Rio De Janeiro: Tuesday’s game against Venezuela will mark the fourth time in ten games that Brazil will play without its most valuable player, Neymar. Yet again, he has been suspended for having accumulated too many bookings.
While this demonstrates a worrisome lack of maturity, Neymar’s absence could ultimately be beneficial for head coach Tite. Brazil recorded it fourth straight win under is new coach Tite on Tuesday to become the new leader of South America’s World Cup qualifying group after 10 matches.
It took only seven minutes for Brazil to forget the suspended Neymar’s absence, keep up its new-found momentum and prove Venezuela deserves the bottom position in the South American qualifiers. Teenage striker Gabriel Jesus, recently signed by Manchester City, scored his fourth goal in his fourth international appearance with a classy lob over goalkeeper Dani Hernandez, who had given the ball to away easily.
Winger Willian, who replaced Neymar, scored the second at 55 minutes after a cross by midfielder Renato Augusto. It was Brazil’s least impressive performance under new coach ‘Tite’ but he is enjoying a honeymoon period as the new coach, having lifted the Selecao from sixth in the standings to top spot. The match was interrupted at 67 minutes when the light went out in the economically troubled country. It took 22 minute to restart the game.
Arch rival Argentina, however, was shocked 1-0 at home by Paraguay and is in a precarious fifth place. The two heavyweights will face each other in Brazil in their next games. Argentina finds itself in fifth place, which yields only a further playoff position rather than automatic qualification for Russia 2018.
After two disappointing draws and still without the injured Lionel Messi, new coach Edgardo Bauza’s team was even worse in the defeat to a hardworking Paraguay side 1-0 in Cordoba. The winning goal was scored by the visitors at 17 minutes by Dynamo Kyiv striker Derlis Gonzalez. Argentina had a chance to equalize with a penalty early in the second half but Sergio Aguero’s attempt was blocked.
Argentina struggled in the absence of experienced defenders Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolas Otamendi and Ramiro Funes Mori. One of their replacements, Martin Demichelis spelt out the predicament clearly.
“We have to be honest with ourselves, we have to improve quickly,” Demichelis said. We have to make a big self criticism. We have things to correct.”
In November Argentina will have tough matches away against Brazil and home against Colombia. Messi is expected to return for those two.
The victory in Cordoba offers some relief to Paraguay, which remains in sixth place, but now only one point behind Argentina.