Argentina and Brazil lead the way for South America in the World Cup

It’s been two decades since Brazil lifted their last World Cup finals in Japan, and in Tokyo on Monday, the 2022 model confirmed their credentials as a candidate to win their second World Cup in Asia this year.

The 1-0 win over Japan wasn’t as striking as South Korea’s 5-1 destruction last Thursday, but it had its merits. Against a rival that beat Paraguay 4-1 last week, Brazil was never seriously threatened, and having to work for that breakthrough made the confrontation even more exciting.

This was the first time Coach Tite could count all of his offensive talent together. In recent months, someone has always been missing or not quite fit, so Brazil has lined up without an orthodox striker: Rafinha, Vinicius Jr. wide, Neymar and Lucas Paqueta at the front.

The start was almost explosive. Neymar and Vinicius Jr. immediately made a complicated exchange and the ball fell to Paqueta to spin to his weaker right foot and watch his cross shot come back off the post. It would have been a great goal, but perhaps Tite would have had more to learn in a game that was left goalless.

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Would his team be very open to a Japanese team able to move the ball smoothly? His midfield duo, Casemiro and Fred, are back at the top of their game, doing simple things, catching the ball and keeping it moving. Can the side get frustrated if they are held for too long? This was an even bigger problem, especially since Japan was very happy to stop the Brazilian attacks with annoying blunders. There were times when Neymar fell into the trap of falling deep and looking for mistakes. Brazil are at their best when he seeks to move the ball quickly, with Vinicius Jr., Paquita and Ravenha in action.

In the last 20 minutes, Tite considered some differences: Thiago Silva came in instead of Daniel Alves, Eder Militao was sent to the right-back position, and Richarlison came in to play up front. The only way they could be accommodated with the front four was for Paqueta to fall deeper and replace Fred. This way Brazil loses their ability to move in midfield and their scrutiny, but they gain in creativity, and it paid off when Richarlison met Neymar at the crucial moment of the match.

Neymar’s shot was pushed by the goalkeeper and Richarlison, sniffing the rebound, made a foul in the penalty area. With his usual skill from the penalty spot, Neymar won the match for Brazil, who can come home pleased with his work in these two friendlies in the Far East.

Argentina, too, has plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Last Wednesday’s comfortable win over Italy was followed by Estonia’s 5-0 defeat in Pamplona. If Lionel Messi looks too tired to score in the second half against the Italians, he will surely be satisfied by helping himself achieve all five goals. The first came from a penalty kick, the others as a result of the passing cycle that Argentina did well in this 33 unbeaten match.

Other than Messi, coach Lionel Scaloni will be impressed with the way Alejandro Gomes is always willing to step into the side as an attacking midfield option. Alexis Mac Allister has been tried in the role of anchor in midfield – not a move to try against stronger teams, because defending is not his specialty, but helps the team play the first pass forward with high quality. In the last few minutes he was replaced by the more defensive Juan Foyth, who then shifted to the right in a triple defense system. Next, Scaloni was able to look at a number of variations that could be useful in Qatar.

The same applies to Diego Alonso of Uruguay. Sunday’s 0-0 draw with the United States won’t live as long in the memory as last week’s 3-0 win over Mexico, but Alonso sent a nearly full reserve squad to take on Greg Berhalter’s men.

Alonso took a look at the three in the back before switching at halftime to a streak of four. Another clean sheet is good news. His midfield, with little international experience, has done well enough; In the end, Edinson Cavani missed a golden opportunity to win the match. No goals conceded in two games makes for a satisfying two-game trip to America for Uruguay, who have a home game against Jamaica scheduled for Saturday.

Ecuador will also complete its program in June on Saturday with a match against Cape Verde, after its match against Mali was cancelled. They will face Senegal in the World Cup and have been keen to pursue African competitions. Last week they beat Nigeria 1-0 in New Jersey, but Chicago’s overall performance in Sunday’s goalless draw with Mexico was probably better.

However, it is Peru who will face the next big match. Next Monday they will play for a place in the World Cup against the United Arab Emirates or Australia. They warmed up in Spain on Sunday with a difficult 1-0 victory over New Zealand, the only goal that made a fatal mistake from the goalkeeper who punished Italian-born striker Gianluca Lapadula with exemplary force.

It might not be great, but the coaches are always happy with clean sheets and the South American teams at the World Cup have come up with a lot of them over the past few days.

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