Jorge Sampaoli is off to a positive start as manager of the Argentina National Team, even if the game was just a postseason international friendly more than 7,200 miles from home.
Argentina secured a 1-0 victory over Brazil in front of more than 95,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia. Defender Gabriel Marcado scored the game’s only goal in the 45th minute, reacting quickest to a ball that caromed off the post right into his path before finishing into an empty net.
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With this match and Tuesday’s game against Singapore the only friendlies Sampaoli will have to work with his squad, the Argentine manager called in a largely first-team squad and played one of his best available starting lineups to face Brazil, even playing Lionel Messi the full 90 minutes in the match.
Having Lionel Messi couldn’t be more crucial for Argentina, which sits in fourth place currently in CONMEBOL’s World Cup qualifying. In May FIFA lifted Messi’s four-match ban, giving Argentina its talisman back for the final four World Cup qualifiers this fall.
Without Messi against Bolivia, Argentina struggled in the high altitude and fell, 2-0. At other points during this qualifying campaign without Messi La Albiceleste have struggled to create goal-scoring chances.
For Brazil, with the team already qualified for the 2018 World Cup, manager Tite took the opportunity to test out some of the fringe players on the team as well as first team regulars, including Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, Manchester City’s Fernandinho and Chelsea’s Willian.