Brazil vs Argentina – Tuesday, October 16, 19:00BST/20:00 CEST – King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah, Saudi-Arabia
On the surface, it is just a friendly between two of the biggest rivals in world football. But the matchup Brazil vs Argentina in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia also has some distinct political undertones.
The CONMEBOL region will not see competitive football until next June when Brazil host the 2019 Copa América, which does not require a qualification cycle. As a result, South American teams play plenty of friendlies between the World Cup qualification cycles and major tournaments.
In the case of Brazil, those games often take place around the world. Labelled the Brasil Global Tour the Brazilian Football Confederation sells many of its home-games off to the highest bidder to generate much-needed income. Brazil, therefore, agreed to play two games in Saudi Arabia. The Seleção defeated hosts Saudi Arabia 2-0 on October 12 in Riyadh and now faces rivals Argentina in Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia has gained significant political weight in world football in recent years and by hosting high profile internationals hopes to improve the standing of football within the country but also extend its influence in the sport. Rich in oil the Saudi government, therefore, view this friendly as a key investment, which in turn almost guarantees that many of the top players on either side will be playing on Tuesday.
Despite the money on the line one of the world’s best players, Lionel Messi will be missing from the action on Tuesday, which means the best soccer betting odds will be stacked against La Albiceleste on Tuesday. The Argentine superstar has not issued a statement on retiring from he national team but there is certainly a sense that Messi might not return any time soon.
“We miss him. But we have to let him be, in peace,” Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni told the media in September. Whether Scaloni will be the long-term manager for Argentina is another matter.
The Argentine Football Association remains in disarray following a disastrous World Cup campaign and without any coherent leadership are letting Scaloni do whatever they will eventually replace him. Without any true pressure, the head coach has experimented, and his tactics are starting to prove effective as Argentina are unbeaten in the three friendlies following the World Cup. A 3-0 victory against Guatemala was followed by a 0-0 draw against Colombia and a 4-0 victory over Iraq, but the game against Brazil will decide if the results had any real merit or were merely achieved against weak opposition.
“Regarding the formation: the first thing one notices is that Messi’s absence is beneficial for everyone. His indecipherable position on the pitch is no longer a problem for neither the manager nor his teammates. Players like Paulo Dybala can finally play without stupidly looking at Messi waiting for him to do something like it has been the case for years. The midfield is far more dynamic with the likes of Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia and Enzo Perez retired from the national team,” Futbolgrad Network Argentina expert Nico Miremont points out.
Hence, while Messi will be missed by Argentina, it also allows head coach Scaloni to experiment with the young players at his disposal. That freedom could mean that the likes of Dybala, Lautaro Martinez and Diego Simeone’s son Giovanni Simeone could finally be completely integrated into this side.
At the same time, the post-Messi world will also mean some growing pain. A growing pain that will likely be exploited by Brazil on Tuesday night as the Seleção are favourites for the win against their eternal rivals at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.
Brazil vs Argentina – Players to look out for:
Walace #17 – Brazil (Hannover 96)
Walace has been a major talking point for Bundesliga fans. Just one year ago the Brazilian midfielder struggled with Hamburger SV and was part of a squad that was relegated for the first time in the long history of the North German club. Hamburg then desperately looked for a way to offload the former Grêmio midfielder, who was part of an excellent Seleção side that won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Signed for €9 million in January 2017 Hamburg was now forced to sell Walace for €6 million to Hannover 96. It turned out to be a fantastic deal for die Roten. Walace has been among the best midfielders in the Bundesliga and is now the first active Hannover player to be called up to Brazil’s national team. Against Saudi Arabia, Walace was brought on in the second half, and his transfer value is now understood to have grown significantly. Heldt recently admitted that there is an exit-clause in Walace’s contract worth €37.3 million. Given his recent performances, it will only be a question of time until another club will trigger the clause.
Giovanni Simeone #19 – Argentina (Fiorentina)
Giovanni Simeone, son of Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone, might be one of the players benefitting from Messi’s retirement. The Fiorentina forward scored 14 goals and five assists in 38 Serie A games last season for Viola and is one of the biggest attacking talents in Italy at the moment. This season, however, he has somewhat struggled to find the mark – scoring just two goals in eight Serie A games thus far. But based on last year’s performances Simeone was given his first full senior cap in Argentina’s 3-0 victory over Guatemala on September 7, 2018, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The 23-year-old capped off his performance in style by scoring Argentina’s third goal that evening.
Brazil vs Argentina – Match Stats
- Including their run to the World Cup quarter-finals, Brazil have already played 13 matches this year, winning all but two. Meanwhile, Argentina have won five of their 10 games in 2018, losing three and drawing two.
- Tuesday’s game between Brazil and Argentina will be the 109th time the pair have faced off against each other.
- Brazil currently lead the way with 44 wins to Argentina’s 39, while there have also been 25 draws, though La Albiceleste got the better of their rivals last time out in 2017.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Brazil vs Argentina – 3-1
Brazil vs Argentina – Lineups
Alisson – Sandro, Miranda, Marquinhos, Fabinho – Renato Augusto, Casemiro, Arthur – Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Coutinho
Head Coach: Tite
Romero – Tagliafico, Funes Mori, Otamendi, Bustos – Meza, Lo Celso, Pereyra – Icardi, Simeone, Dybala
Head Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.