Pressure is on Argentina to beat Brazil in Jeddah, says Sergio Romero

Argentina easily saw off the challenges of Iraq 4-0 last Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 15 October 2018
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Pressure is on Argentina to beat Brazil in Jeddah, says Sergio Romero

  • It may only be a friendly but Argentina goalkeeper says defeat against arch-rivals is not an option.
  • Clash in Jeddah will be the 105th time the South Americans have faced each other.

JEDDAH: Argentina may be without superstar Lionel Messi but the two-time world champions simply must beat Brazil in a friendly in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero says.
This will be the 105th time the South American arch-rivals have faced each other in an official match, with Brazil marginally ahead on 40 wins to 38, with 26 draws.
And while Brazil, record five-time winners of the World Cup, have picked most of their star names, Argentina are without the likes of Manchester City’s in-form forward Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain of AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel Di Maria, as well as Messi.
“I would love Messi to be here because that would give us a boost in quality,” said Romero, back in the Argentina squad following a knee injury that prevented him from featuring in two friendlies in September.
“Adding the best in the world would be best for the future of the national team.”
Messi also sat out Argentina’s last three matches, all friendlies, since the country’s disappointing last 16 elimination from the World Cup in Russia.
He is believed to have asked for some time off from international duty ahead of next year’s Copa America in Brazil.He may have won the Ballon d’Or five times and helped Barcelona lift the Champions League four times and La Liga on nine occasions, but Messi’s only international honor was an Olympic gold medal in 2008.
He’s been on the losing side four times in major finals: the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and three Copa America title-deciders.
At 31, he’s starting to run out of opportunities to lead his country to international glory.
“I haven’t spoken to him since the World Cup, but I hope his absence is only short-term. Hopefully he’s just taking a rest,” added Romero.
Even without a host of star names, and despite the prestigious opposition, anything other than victory would be met with consternation back home.
“Every time Argentina play, we have to win. And when playing against Brazil, even in a friendly, we still have to win and play our way, which is what the coach is asking of us,” added Romero.
“Here we have a new group of players and we’ll try to do our best for the team.”

MESSI BARELY MISSED

Argentina have not missed Messi too much so far, beating Iraq 4-0 in Riyadh on Thursday, having beaten Guatemala 3-0 in September, when they also drew 0-0 with Colombia.
Interim coach Lionel Scaloni picked an inexperienced line-up to face Iraq with Romero, defender Ramiro Funes Mori and striker Paulo Dybala the only established names on the team-sheet.
It will likely be a different-looking XI in Jeddah to take on a Brazil team that labored to a 2-0 win over hosts Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Friday.
Despite featuring the likes of PSG star Neymar and Manchester City’s returning forward Gabriel Jesus, Tite’s side struggled on a muggy night in the Arabian desert.
But with Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino of Liverpool likely to play too, Brazil won’t need any help in getting fired up to face the Albiceleste.
“Any game against Argentina is different, it takes on a huge dimension and we all know what this encounter means,” said Inter Milan defender Miranda.
“Our team has prepared well and we hope to play a great match and win.”
But just like Scaloni, Tite wants to give some younger players a chance to prove their worth.
He said it’s a match “between two teams undergoing a renovation. Here, we’re giving opportunities to youngsters.”
The two sides last met in June 2017 in a friendly in Australia, won 1-0 by Argentina, but Brazil romped to a 3-0 success in their last competitive fixture, a World Cup qualifier in November 2016.


Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

Updated 46 min ago
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Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

  • The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay
  • Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time

SAO PAULO: Chile’s experienced Copa America team proved too good for Japan’s young squad.

The two-time defending champions opened their Copa America campaign with a 4-0 win over the Asian guests on Monday, with Eduardo Vargas scoring a pair of goals to become Chile’s all-time leading scorer in the South American competition.

Erick Pulgar and Alexis Sanchez also scored for the titleholders, which are trying to become the first nation to win three straight Copa titles since Argentina in the late 1940s. Vargas scored twice in the second half to reach 12 goals with Chile in the tournament, two more than Enrique Hormazabal.

The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay, which opened with a 4-0 win over Ecuador on Sunday.

“Chile has players who are very experienced, who know each other very well,” Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda said. “The challenge today was to avoid a bad debut. We were humble and entered with our feet on the ground. We were playing against a team that was very competitive in all sectors.”

Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time, brought to Brazil a young squad focused on the Olympic tournament at home next year. The Japanese youngsters struggled against the veteran Chilean squad which was in control from the start at the Morumbi Stadium.

Chile won the last two editions of the Copa America, beating Argentina in penalty shootouts in the final both in 2015 and 2016. Argentina is the only team to have won three consecutive South American titles, from 1945-47.

Boosted by most of the 23,253 fans at the Morumbi, Chile created most of the significant chances.

After Pulgar headed in a corner-kick cross by Charles Aranguiz in the 41st minute, Vargas added to the lead with a shot from outside the area in the 54th after a pass by Mauricio Isla.

Sanchez found the net with a header in the 82nd, and Vargas closed the scoring about a minute later with a long lob shot over goalkeeper Keisuke Osako as he charged from his net.

It was a good opening match for Sanchez after a difficult season with Manchester United.

“I was coming off a difficult month-and-a-half,” said the 30-year-old Sanchez, who injured his ankle late in the season. “I struggled in the first 45 minutes, I felt tired, but I improved in the second half.”

Rueda, debuting with Chile in an official tournament, has been gradually revamping the squad since he took over in 2018. Among the veterans back from the team’s recent triumphs were Vargas, Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, who also had a good opener.

Japan last played in the Copa America in 1999, when it was eliminated in the group stage. Among the youngsters in Brazil was Takefusa Kubo, the 18-year-old who has joined Real Madrid’s “B” team for next season. He played from the start and was a threat for Japan in attack. He got an ovation from the crowd at the Morumbi after getting past a defender with a ball through his legs about 10 minutes into the match. He nearly scored after a nifty move past a defender inside the area in the 65th, but his shot hit the outside of the net. Japan had a few good chances to get on the board toward the end of the game but could not capitalize on them.