On 14 November, a new chapter will be written in the shared football history of Brazil and Argentina, when the fierce South American rivals go head-to-head in Bangkok at the Thailand 2012. At stake is no less a prize than a berth in the last four of the global showpiece.
This will be the duo’s sixth encounter since the competition was first held at Netherlands 1989, with the pair only having avoided each other at Spain 1996 and Brazil 2008. The record books are overwhelmingly in Brazil’s favour, as the reigning world champions amassed victories in all five of the teams’ previous meetings, four of which came by a three-goal margin.
That being the case, surely A Seleção must be considered favourites ahead of Wednesday’s quarter-final? “History has nothing to do with it because this game is special,” Brazil coach Marcos Sorato told FIFA.com, minutes after his charges had thumped Panama 16-0 in the Round of 16.
“Argentina defend well, counter-attack well and have quality going forward,” added Sorato. “It’s true that they’ve lost an important player in Matias [Lucuix], but I still expect us to come up against a very competitive side. I’d say the chances of winning are 50-50.”
His Albiceleste counterpart Fernando Larranaga, meanwhile, despite being on the Argentinian bench for each of the last three defeats by Brazil at FIFA Futsal World Cups, was in bullish mood when speaking to FIFA.com. “The teams know each other really well,” he said, after the 2-1 Round of 16 win over Serbia. “It’s all-or-nothing now, so we’ll be going out to win the game. We’ve got no other option.”
Je, Brazil’s second top scorer here in Thailand with six goals, was on the same wavelength as coach Sorato. “I think that this one could go either way too,” said the pivot.
“These games are special; there are other things at play aside from football. I particularly remember our two matches at the Copa America 2011, when we drew 2-2 in the group phase but then beat them 5-1 in the final,” added Je, who scored in both games. “But they didn’t have their European-based players then, which will level things up.”
Between the sticks for the Argentinians in those two duels was Santiago Elias. “Brazil are the favourites, but these are the games I really enjoy playing in,” said the custodian after the narrow win over Serbia.
“As well as the rivalry, against Brazil you get peppered with shots all the time,” he continued. “You don’t get chance to let your mind wander and that’s what keepers like, whereas when you play some other teams they might only create one chance and then score from it.”
So, what will be the key to victory in this clásico? “Not making mistakes,” said Sorato. “Argentina have some top-class individuals and they defend well, which could prove a dangerous combination. But we’ve got our strengths too,” added the supremo, whose charges have the tournament’s most prolific attack thus far (36 goals scored in four games).
Elias too was simple and to the point with his analysis: “We just need to stop them scoring, nick one or two ourselves and then see the game out,” said the custodian, whose side have conceded just six times in their four games. That tally is equalled by Italy and only bettered by Brazil (two conceded) and Russia (zero).
All the ingredients are therefore in place for another memorable clásico between the continental arch-rivals. And whether A Verde e Amarelo extend their winning run against La Albiceleste at this competition or the men in blue-and-white stripes finally turn the tables, the fans in Bangkok are sure to be in for a treat.