Argentina gave new coach Jorge Sampaoli a winning debut on Friday, defeating Brazil 1-0 before 95,569 spectators at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a friendly. Defender Gabriel Mercado’s goal on the stroke of halftime helped end Brazil coach Tite’s undefeated record since taking the job 12 months ago.
Top-ranked Brazil, playing Friday without captain Neymar, had won nine matches in a row, while No. 2 Argentina had lost three of its last five matches in a stuttering World Cup qualifying campaign. Sampaoli opted for a 3-3-3-1 system, deploying Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain as the striker with Lionel Messi, who played all 90 minutes, in his regular Barcelona role on the right side of the attack.
The high-pressing style that had brought Sampaoli so much success with Chile‘s national team was evident from the outset, as Angel Di Maria flourished with extra space on the left side. Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus was taken off the field on a stretcher in the second half as a precaution after taking a knock from Manchester City teammate Nicolas Otamendi.
Jorge Sampaoli made his debut as Argentina coach, having left Sevilla to take charge of his country. The ex-Chile boss made numerous changes after taking over from Edgardo Bauza, sacked after a 2-0 defeat in Bolivia in March. One of those included moving to a 3-4-3 formation, with the side having worked on a front trio of Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain. He was desperate to get off to a winning start.
But the Selecao had thrashed Argentina last year in their World Cup qualifying meeting in Brazil. Additionally, Tite has done an outstanding job since taking charge, winning his first nine fixtures. Below is all the action from the MCG, as it happened.
Brazil XI: Weverton; Fágner, Silva, Gil, F.Luís; Paulinho, Fernandinho, Augusto; Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Willian.
Argentina XI: Romero; Mercado, Maidana, Otamendi; J.L Gomez, Biglia, Banega, Di Maria; Dybala, Messi; Higuain