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Messi's return encourages Argentina for match against Brazil

By Agencies - Nov 08,2016 - Last updated at Nov 08,2016

Barcelona’s Messi (right) celebrates with teammate Neymar after scoring against Sevilla during their La Liga football match between Sevilla and Barcelona at the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in Seville, Spain, on Sunday (AP photo by Miguel Morenatti)

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil — Lionel Messi is back from injury, just the tonic Argentina needs in Thursday's World Cup qualifier against Brazil.

Messi missed Argentina's last three qualifying matches with an injured left knee, and the results showed with draws against Peru and Venezuela, and a 1-0 loss against Paraguay.

"He [Messi] is extremely intelligent and has a great finishing skill, so we have to do double marking on him whenever we can," Brazil midfielder Renato Augusto said. "We have to close the gaps for all Argentina players, and we have to remove Messi's passing angle whenever he has the ball."

Thursday's match takes place in the same stadium where Brazil was humiliated two years ago in a 7-1 loss to Germany in the World Cup semifinals. But this time, the hosts will be focusing on containing Messi.

"It's impossible to stop the ball from reaching Messi because he will start floating around to get it," Renato Augusto said. "We need to take him out of his comfort zone."

Argentina striker Lucas Pratto, who plays for Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro, said the Brazilians fear Messi.

"They know that Leo is very tough. They are a little scared," Pratto told Argentine newspaper Ole. "Or maybe more than a little."

Messi scored in a 1-0 victory over Uruguay in September in the only match he's played under Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza.

Argentina, World Cup runners-up two years ago against Germany, is five points behind group leader Brazil. The Argentines need points Thursday and next week in a difficult match against Colombia.

Brazil leads qualifying with 21 points, followed by Uruguay with 20 and Ecuador and Colombia with 17. Chile and Argentina have 16 points each.

The top four teams qualify automatically for the World Cup. The fifth-place team could advance through a play-off.

Tite will count on striker Neymar and right back Dani Alves for any new strategy to deal with Messi.

"[Brazil] has to do what it has been doing," winger Douglas Costa, "regardless of Argentina”.

 

Two years on from 7-1

 

Two years after they suffered a humiliating 7-1 defeat by Germany in the World Cup semi-final, Brazil return to the same Belo Horizonte Stadium charged with overcoming that bitter memory and their toughest rivals Argentina.

The five times world champions face their neighbours in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday and memories of the mauling by the Germans at the Mineirao Stadium add extra spice to what is one of world football's great rivalries.

"The scars are going to remain but we can only change what happens from now on," midfielder Renato Augusto told reporters after joining up with his teammates in the central Brazilian city.

Brazil have overcome one major psychological barrier in recent months, when their under-23 team, including overage players Renato Augusto and Neymar, beat Germany at the Maracana stadium to win the Olympic gold medal for the first time.

Renato Augusto, who plays for Beijing Guoan said the players discussed the 7-1 match before that game and admitted there was no avoiding it before facing Argentina.

Seven members of the Brazil squad were in the Mineirao that fateful July day in 2014, two (Marcelo and Fernandinho) starting the match and another two (Paulinho and Willian) finishing it.

"We can't put more pressure on those that were there," Renato Augusto.

"A win would be good to take the weight off a bit. We discussed it at the Olympics and obviously now that the game is at the Mineirao it will be back again. But we have to look to the future and not to the past."

Nevertheless, the past can also serve as an incentive for a team that has struggled in recent years.

Brazil have never lost a home World Cup qualifier and they have won three, and drawn one of their four previous games against Argentina at the Mineirao.

Perhaps more importantly, they come into this game having won all four qualifiers since Tite replaced Dunga as coach in June and they are top of the 10-team standings.

Argentina's recent record, meanwhile, is almost the opposite, with just one win in four since coach Edgardo Bauza took the reins in August.

They are sixth in the table, with the top four qualifying automatically and the fifth-placed side going into a play-off with a team from Oceania.

 

Brazil will be without Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro but are otherwise at full strength.

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