Can Brazil turn turmoil into opportunity as World Cup winners Argentina visit the Maracana?
Eternal images, the adulation of the world, a fairytale story complete and the World Cup trophy lofted overhead. Once, those chapters and pages seemed to belong to Brazil at international level, almost exclusively at times, it felt.
No longer. It’s over two decades since the Selecao triumphed on the world stage and now, even worse, it was their greatest rivals who shared their own ecstasy and jubilation with the planet, their greatest rivals who now come knocking at the door of the Maracana, champions of the world and buoyant with optimism for what lies ahead.
Argentina, with Lionel Messi, finally feels like a mission completed. But that doesn’t mean their story is over; simultaneous holders of both world and continental titles, they’ll be aiming to write more history next summer as they bid to become the first South American nation to ever retain the Copa America while also being World Cup champions. The only team to really come close was, of course, Brazil: Copa winners in 1997 and 1999, they reached the final of France’ 98 in between but lost out to the hosts.
If it all feels like the perfect moment for Brazil to rise against the odds, knock their rivals down a peg and reestablish themselves as Conmebol’s biggest team…well, it’s true in theory, but there are further layers of difficulty given the context of this encounter.
For starters, this 2026 World Cup qualifier takes place at the scene of Argentina’s first win in this cycle: the Maracana, where they beat Brazil 1-0 in the 2021 Copa final. Add in a draw in qualifying for Qatar 2022 and the reverse fixture being cancelled, and it’s well over four years since Brazil last beat Argentina.
In more immediately concerning matters, the Selecao have won just two of five