Coach's techno-babble leaves divided Brazil desperate for win

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Earlier this year São Paulo's Morumbi stadium staged the inaugural match of the Club World Championship. Tonight it is the scene of the first ever World Cup qualifying game between Brazil and Argentina.

Earlier this year São Paulo's Morumbi stadium staged the inaugural match of the Club World Championship. Tonight it is the scene of the first ever World Cup qualifying game between Brazil and Argentina.

The build up finds the old rivals in contrasting spirits. Argentina travel with the confidence of a team who have won all five of their games in the campaign. The absence through injury of Gabriel Batistuta is no worry; his deputy, Hernan Crespo, recently became the world's most expensive player, only to be overtaken by Luis Figo on Monday. Crespo opened the scoring against Ecuador last week with a thumping header.

Even more impressive was the passing movement which set up the chance. It bore the obvious imprint of a settled side. So far Argentina have used only 13 players in their starting line-up while Brazil have used 24. Their coach, Wanderley Luxemburgo, is, according to one Brazilian journalist, "as lost as blind man in a shoot-out". The guns will surely turn on Luxemburgo if Brazil, currently fifth and outside the automatic qualification places, suffer another defeat. His arrogant manner and ludicrously forced techno-babble make him an easy target when results turn against him.

Inexperience at international level has left Luxemburgo floundering. Some of his selections have been clear attempts to curry favour with press and supporters. Edilson of Corinthians for the first game in São Paulo, the former Flamengo favourite Sávio for the match in Rio, the recent flavour of the month Djalminha for the game with Paraguay - all were parachuted in and just as quickly discarded.

Brazil comfortably won last year's Copa America, but some countries sent weakened teams, and the signs of future problems were already apparent. Rivaldo may provide brilliant individual touches, but to build a team around him is asking for trouble. He has scored four of Brazil's six goals in this campaign, but seems incapable of organising the attack. At the other end, in the Copa America Brazil got away with committing numerous fouls to protect their weak centre-backs. Now they are picking up cards.

The captain, Cafu, was sent off last week and he asked Luxemburgo if he could leave the squad, since he is suspended for the Argentina game. Permission was granted, but once he was gone the coach turned against him, saying he should have stayed. Cafu felt betrayed, and it will be difficult for Luxemburgo to work again with his only top-class right-back.

The new captain is Antÿnio Carlos. He sat out the Paraguay game through suspension and criticised the players for showing a lack of character. This did not go down well with some of his colleagues, keenly aware that he is a feeble centre-back. Of more significance is the return of the defensive midfielder Emerson, perhaps the most important member of the side.

He will have a key role protecting Brazil's centre-backs from the fluent passing which has been Argentina's trademark in the campaign. The attacking approach of Marcelo Bielsa's men would astound those who saw the tame 0-0 draw with England in February. But Bielsa learnt the lesson of Wembley, and sacrificed a defender to include the striker Claudio Lopez.

Tonight, though, is the true test of the 3-4-3 system. At Wembley Sensini was unable to cope with Emile Heskey, and was pulled off before half-time. Now Brazil are sure to unleash the full force of their left-side strength against the veteran.

BRAZIL: Dida; Evanilson, Antÿnio Carlos, Roque Junior, Roberto Carlos; Vampeta, Emerson, Rivaldo, Ze Roberto: França (or Alex), Ronaldinho Gaúcho.

ARGENTINA: Bonano; Sensini, Ayala, Samuel; Zanetti, Simeone, Veron, Gonzalez; Ortega, Crespo, C Lopez.

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