Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 23 News List

S American titans headed for friendly clash


Julio Baptista, bottom, playing for Real Madrid, goes for the ball with Anderlecht's Jelle Van Damme during their Santiago Bernabeu Trophy soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid on Aug. 23.


Describing any meeting between Brazil and Argentina as a friendly does little justice to the fervent emotions stirred whenever these two South American superpowers clash.

So when two of world soccer's most popular and passionate teams go head-to-head at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium today, a fiery encounter seems certain.

Although in theory there is nothing more than pride at stake in north London, neither side will be able to take it easy in the 88th meeting of these enternal rivals.

Not only will the players be all too aware of the opprobrium that awaits them back home if they lose, but both teams are also seeking to make amends for the disappointment of quarter-final exits at the World Cup.

As self-appointed guardians of the "beautiful game," Brazil are always expected to not only win, but win in style.

The disppointment when they manage neither is often crushing to national morale, so it was inevitable that coach Carlos Alberto Parriera was dismissed after a series of disjointed displays in Germany ended with a lackluster defeat against France.

Dunga, who captained Brazil to victory at the 1994 World Cup, was appointed as Parreira's successor and takes charge of his second match on Sunday -- following a 1-1 draw in Norway last month.

Argentina are also in a state of a transition after suffering a massive letdown in Germany.

Prematurely heralded as tournament winners-in-waiting after destroying Serbia and Montenegro in the group stages, Argentina were sent crashing out in the last eight by the hosts after a penalty shoot-out.

Manager Jose Pekerman resigned after that surprise defeat and has been replaced by Alfio "Coco" Basile, who will begin his second spell as Argentina boss at the Emirates.

With the Copa America next June representing the next major challenge for both countries, this chance to renew old hostilities is the nearest either manager will come to the cut and thrust of competitive action for some while.

The match is being played outside South America because London is a convinent venue for the majorty of both teams' Europe-based contingent and, with Argentina having signed a deal with a Russian-based company to arrange friendlies over the next five years, these glamourous matches are likely to become fairly common around Europe.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will be among the 60,000 crowd to keep an eye on Brazil midfielder Julio Baptista, his transfer deadline-day signing from Real Madrid, who should feature alongside fellow Gunner Gilberto Silva.

Gilberto, 29, knows his team have the perfect chance to make up for the disappointment of losing their World Cup crown in Germany, by beating their bitter rivals.

He told the Sun: "After the World Cup we are starting from zero. The defeat against France was hard to absorb. We were very frustrated and we need to rebuild our confidence."

"It wasn't so much that we lost but that we didn't compete. The Brazilian people don't accept it if you are second. They expect us to be first every time. This is a big opportunity for us to show what we are capable of. It's not just an ordinary friendly," Gilberto said.

"There is always huge interest in Brazil games and ones against Argentina are the biggest," he said.

West Ham fans will also be keenly watching to get their first glimpse of Argentina pair Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, who joined the English Premiership club from Brazilian side Corinthians on Thursday.

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