5 big talking points ahead of Brazil and Argentina's 2018 World Cup qualifier

Old rivalries will be renewed when Brazil host Argentina in World Cup qualifying on Thursday.

Here, we take a look at five talking points ahead of the contest between two of the world’s best international football teams.

Can Brazil forget the past?

Brazil return to Belo Horizonte for the first time since their crushing 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany at their home World Cup two years ago.

Marcelo, Paulinho, Fernandinho and Dani Alves all endured that semi-final humiliation and are likely to be back playing at the Mineirao this week, where victory over Argentina might go some way to laying to rest the ghosts of 2014.

Could Argentina fail to qualify?

It is certainly not impossible. They head into this game sitting sixth in the 10-team group, adrift of the four automatic qualification spots and even outside the fifth-place play-off spot.

There are still eight games remaining and the gap is small. Argentina are level on points with Chile in fifth and only one behind Ecuador and Colombia. But they need to start winning, and fast.

Is it all about Messi?

After being persuaded out of international retirement by Argentina’s new coach Edgardo Bauza, Lionel Messi has missed their most recent three matches through injury.

Argentina have struggled without their key striker, losing at home to Paraguay last time out after drawing away to Venezuela and Peru. Argentina’s last win came against Uruguay in September, and it was Messi who scored the winner.

Are Brazil back to their best?

After 10 games, Brazil are top of the group and unbeaten since losing their opening match 2-0 away to Chile. They have strung together four consecutive victories in qualifying and scored 12 goals in that time, conceding just once.

Neymar is still Brazil’s most dangerous attacker, but Liverpool duo Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino are both enjoying greater prominence as well. There are signs Brazil are coming back to life.

Which new coach needs victory most?

Brazil and Argentina both brought in new managers this year, with Tite replacing Dunga for Brazil in June, and Bauza succeeding Gerardo Martino in August for Argentina.

They have each overseen four matches in charge, but while Tite boasts a perfect record so far, Bauza has won only once. His and Argentina’s fate could depend on their next three matches, with difficult games against Brazil, Colombia and Chile all to come.


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