Why does Brazil look shaky in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers?

Luis Miguel IchigarayaspenSept. 7, 2023 at 09:32 a.m. ET9 min reading

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Sneak/Sneak is back! Each week Luis Miguel Ichigaray discusses the latest in world football, including highlights, matches you might have missed and what to watch in the days ahead. This week the LME reviews the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers as world champions Argentina look like heavy favorites and Brazil in transition struggle to return to their official glory.

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on the side


All eyes on South America. For the first time in more than 20 years, the men’s World Cup qualification campaign begins with the South American champions, as Argentina begin their title defense on Thursday in Buenos Aires against Ecuador. Two more matches will take place that day as Peru travel to Paraguay and Colombia host Venezuela before Friday sees Uruguay vs Chile and Brazil welcome Bolivia.

As a Peruvian, my compliments are strong, but given the historical and cultural ties between the two countries, the strength of the stars, the atmosphere of the crowds and the geographical conditions, these are the most entertaining and challenging matches in international football. South Americans experience and feel the elemental elements of football like no other. In the words of the late Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano, football is a metaphor for battle and, in this part of the world, it can turn into something real. Other parts of the world enjoy and savor the beautiful game. And South Americans live it up, for better or for worse.

As these nations gear up for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers — with six direct spots (and a play-off slot between confederations) up for grabs due to their expansion to 48 teams — I’m starting this week’s column to celebrate all that comes with FIFA World Cup qualifiers in South America, starting with the stories Emotional and even strong matches and enthusiastic fans.

Argentina favorite again

Lionel Scaloni’s World Cup-winning side – captained by the in-form Lionel Messi – enter this window as the unquestioned kings of the region. with three stars above their badge, Not albiceleste Come into this campaign with all the talent and courage needed to reach the World Cup in 2026. They haven’t lost a qualifying game since 2017 and that was before Scaloni arrived.

“The beginning is always complicated,” Scaloni told the federation’s website. “The first round always has its shadows. I hope our players arrive in good shape and can enjoy the game with our people. We have to compete, that’s what we like to do.”

Scaloni’s message is simple: Qatar’s World Cup victory and all the celebrations that have come with it since that happy night in December are now a memory. It’s time to focus and do it all over again.

The squad remains strong and perhaps even more dynamic with Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez continuing to improve, while others such as Chelsea’s Enzo Fernandez and Liverpool’s Alexis McAllister will be more influential. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and his defenders remain the cornerstone of the team. It’s also great news for MLS who not only claim Messi, but two other members of the national team including Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada and FC Dallas’ Alan Velasco.

Argentina may have some problems in their campaign, but I don’t expect that to happen until later in the qualifiers. In the end, thanks to an additional place in CONMEBOL for 2026, I see Argentina qualifying with relative ease, and are favorites to win the zone – something they did not do in Qatar 2022.

Marcelo Bielsa: crazy He returns as Uruguay turns over a new leaf

Edinson Cavani? no. Luis Suarez? forget that. The oldest player in Uruguay’s squad is in fact Sergio Rocher, who is 30 years old. So, what does that tell us? Welcome to Uruguay under Bielsa, where age, experience and reputation are as good as your current productivity and commitment to the cause. This is a young and ready Uruguay and, in true Bielsa style, I expect football that is fast-paced, fickle, often tough and eternally loyal.

I suspect crazy He is at his best in international competition and Uruguay Claw plow (Perseverance and courage on the pitch) should fit him like a glove. The question facing Uruguay will be about creating more complete matches. In the run-up to Qatar, they created chaos and their legendary manager Oscar Tabarez had to say goodbye to the team in November 2021 after 15 years in charge. In that time, they’ve lost four straight matches, conceded 11 and scored just one goal. In the end, they managed to qualify thanks to Diego Alonso bringing some stability, but in the World Cup they failed to get out of their group.

Enter Bielsa, who only selects projects based on society, culture and how football is within them. Uruguay, with a population of just 3.4 million, is a small but proud country, majestically rugged and hard-working. Bielsa can bring out the best in this young squad, including Federico Valverde, Darwin Nunez and Manuel Ugarte, players who were born to learn under someone like Bielsa.

I have high hopes for Uruguay in this campaign. And if they’re not doing well, they’ll at least explain everything you want to love about the game.


What do we make of Brazil?

Five-time World Cup champions Brazil will never be short on talent, and their chances of success are always alive and well. In fact, my first article for ESPN was about… to choose And how did you see them as the champions of 2022. In the end, that wasn’t the case, but when it comes to dominating South America, it’s hard to bet against them. Under former coach Tite, they won the previous CONMEBOL group without losing a match. In fact, they only drew three times throughout the entire campaign. The rest was victories.

Brazil boast a wealth of talent in their squad, but will they be able to top their World Cup qualifying group as a team in transition?Marcus Gillier – GES Sportfoto / Getty Images

But times are a little different now. Fernando Diniz, who also coaches Fluminense, is the team’s interim coach until next year when the federation hopes to bring in Carlo Ancelotti to take charge of the Copa America and beyond. As my colleague Tim Vickery has noted, Deniz is the ultimate hipster boss. Convention isn’t really his style.

But this season, he is organizing his strategies and adapting to a more structured model. In return, Fluminense reached the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores, a coveted tournament that could be Diniz’s first major trophy as head coach.

For the national team, the World Cup qualifying schedule starts off relatively easily as Brazil host Bolivia and then make a trip to Peru. But my only worry about Brazil is how the trip will turn out as they continue to play matches with this inexperienced coach on the international stage. This is a transitional Brazil, as there is a lot of change throughout the roster. The defensive unit has changed. Only Marquinhos and Danilo remained in the starting line-up that started against Croatia in the World Cup quarter-final loss. At 31 years old, Neymar Jr. is now playing in the Saudi Professional League, and is no longer a star in Europe. Lucas Paqueta, Brazil’s iconic creative star, has not been called up due to an investigation by FIFA and the FA into possible breaches of betting rules. Vinicius Junior is currently injured. Casemiro is not getting younger.

As you can see, this is not an invincible Brazilian team. But they are incredibly talented, and when you compare this team to any other team in South America apart from Argentina, it is hard to believe that they would do the unthinkable, which has never happened before, and fail to qualify for the World Cup. It is up to Denise to let them express themselves.

But will they win the table again? i doubt it.

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Talented Ecuador starts three steps back

Welcome to South America, Felix Sanchez-Pas. The Spanish manager left the Qatari national team and signed as coach of Ecuador in March after Gustavo Alfaro resigned due to contract and philosophical differences. Sanchez’s first order of business? Play Argentina. Oh, and you’re already in the minus.

Because of the drama that came with right-back Byron Castillo’s fake birth documents, FIFA sanctioned Ecuador with a penalty plus a three-point deduction for the start of their campaign. So, if Ecuador beats Argentina, it will go back to zero.

Ecuadorian talent remains – with the likes of Moises Caicedo, Gonzalo Plata and Pervis Estupinian – as well as Ener Valencia, who continues to make appearances in the Copa Libertadores with his Brazilian club Inter Porto Alegre. Also watch out for 16-year-old Kindrey Paez – another fine youngster from Independiente del Valle (Caicedo’s former club) who will join Chelsea in the summer of 2025 when he turns 18.

But I worry that this job might be too much for Sanchez. The reason Álvaro did such a great job with Ecuador is that his managerial style complemented the talent at his disposal. Not the opposite. When you instill a deep philosophy with Ecuador, you have to put the spotlight on the players rather than adapt players to a system that may not suit them. We’ll have to wait and see how this works out. And luckily for Ecuador, they are too good to make it into the top six. Their only enemies are themselves.

last word

After failing to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, coupled with the inspiring journey of the women’s team this summer, I believe Colombia will reach these qualifiers with a renewed sense of self and a point to prove. I see a renaissance coffee growers They are looking to make 2026 an exclamation point.

The last paragraph goes to Peru. My beautiful nation. They are in the bottom three among the least valuable teams on the continent and the list clearly shows that, although they still have the likes of Paulo Guerrero, Andre Carrillo and Yoshimar Yoton. Gianluca Lapadula, the beloved king of taco-taco rigatoni, has been injured, so Peru need all the help they can, and it will be tough against the dynamic Paraguay and Brazil in match two.

But there are promising guys. Watch out for Piero Quispe who will be playing in Europe in the future. I’m sure about that. But in general, I hope Peru will show some enthusiasm under coach Juan Reynoso. The Peruvians will never forget how former coach Ricardo Gareca led them to the 2018 World Cup. But those days are over. It’s time to look forward.

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