Monday, July 22, 2024

Argentina mulling Di Maria return for Brazil clash

Veteran winger Angel Di Maria could return to Argentina’s starting lineup for the team’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against Brazil, Albiceleste manager Lionel Scaloni said.

Di Maria, 35, showed that he had fully recovered from a leg muscle injury with a lively second-half cameo in Argentina’s 2-0 home defeat to Uruguay last Thursday.

“There is a chance that Di Maria will be a starter … [but] the idea is not to touch the team too much,” Scaloni told a news conference on Monday.

Di Maria has been touted as a possible replacement for Porto midfielder Nico Gonzalez for the match at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium on Tuesday. Inter Milan captain Lautaro Martinez could also earn a start for the reigning world champions in the place of Manchester City forward Julian Alvarez.

But Scaloni stressed that he did not intend to send any negative messages to his players, reports Xinhua.

“There will likely be some changes but that won’t be due to their performances [against Uruguay]. I’m not going to change the team because of one good or bad game. Any changes will be specifically based on the characteristics of the opponent that we face.”

Argentina remains top of the 10-team South American qualifying group with 12 points from five games, two points ahead of second-placed Uruguay. Brazil is fifth, having lost two and drawn one of its past three qualifiers.

Scaloni said his players would not underestimate the five-time world champion despite their erratic form under manager Fernando Diniz, who was appointed manager in July following the departure of Tite.

“Brazil are always dangerous opponents, irrespective of the result of their last match,” Scaloni said.

The qualifier will mark Argentina’s return to the scene of their 2021 Copa America triumph, a result that ended a 28-year title drought. Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 in the final at a Maracana stadium that had no fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This time around, the Albiceleste can expect a much more raucous atmosphere with a sell-out crowd expected at the 78,000-seat venue. Either way, Argentina will not be basking in past glory at Brazilian football’s spiritual home.

“We are playing against Brazil on their own turf. It won’t help us to think about the Copa America,” Scaloni said. “That happened two and a half years ago. A lot has happened since then and the players in both teams are different. We have to focus on the present because that is what’s important.”

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