With two matches still left to run on that suspension, Neymar is to again be absent for Brazil’s 2018 opening qualifiers against Chile tomorrow and Venezuela on Tuesday next week.
More than a year has passed since that extraordinary 7-1 meltdown against Germany in Brazil’s own World Cup.
Argentina’s campaign meanwhile ended in a penalty shoot-out against Chile in the final, shattering Messi and the Albiceleste’s hopes of winning a first major tournament since 1993.
But while Copa America form suggests Chile are favourites, Brazil head into their game with history squarely in their corner.
Three of the big recent defeats – against Germany in World Cup semis, then a 3-0 loss to Holland in the third-place match, and the Copa America loss in June to Paraguay – took place without Neymar. This is 25 million US dollars more than the current Argentinian team even though Brazil is also without their star player, Neymar. Their last lost came against Brazil in March.
Brazil themselves are missing the suspended Neymar as the Brazilian playmaker picked up a stragiht red in a Copa America game against Colombia.
Yet Brazil have showed no sign of tension during the build-up, holding relaxed open training sessions before large crowds of journalists and fans.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina will be hosting Ecuador without injured captain Messi, and without Gonzalo Higuain after coach Gerardo Martino opted to keep him out of the squad.
Messi, who was scapegoated in a few quarters for another Argentinian tournament failure in the Copa America, is sidelined for the game after suffering a serious knee injury while playing for Barcelona last month. “We are two great teams who respect one another and know how to play against each other”, Jefferson told reporters. Messi’s absence “should be no excuse”, said Javier Mascherano. “It’s going to be important to start with a cushion of points that will give us tranquillity”, he added.
Uruguay will just be confronting the harsh challenge to using Bolivia at substantially high elevation in La Paz without their a pair of topnotch strikers, Suarez and Edinson Cavani.