BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Brazil will sit back and absorb Argentina pressure before breaking out in counter-attacks in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier, according to home coach Gerardo Martino.
“I think it will be a match in which attacking should permit us to have less defensive worries,” Martino told a news conference on Wednesday.
“It will determine if we are going to suffer more or less from quick breaks by Brazil, who will surely wait for us in their own half,” he said on the eve of the South American ‘clasico’ at the River Plate stadium.
Martino, looking for his first win against Brazil after a 2-0 defeat in a friendly in Beijing last year, said another key factor was his captain Lionel Messi’s absence through injury.
Argentina are a lowly seventh in the 10-nation South American group after picking up only one point and failing to score in Messi’s absence in their first two qualifiers.
“Leo’s absence is always directly linked to the team’s result… Whenever we win, ‘Messi-dependence’ doesn’t exist, but where we lose it’s because of his absence and that’s not unimportant,” Martino said.
Martino’s opposite number Dunga has a good record against Argentina with victories in a 2006 friendly in London, the 2007 Copa America final in Venezuela, a World Cup qualifier in Rosario in 2009 and last year’s triumph in Beijing.
Dunga was sacked after a 2010 World Cup quarter-final defeat by the Netherlands but earned a recall last year after his country’s poor tournament on home soil while Martino inherited the runners-up from Alejandro Sabella and led them to second place at this year’s Copa America in Chile.
Newspaper reports say that with Argentine FA presidential elections next month, Martino will be closely scrutinised in Wednesday’s match and their next qualifier away to Colombia on Tuesday.
“They would be discussing my continuity anyway, it’s got nothing to do with the political year,” he said brushing aside suggestions his job was on the line.
However, Martino could be made to suffer on Thursday by Neymar, to whom he gave his debut at Barcelona when he was their coach in the 2013-14 season and is now in brilliant form for the Spanish champions.
“Every player needs time to adapt. I trained a very good Neymar but what he’s doing now puts him on a level with the two footballers we consider above the rest,” he said, referring to Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
(By Luis Ampuero, Writing by Rex Gowar, Editing by Ed Osmond)