Ten years on from sinking the Socceroos in a friendly, Barcelona superstar Leo Messi is set to return to the MCG again in national colours, with the Victorian government likely to confirm on Friday the “SuperClasico de las Americas” between Argentina and Brazil, which will take place at the Melbourne sporting mecca on 9 June.
It will be an unlikely location to stoke one of international football’s great rivalries, but the two sides currently hold the top two rankings places, and there is always degree of feeling between them.
At full strength, Argentina’s side would contain a host of superstars, with Messi joined by the likes of Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano and Angel Di Maria. Brazil’s best side would feature Messi’s Barcelona team-mate Neymar, plus Philippe Coutinho, Oscar and Dani Alves.
At full strength, the two sides would go close to matching the 95,446-strong crowd drawn by Liverpool for their 2013 MCG friendly against Melbourne Victory. The main sticking point will be the availability or otherwise of Messi and Neymar, two of the biggest names in the game, but on Friday one events company offering tickets claimed the involvement of Messi and Neymar was guaranteed.
For previous goodwill and exhibition tours of Australia, larger club sides have tended to leave big-name players at home, primarily on account of the effects of the long-haul flight to Australia. Tournament organisers have not yet guaranteed the availability of the superstar duo. It would be Messi’s first match in Australia since he piloted Argentina’s 1-0 defeat of Australia in 2007.
“We will have the best two teams clashing here at the MCG,” Victorian sports minister John Eren said on Friday. “I think it’s going to be a blockbuster. It’s going to be a sell-out.”
“There is 100 years of rivalry between Argentina and Brazil. These matches are always special,” Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza said in a statement. “We look forward to meeting in Melbourne. Our priority is to prepare for the important World Cup qualifiers coming up in 2017 and this match and the camp will be extremely valuable.”
In December 2016 the Australian revealed that one of the two touring sides was likely to stay on for a warm-up match against Australia before the Socceroos jet off to the Confederations Cup.
The SuperClasico de las Americas was created in 2011 as a two-game home-and-away series, but the format was altered in 2014 to a one-off match played at a neutral venue – the first of which was Beijing that year. The format has been dormant since, and the Melbourne game would be the first in three years.