Brazil returns to the site of World Cup humiliation to face Argentina
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Playing at the stadium where it was humiliated 7-1 by Germany two years ago, Brazil can wipe away some of the lingering pain from that defeat with a convincing performance against Argentina in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday.
The match is being held at the Mineirao Stadium, which is where Brazil was utterly crushed by Germany in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup.
“Of course returning here still touches all of us, even those that didn't play,” Brazil coach Tite said. “But we have to know how to work in all situations. Two years have passed and we are in a different moment.”
All 62,000 seats are expected to be taken at the stadium in Belo Horizonte, located 350 kilometers (220 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro.
Since Tite took over, Brazil has won four straight matches in South American qualifying and leads the group with 21 points from 10 matches. Argentina is five points behind.
Three Brazilians who are likely to start against Argentina played against Germany: Real Madrid left back Marcelo, Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho and Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Paulinho. Chelsea winger Willian is not expected to start, but also played against the Germans in the match now known as “Mineirazo.”
Many others who played against Germany — like Chelsea defender David Luiz and Atletico Mineiro striker Fred — are not touted to return to the national team soon.
Some of the first Brazil players to arrive in Belo Horizonte were also pledging to make fans forget about the 7-1 loss.
“Brazil has a chance to rewrite history,” Paulinho said. “We are not going to change what happened, but we can leave a good impression this time. After all we went through in 2014, this is a chance to make a comeback against a great team.”
Defender Rodrigo Caio, who had just turned professional in 2014, said “this is a new Brazil, and fans will see that on the field. I can only imagine what that game was like for those that played.”
Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar were expected to arrive on Tuesday as they prepare to compete against each other.
Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza told The Associated Press that he is concerned about not reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia. This is almost unthinkable for a team led by Messi that lost the 2014 final to Germany 1-0.
After Brazil, Argentina faces Colombia on Nov. 15 in another tough test.
“I'm worried because the qualifying is still not assured and must still be won,” Bauza said.
The four automatic spots from South American qualifying are now held by Brazil, Uruguay (20 points), and Ecuador and Colombia (17). A fifth spot will be decided by a playoff.