Striker Vinicius Jr showed a Neymar-esque flair in the 0-0 draw with Argentina, when he replaced the injured star in the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier on Wednesday.
The loss of Neymar through injury contributed to a new front line of Vinicius, Matheus Cunha and Raphinha, who between them boast only 15 caps.
Vincius pulled off a brilliant rainbow flick down the end line, pulling a pass back for Paqueta. Paqueta shot toward the near post and Cunha tried to redirect the shot but couldn’t find the finish.
Vinicius, who played the full 90 minutes, only had the goalkeeper to beat after 17 minutes but his attempted chip went wide and Cunha’s ambitious lob from his own half flew over just moments later. At the other end, Alisson got down to save well from Rodrigo De Paul five minutes before half time.
The game opened up even further in the second half with Fred and Vinicius coming close for Brazil. But the game was still there for the taking and inevitably Lionel Messi was involved before the 90 minutes were up.
Messi was back to full fitness to start his first game since October but the Paris St Germain striker was quiet until the final seconds of the match when he forced Alisson to get down to save a rasping shot from 20 meters.
Brazil has tested several players for nearly all positions, even Neymar’s, while dominated the South American qualifying competition. Coach Tite is trying to find variations that make his team less predictable against top rivals, as many critics say happened in the 2018 World Cup quarterfinal elimination against Belgium.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is giving confidence to a group of frequent starters who helped Lionel Messi win the Copa America in July. The Argentines are hoping players like Rodrigo de Paul, Leandro Paredes and Giovani Lo Celso will bring the support 34-year-old Messi needs to lead them to a World Cup title.
Both approaches have been working. Argentina held Brazil to a 0-0 draw at home and secured its spot in Qatar when Chile lost 2-0 to third-place Ecuador. Brazil had already taken the first of South America’s four direct entries for the World Cup.
Oldschool Vinicius emerged by missing a golden chance to score during a counter-attack but his shot went straight to Martinez’s hands. Moments after that, Alisson denies Argentina’s shot to the far post.
During a set piece for Brazil with 30 minutes left on the clock, Fred grabbed the rebound from outside the box and attempted a volley that hits the bar. That one was close.
Argentina’s second half begins with two subs: Joaquin Correa comes in for Lautaro Martines and Lisandro Martinez comes in for Leandro Paredes.
Argentina controlled the first few minutes of this game but Brazil is playing hard defense as a visiting side despite Neymar’s absence. We’ll be back for the second half.
With five minutes left on the clock, Rodrigo de Paul forces Alisson to dive for a long distance shot. The Liverpool goalie denied the Atletico Madrid midfielder. Great exchange between the two stars.
If Leo leads Argentina to victory tonight, he will take them directly to the Qatar World Cup next year.