Neymar nears Pele’s Brazil mark, Messi leads Argentina: South America’s World Cup stars shine

South America’s 4 World Cup-bound squads — Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador — all performed friendlies on Monday as they put together for Qatar.

Brazil and Uruguay earned respective wins over groups that can even be on the World Cup (5-1 over Tunisia and 2-0 over Canada) whereas Ecuador performed a scoreless draw with Qatar-bound Japan. Argentina, in the meantime, had a convincing 3-0 win over Jamaica.

Taking into consideration their performances, we reply a key query for every CONMEBOL facet as their preparation for the sport’s greatest stage continues.

Can issues be going too nicely for Brazil?

Tunisia had not conceded a objective in seven video games — after which they got here up towards Brazil in Paris. Up by 4 by halftime due to Raphinha (two targets), Richarlison, and Neymar, the Brazilians completed with an emphatic 5-1 win following Pedro‘s excellent shot within the 74th minute.

Every thing goes proper for Brazil. Each tactical formation utilized by coach Tite — he now has used three completely different setups — appears to work. Each participant he brings in appears to hit the bottom operating. Pictures hit the publish and go in, attackers are performed narrowly onside. And after his penalty conversion towards Tunisia, Neymar is simply two targets shy of matching Pele’s mark of 77.

Since dropping within the closing of the Copa America in the midst of final yr, Brazil have gained 12, drawn three and misplaced none, with 38 scored and simply 5 conceded. It’s a fabulous document, achieved with a method that justifiably makes them favourites to carry the trophy residence from Qatar. However World Cups should not gained with a succession of romps. Even the 1970 facet needed to overcome some issues alongside the way in which, particularly towards England and Uruguay. The 2002 staff had been lucky to not be crushed by Belgium.

Actually victorious groups must play their manner by means of the hardest challenges — one thing that Brazil haven’t needed to do over the previous yr. They’re clearly a lot improved since dropping to Argentina within the closing of the 2021 Copa America, with a far higher vary of attacking choices. However it’s value remembering how they misplaced that recreation — going behind after a defensive error after which making it more durable for themselves to get again within the recreation as a consequence of foolishly changing into concerned in spats and rows when they need to have been holding the ball rolling. The facet would appear to have greatness in its grasp. Whether or not potential turns into actuality would possibly rely upon the emotional management of the staff when the going will get robust.

What is going to we do with out Messi (and can Argentina regulate)?

It’s fully doable that in three month’s time the worldwide profession of Lionel Messi will probably be over. It needn’t be the case. He’s clearly having fun with himself with Argentina, so he may stick with it. However a sixth World Cup would absolutely be asking an excessive amount of. There isn’t any manner spherical it. The top is coming. What on earth are we going to do with out him?

Extra particularly, what are Argentina going to do? Coach Lionel Scaloni is perhaps desirous about it. Final Friday towards Honduras he gave debuts off the bench to a few gamers — centre again Nahuel Perez, central midfielder Enzo Fernandez and attacking midfielder Thiago Almada. These gamers won’t play a lot of a job within the World Cup, in the event that they go in any respect. However they’ll have an element to play in the way forward for the facet — on that dreadful day when Messi will probably be no extra.

There was a sneak preview in New Jersey on Tuesday evening, when Messi didn’t begin the 3-0 win towards Jamaica. The excellent news was that Argentina took comfy management with out him. The higher information was a objective from Julian Alvarez, a participant with an amazing deal to supply within the years to return. And the even higher information for the capability crowd at Purple Bull Area was that Messi got here on early within the second half. The sport gave the impression to be drifting till he struck two splendidly nicely taken late targets to seal the win and ship the followers residence completely happy.

It’s now 35 video games unbeaten for Argentina, and probably the most attention-grabbing elements of this newest triumph was that they ended it with a 3 centre again formation — Lisando Martinez coming off the bench to play on the left of a trio with Nicolas Otamendi within the center and Cristian Romero on the fitting. Scaloni could have half a watch on a post-Messi future. However his focus is clearly on Qatar, and it was fascinating to see him experiment with a formation that he would possibly use as a shock in the middle of the World Cup.

To 4-4-2 or to not 4-4-2? That’s Uruguay’s query.

There are lower than two months to go and Uruguay coach Diego Alonso would possibly nonetheless be confused about how his staff goes to line up within the World Cup. The usual formation for the previous few years has been 4-4-2, with the attacking spearhead of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Now they’re ageing it’s unlikely that the pair will probably be used collectively. However even when they had been firing on all cylinders, there may be strain within the ranks to strive one thing else.

Uruguay now have a wonderful era of midfielders, who’re in all probability higher suited to different programs. They could be at their finest with the trio within the centre of the pitch, with Matias Vecino anchoring between Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur. That was how they began towards Iran final Friday, with Darwin Nunez up entrance on the left of an attacking three. It didn’t swimsuit Nunez, and Uruguay reverted again to the 4-4-2. However as quickly as they made the change, and took off Vecino, they conceded the sport’s lone objective.

On Tuesday towards Canada they as soon as extra lined up in a 4-4-2 with Nunez and Suarez up entrance. Nunez helped his trigger by sealing a 2-0 win with a objective. However with out the trio within the centre of the pitch Uruguay appeared extra susceptible defensively. They had been typically at full stretch holding out the Canadians, and would absolutely have been punished by a stronger facet. They ended the sport enjoying a lone striker, with playmakers Nico De La Cruz (who scored the primary objective) and Giorgian de Arrascaeta working behind, a system that in all probability fits these gamers higher.

So what to do? Can a staff with Suarez, Nunez and Cavani actually play only one up entrance? Is the stability of the facet higher that manner? Or will they go along with the tried and trusted two-man assault? Determination day is approaching for Alonso.

Is Ecuador’s glass half full or half empty?

5 straight video games with out conceding a single objective, 5 consecutive clear sheets — a bit of knowledge to please any coach. However Ecuador boss Gustavo Alfaro is clearly involved that his facet have solely scored twice in these video games — and performed out a second straight goalless draw, this time to Japan.

Subsequent time they take the sector it’ll towards World Cup hosts Qatar within the opening match. The eyes of the complete planet will probably be on Ecuador’s younger facet as they kick off the entire event. The issue is that each one of Alfaro’s attacking gamers appear to have run off form on the similar time — confirmed in the direction of the top of the Japan recreation when Ecuador had been somewhat lucky to be awarded a penalty, and all-time prime scorer Enner Valencia had his spot kick saved. Valencia is firing blanks, rangy centre ahead Michael Estrada is on a foul run and Alfaro has not been satisfied by any of the options.

However after all, whereas they aren’t conceding, they’re all the time within the recreation. And even with senior centre again Felix Torres out injured, the defending has principally been stable. Most of their issues have been self-inflicted — a slip or a poor move out of defence fairly than failing to cope with the specter of the opposition. However the stage of opposition within the World Cup will certainly be greater, and the necessity for targets will probably be higher. Ecuador will discover out in November whether or not the glass is half full or half empty.

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