dubbed the ‘battle of South America’, bullish Brazil hold the prestigious head-to-head record, but La Albiceleste were the ones who came out on top last time. Argentina enjoyed a thrilling 4-3 triumph and are available at 100/1 to repeat that feat again.
Now both sides are in post-World Cup recovery mode, with new coaches at the helm of these two intensely passionate footballing nations.
Former Barcelona boss ‘Tata’ Martino has been tasked with following in the footsteps of Alejandro Sabella, who guided La Albiceleste to the World Cup final, but has a full-strength side at his disposal.
Brazil coach Dunga also has most of his main men available, but since Phil Scolari’s second reign ended in the embarrassment of an incredible 7-1 drubbing by Germany, he should have more freedom to put his own stamp on the side.
The former Samba Boys legend has already caused a stir by re-calling Kaka, who is now plying his trade for Sao Paulo, on loan from Orlando City. The 32-year-old World Cup winner has been finding form since returning to his homeland, but the ex-AC Milan and Real Madrid star is unlikely to still be around for Russia 2018.
Kaka is 11/4 to recapture the glory days and score anytime and, of course, still has the quality to pick out a precise pass. His influence and experience could be beneficial for the likes of Neymar (7/1 to score two or more), who often stood alone for host nation during the tournament.
Another Brazil-based star, Diego Tardelli is benefiting from Dunga’s interest in players on home turf and is 13/2 to fire home first if he starts, as expected, in a pacy four-pronged attack alongside Neymar, Oscar (9/1 to hit home last) and Willian (5/1 to net anytime).
Brazil have certainly seemed to emerge from the cloud of their domestic disaster against Germany, with two recent wins over continental rivals Colombia and Ecuador. They will likely be a tougher unit to break down under former defensive midfielder Dunga, who has already overseen two consecutive clean sheets.
Argentina’s ace card, as always, will be the majestic Lionel Messi, who has been excelling once more alongside opposite number Neymar for Barcelona. The Catalan club’s superstar attacker has notched up six goals in seven La Liga appearances and is 6/1 to bag a brace or better to begin Martino’s reign in style.
He is also available at a tremendous 22/1 to hit a hat-trick, after putting three past the Samba Boys in the two teams’ last meeting.
Angel Di Maria (12/1 to net two or more) and Sergio Aguero (11/2 to open the scoring) are also rivalling Messi for most in-form La Albiceleste attacker, and will present a fearsome challenge to Brazil’s notoriously leaky defence.
Di Maria in particular has been mesmerising since his move to Manchester United, revelling in the adulation of the Old Trafford crowd. With Messi likely to be pegged back, it could be up to the man nicknamed ‘noodle’, to break down Brazil’s backline.
Gonzalo Higuain, meanwhile, is surprisingly yet to net for Napoli in Serie A this season, but the usually prolific poacher is great value at 6/1 to put his club troubles behind him and close the scoring in this match.
Whilst there is nothing tangible at stake in this battle of South America’s best, it will as always be packed with passion, and should also provide an enthralling early glimpse of two new eras still under construction.