TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Updated: Jun 27, 2018, 08:59 IST
NEW DELHI: Former Argentina football captain Diego Maradona feels south American giants Brazil and Argentina got off to identical starts in Russia. Favourites always in the group stages, irrespective of the opposition, they opened against European teams and took the lead before settling for draws. No matter how much they dominated, the opposition didn’t let them score again.
Brazil are trying to regain some swagger. The five-time champions head into their final group match against Serbia at Spartak Stadium in Moscow needing only a draw to advance. But after a 1-1 draw against Switzerland, Brazil needed two injury-time goals to pull out a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica. Neymar has been frustrated with the play of the national team, and he dropped to his knees and sobbed after the Costa Rica match.
In his column for Times of India, Maradona wrote, “However, after the first two matches, Brazil’s position is far better than Argentina’s. They are still to reach the knockouts alright, but a draw away with a match to go is not bad going. They were made to work hard by Costa Rica and to come away with a win after that is a boost. It shows they can fight till the end, which is the sign of a team hungry to achieve. Their task is not easy. Serbia were unlucky to lose to Switzerland. They need three points and will give everything to get them. They have a win under their belt and could have at least drawn the second game had they not been denied a penalty by the German referee, who refused to consult VAR. There is a bit of Balkan verve in this team, which makes them dangerous rivals when cornered.”
“Brazil, too, will play for full points and for the first time in the competition face a team that will not be predominantly on the defensive from start to finish. Even though finding space won’t be easy, there might be more occasions when they get some extra room in the opposition half. Neymar, Coutinho and Jesus will be encouraged by that. The kind of creative elements they have in midfield and attack, the Selecao should look to win and top the group. The good news for Brazil is Neymar has got a goal. I know how it feels to come back from injury. The layoff takes a toll on body as well as mind and you need time to come to terms with big match conditions. He was visibly desperate to get his name on the scoresheet and managing one at the last moment will make him a more confident and better player,” Maradona added.
“This will also be a match where Brazil’s defence will come under greater scrutiny. Switzerland moved up only after conceding and Costa Rica rarely did. Serbia will go looking for goals. There may be question marks over their own defence, but they can sting. Good with set-pieces, they have a dangerous customer in Aleksandar Mitrovic. The defenders in yellow must keep an eye on him and be ready to do more than they did in the first two games. After being punished for defensive frailties four years ago, my neighbours have done well in Tite’s 4-2-3-1 formation, which has Casemiro and Paulinho in front of the backline as spoilers. It’s a crucial position and this part of their line-up is still to be properly tested. It will be, by Serbia, who have also played 4-2-3-1in the first two games,” the scorer of 34 international goals for Argentina, mentioned.
“With Serbia likely to ask questions they have not faced in Russia 2018, Brazil have to be ready for a different test. I have no doubt about their ability to strike. How they defend and absorb pressure in the defending zone is what I want to see,” Maradona signed off.
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