Brazil, Argentina eye road hurdles in World Cup qualifiers
SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil and Argentina did not have much trouble in the opening round of South American World Cup qualifiers. On Tuesday, both expect a different story away from home.
Brazil thrashed Bolivia 5-0 in Sao Paulo on Friday, but will travel to Peru, a team that qualified for the last World Cup and pulled off a 2-2 draw with Paraguay in Asuncion.
Argentina cruised in beating Ecuador 1-0, but it is wary facing Bolivia in La Paz, 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) above sea level. Bad memories abound. Argentina lost there 6-1 in 2009, and lost 2-0 in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
The most anticipated match of the evening, however, will be in Santiago, where co-leader Colombia faces Chile, which seeks to rebound from losing to Uruguay 2-1 in Montevideo.
Games will be in empty stadia due to coronavirus restrictions, and CONMEBOL has convinced most local authorities to lift quarantine measures for incoming players.
BRAZIL vs PERU
Defeating Bolivia at home did not impress Brazilian fans. Peru in Lima poses a truer test for coach Tite, who will find out if his new defensive midfield duo of Casemiro and Douglas Luiz works against better adversaries.
After scoring a brace, Roberto Firmino gained momentum to remain in a position that was initially set for Gabriel Jesus, who did not come to South America due to injury.
Neymar trained on Sunday, showing he has recovered from back pains that troubled him.
The Brazil confederation said on Monday that 36-year-old defender Thiago Silva will be the captain at Peru.
The Peruvians can’t count on their main striker, the injured Paolo Guerrero, but André Carillo’s brace against Paraguay gives the team some confidence it can challenge Brazil in Lima.
BOLIVIA vs ARGENTINA
Argentina was far from impressive against Ecuador at the Bombonera in Buenos Aires. Coach Lionel Scaloni’s team put only two shots on target in the entire match, with Lautaro Martinez and Lucas Ocampos doing little to help Lionel Messi, who may have to play with them again.
Striker Paulo Dybala, who was expected to play against the Bolivians, has not travelled due to stomach problems. And Sérgio Aguero, Messi’s favorite partner up front, is injured.
Midfielder Marcos Acuña is not expected to play due to a right leg injury. Exequiel Palacios and Nico Domínguez are his potential replacements, though Scaloni has yet to confirm his starting lineup.
The coach said on Monday he has question marks about how his players will fare at altitude.
“Until we are on the pitch we will not know how each one reacts. That is why we arrived two days early,” Scaloni said on Monday. “It is clear we need players that are 100%. And the one that is not, we have to talk to him.”
Bolivia rested some of its players to save them for Argentina in La Paz. Bolivia is still troubled by political tensions among local clubs and the new management of its national soccer association.
CHILE vs COLOMBIA
Chile is still upset about a handball that could have been a penalty in its favor against Uruguay when the match was 1-1 in Montevideo. Seconds later, the hosts scored the winner, which Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda was still complaining about in a news conference on Monday.
“We have a social responsibility to make the least mistakes possible, we know what it is now to live without soccer,” Rueda said. “We can’t speak about things that are not around the game, and unfortunately that has happened there.”
The complaints about Paraguayan referee Eber Aquino and his video review colleagues added to Chile’s serious injury problems in recent weeks. Rueda lost seven players before the Uruguay match, including some of his main defenders such as Gary Medel, Erick Pulgar, and Guillermo Maripán.
The injury toll exacerbates Chile’s slump in fortunates, the failure to reach the 2018 World Cup after a generation that won two Copa Americas in the past decade.
Colombia will be somewhat rested after beating Venezuela 3-0, all goals in the first half. Coach Carlos Queiroz had the luxury to bench strikers Luis Muriel and Juan Cuadrado in the 59th minute. Playmaker James Rodríguez and target man Duvan Zapata followed in the 74th.
Also on Tuesday, Venezuela will host Paraguay, and Uruguay will be at Ecuador.
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