Brazil, Argentina renew rivalry in Doha
The fact they are thousands of miles from home will not dim the rivalry on Wednesday as Brazil and Argentina, seven FIFA World Cup wins between them, go up against each other in a friendly test in Doha.
After both nations flattered to deceive at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ - Argentina thrashed by Germany in the quarter-finals and Brazil coming up short against the Netherlands - it falls to respective coaches Mano Menezes and Sergio Batista to usher in a new era of success after replacing Dunga and Diego Maradona.
They get an early opportunity to establish their credentials in one of international football's most mouth-watering fixtures with Wednesday's meeting having the added bonus of being far from fanatical home crowds. Both men have six months to work on their squads before they target glory in July's Copa America, which Argentina will host.
Batista and Menezes are tasked with learning from the Spanish textbook, now all the vogue, with the focus on a silky one-touch game and keep-ball. Menezes can point to three wins out of three so far - and eight goals scored for no reply against USA, Iran and Ukraine.
Batista, having overseen three matches as interim coach, starting with a win over Republic of Ireland in Dublin, launched his official tenure with a 4-1 win over the Spaniards, no less, in Buenos Aires - although October brought a surprise loss in Japan.
Menezes has recalled Ronaldinho, whom Dunga did not select last summer. The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year has not represented his country since a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Peru in April 2009. But AC Milan team-mate Alexandre Pato will miss out through a thigh injury.
Menezes says every coach needs time. "Spain got to where they are now after a long while, confirming their Euro 2008 victory (with the 2010 FIFA World Cup triumph that followed). We do not have for the time being that basis of a Brazilian team," said Menezes.
Batista likewise says Spain "are the model to copy," while adding that "Argentina played that way years ago."
With the Copa America looming - Japan are also taking part for a second time as invited guests - and Brazil hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Latin America is at the forefront of the coming international football cycle. Hence both will be looking to craft teams which can deliver in front of their own fans.
Menezes' squad includes home-based talent such as Santos striker Neymar, as well as players who have been making their way in Europe, such as Philippe Coutinho of Inter Milan, Chelsea pair Alex and Ramires and Liverpool's Lucas Leiva.
Batista for his part has blended veterans, such as Inter's Javier Zanetti and Marseille's Gabriel Heinze with new faces such as Valencia's Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia (Anderlecht), Jose Sosa (Napoli) and Benfica's Nicolas Gaitan. Argentina will include FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who is looking forward to the duel after his 2010 FIFA World Cup disappointment.
"I was really annoyed at the way we went out against Germany. It was a really harsh blow because we were expecting so much more, but everything started unravelling for us at the worst moment," says Messi. He insisted he had enjoyed a good relationship with former coach Diego Maradona - "during the World Cup in South Africa we got on spectacularly well" - but that now was the time to turn the page with Batista.
Regarding Wednesday's match, Messi said: "I'm particularly looking forward to this match. We already came up against them at the Olympics in Beijing and beat them 3-0. It'll be special thanks to the team we're playing and also the fact I'll come face to face with Ronaldinho, a person I've got great affection for" following their time at Barcelona."