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Brazil, Argentina possible World Cup contenders again

Brazil is about to overtake top spot in the FIFA rankings and Argentina hasn’t lost a single match in 1,000 days. It’s clear the two South American soccer powers have more than just Neymar and Lionel Messi going for them as they head to the World Cup in Qatar hoping to end 20 years of European domination.

Both teams flopped in Russia in 2018, with Argentina losing to eventual champion France in the round of 16 and Brazil going out against Belgium in the quarterfinals. But they’re looking formidable again now, each with a deep squad, well-respected coach and a superstar forward capable of deciding games on his own.

Brazil has already broken the points record in South American qualifying with 45, six points ahead of second-place Argentina even before the two meet for a final game that was suspended last year. Argentina, though, lifted the Copa America title in 2021 by beating Brazil 1-0 in the final, handing Messi his first major trophy with the national team.

Messi and Neymar always face enormous pressure at the World Cup, but the two teams are trying to be less dependent on their superstars going into this year’s tournament in Qatar. Brazil has found a midfield bedrock in Lucas Paqueta and an aggressive striker in Vinicius Jr. to take some pressure off Neymar. Argentina has transformed Rodrigo de Paul into a key player to protect Messi and also get the best out of winger Lautaro Martinez. Even with a team filled with backups, Brazil routed Bolivia 4-0 on Tuesday in the altitude of La Paz.

“The feeling I have now is of peace,” Brazil coach Tite said.

One advantage that Tite has over his rival Lionel Scaloni is more flexibility with his lineup. He has played Neymar as a center forward, Paqueta as a box-to-box player with Philippe Coutinho as an playmaker and found good and young options up front in Raphinha, Antony, Rodrygo and Matheus Cunha.years ago.

“We are going to the World Cup hoping we can reach the final,” he said.


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