By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Thursday, November 10th, Brazil’s national football (soccer) club, the seleção, returned to Belo Horizonte, the scene of arguably the worst sports moment in the country’s history, to take on Argentina in a pivotal 2018 World Cup qualifier. After taking an early lead, the home team never looked back, humbling long-time rivals, 3×0, putting Brazil firmly in the top position of the South American qualifying standings.
For the seleção, it was the team’s first match in Mineirão Stadium in two years since their 7×1 humiliation at the hands of Germany in the 2014 World Cup. And while most of the players on the club have changed since then, the team played agressively throughout as if looking to bury the nightmares of that fateful night in July 2014.
Messi and company actually had the first scoring chance of the game, but a great save from Brazil keeper Alisson, would be a sign of things to come. At the 24th minute, Neymar passed to Coutinho who quickly darted into the heart of Argentina‘s defense and scored on a superbly placed shot, sending the 60,000 fans in attendance into a frenzy. Argentina would be on their heels the rest of the match.
Just before halftime, a lapse in Argentina’s defense allowed Neymar to scamper behind several defenders and receive a perfect pass from Gabriel Jesus for the easy goal, doubling Brazil’s lead.
The second half continued with more of the same as an uninspired and rattled Argentina looked resigned to the fact that this would not be their night. At the 59th minute, Paulinho poked a dribbler past Argentina keeper Romero to seal the 3×0 win.
In the game’s closing moments, fans were chanting the name of Brazil’s manager, Tite, now undefeated since taking over the club in June. With the win, Brazil’s fifth straight, they now lead the South American qualifiers with 24 points, one ahead of second-place Uruguay. The team will now travel to Lima to take on Peru on Tuesday, November 15th.
Argentina are languishing in sixth place, outside of qualifying position, and now gets ready for a must-win game against Columbia, also next Tuesday. Only the top four teams in the South American group will qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.