Focus on Brazil's Vinícius Júnior, Argentina's Dybala
ARGENTINA Under coach Lionel Scaloni, Argentina won last years Copa America.Following decent form at Juventus, the 28-year-old Dybala is expected to replace Messi in a match played at nearly 7,900 feet 2,400 meters at Calama, in northern Chiles Atacama Desert.Dybala also started for Argentina in Novembers 1-0 qualifying win at Uruguay, when Messi was recovering from a knee injury and entered in the second half.Despite Argentinas early qualification to the World Cup, goalkeeper Emiliano Martnez said he and his teammates are still hungry and not relaxed. We want to continue uniting as a team and as a group.
Vinícius Júnior has not scored in his first nine appearances for Brazil and Paulo Dybala has two goals in 31 games for Argentina. Vinícius Júnior is expected to replace Neymar for the Selecao against Ecuador and Dybala is likely to take the field in place of Lionel Messi against Chile.
Four South American nations qualify for this fall's tournament in Qatar and fifth places advances to a playoff against an Asian opponent, leaving two automatic berths still in contention. Only last-place Venezuela, with seven points, is out of contention. Brazil leads with 35 points, followed by Argentina (29), Ecuador (23), Colombia, Peru (17), Chile, Uruguay (16) and Bolivia (15). The contenders each have four games remaining.
ECUADOR vs. BRAZIL Vinicius Junior's top form at Real Madrid has drawn criticism at home for Brazil coach Tite, accused of not giving the 21-year-old enough time to show his dribbling skills and quick passes. Some allege the coach has difficulties to innovate and test rising players in new roles.
Tite maintains the winger requires patience. Based on Tuesday's training session, Vinicius Junior appears likely for the starting lineup.
"He has been exceptional, I see him every day. I saw him grow at the club,'' Casemiro said. "With the national team there is a different style of playing, another period to adapt. The competition is different. The quicker he adapts, the better. But we can't forget he is just 21 years old." Ecuador, coached by Argentinian coach Gustavo Alfaro, should clinch with four points from its remaining games.
Despite Argentina's early qualification to the World Cup, goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez said he and his teammates "are still hungry" and "not relaxed.'' "We want to continue uniting as a team and as a group. We have to give our best to be in the final list," he said. "We will try to win every match or play them as if they were our last. People have to see the best version of us in this World Cup year and we want to reach that goal." Messi will miss these games while regaining fitness following a positive COVID-19 test last month.
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