Lionel Messi seeks first goal in World Cup qualifier against Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Lionel Messi has few barriers to break in football. One of those will happen on Tuesday when Argentina face Brazil in South American World Cup qualifiers.

The 36-year-old Messi has scored 31 goals for Argentina in World Cup qualifying, but none of these goals have been scored against Brazil, home or away. He scored five goals against his old rivals, all in friendly matches.

The Brazilian Football Federation said all 69,000 tickets for the match at Maracana Stadium had been sold. Both teams played after losses in the previous round; the locals lost 1-2 to Colombia, and the World Cup champions lost 0-2 at home to Uruguay.

Many Brazilian fans are keen to watch Messi play his final game for Argentina in Rio de Janeiro. At the same venue, the star lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and beat the hosts in the 2021 Copa America decider.

Argentina leads the 10-team South American qualifiers with 12 points from five games. Uruguay ranks second with 10 points. Colombia has nine and Venezuela has eight. Brazil will face the World Cup champions in fifth place with seven points.

Ecuador, Paraguay and Chile each have five points. There are three in Bolivia and one in Peru.

The 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada will feature 48 teams, meaning the top six teams from South America will directly participate. The seventh-placed team can qualify for the intercontinental play-offs.

Brazil vs Brazil Argentina

Optimism is lacking in Brazil, who have lost their last two games and are struggling under new coach Fernando Diniz. The loss to Argentina may be the first time the team has played at home in a World Cup qualifying match, with the host nation missing the game on multiple occasions.

Carlos Augusto is likely to start at left-back for the first time, Jesus will replace the injured Vinicius Júnior as a striker, and the teenage genius Endrick may come on in the second half.

The 17-year-old Enderrick, who will join Real Madrid next year, talked about his expectations for playing against Messi for the first time at a press conference.

“For me, Pele is the king, no one can come close to him. Messi is outstanding, once again the best player in the world and I want to enjoy playing against him, I have only seen him in video games, “said the striker. “I’m more of a Cristiano Ronaldo fan, but it was great to see Messi up close.”

Argentina will arrive in Brazil later on Monday and train for the final time in Buenos Aires. Head coach Lionel Scaloni did not speak after Sunday’s training, most of which was held behind closed doors, but he hinted at where his concerns lie.

Angel Di María, Nicolas Gonzalez and Leandro Paredes are vying for a spot in the midfield, with Lautaro Martinez having not scored in his previous 14 games for the national team. Could replace Julian Alvarez at forward.

Also on Tuesday, Paraguay takes on Colombia; Uruguay takes on Bolivia; Ecuador welcomes Chile; and Peru takes on Venezuela. The seventh and eighth rounds of the South American qualifying rounds will be held after the next America’s Cup in the United States in September.


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