Brazil, Argentina look to confirm Qatar World Cup qualification
Latin American heavyweight Brazil is just one win away from qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup as it hosts Colombia in Sao Paulo on Thursday, News.Az reports citing AFP.
A victory will book its ticket with six World Cup qualifiers to spare following a near-perfect record so far.
Even a draw for the Selecao would be enough if Uruguay loses at home to Argentina on Friday, and Brazilian media have reported that coach Tite is already planning to head to the Arab Cup in Qatar next month to check out World Cup venues and facilities.
Publically, though, Tite is not getting ahead of himself with a trip to face archrival Argentina in San Juan on the horizon next week.
"We have two important matches against two teams that, for me, are of the highest level," said Tite.
"A good performance and a good result against Colombia will provide us with a good preparation for Argentina."
Tite caused a surprise by recalling Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho to his squad after more than a year out, largely due to a nine-month absence with a knee injury that required three surgeries.
"It feels like it did the first time, that's how I see it every time I'm in the squad. It's an honor to wear this jersey," said Coutinho, who has struggled for playing time this season at his club.
Brazil has dominated the single CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying group, winning 10 of its 11 matches and scoring 26 goals.
Its only blemish was a 0-0 draw away to Colombia last month that brought to an end a nine-match winning run.
Another tight game is likely against a team on a run of three consecutive goalless draws.
Colombia welcomes back playmaker James Rodriguez for the first time in a year despite his ignominious start to life at Al-Rayyan, his new Qatari club.
Last month, in only his third league match since leaving Everton, the former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich player was bizarrely sent off after picking up two quickfire yellow cards for protesting after he was awarded a free kick.
James's inclusion is a welcome boost for Colombia, who will be without injured veteran striker Radamel Falcao.
Colombia is currently locked in a tight battle to qualify automatically for the World Cup alongside Ecuador and Uruguay.
The three sides are separated by a single point in the battle to finish in the top four places, with the fifth-placed finisher heading into an inter-confederation play-off.