Memories of the biggest humiliation in Brazilian football and the return of Lionel Messi to Argentina were not enough to stop the five-time World Cup champions from beating their archrivals Thursday in South American qualifying for the World Cup.
The Brazilians won at Mineirao stadium, and they won comfortably — 3-0. There were no Brazilians in tears this time, unlike at the World Cup in 2014.
The lopsided victory over Argentina extended Brazil’s successful streak under new coach Tite to five matches, giving the qualification leaders 24 points from 11 matches. Argentina has 16.
Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza finds himself in an even tougher position after the lackluster performance in Brazil. His team is remained in sixth place, outside the continent’s four automatic spots at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The chants of the Brazilian crowd at the Mineirao stadium showed that most Brazilians fans prefer to forget the 7-1 defeat against Germany in the same venue during the 2014 World Cup, and instead savor this victory over Argentina.
“The champions are back!” the crowd chanted. “Messi doesn’t have a World Cup, the one that does is Vampeta!”
Brazil was so dominant it could have won by a bigger margin, but settled for a 3-0 result with goals from Philippe Coutinho (26), Neymar (46) and Paulinho (58).
The most impressive of the three goals was the opener from Liverpool midfielder Coutinho from the edge of the box.
Messi and his Barcelona teammate Javier Mascherano, who came to Brazil in Neymar’s jet, were below par during the whole game.
Elsewhere, Copa America champion Chile held third-place Colombia to a 0-0 draw away, despite the absence of Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez due to injury.
Second-place Uruguay beat an Ecuador side filled with reserves by only 2-1 in Montevideo. The Uruguayans have 23 points, just one behind Brazil.
Peru produced a shocking 4-1 win at Paraguay and is now back in the race for a place in Russia 2018. The Peruvians remain in eight spot with 14 points, one behind seventh-place Paraguay.
In a match between the two worst teams in South American qualifiers, Venezuela trashed Bolivia 5-0 at home. Venezuela now is ninth place with 5 points, one ahead of Bolivia.