Argentina's best team with Messi? Brazil revved up? South American teams competing for World Cup spots

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Ecuador, the four South American teams headed to the World Cup, were all in action on Friday as they got ready for Qatar. While Uruguay and Ecuador are still developing, Brazil and Argentina had the appearance of tournament favorites.

We provide an important response for each CONMEBOL team as they continue to get ready for the largest stage in the game based on their performances.


Are we ready for Brazil to launch a superattack?

In an exciting first half against Ghana in Le Havre, France, Brazil coach Tite unleashed an ultra-attacking Plan C, which likely performed even better than he had planned. Brazil already has a Plan A and a Plan B.

His side has become accustomed to playing with two wingers over the past year; typically, Raphinha and Vinicius Junior play on the right and left, respectively, with Neymar floating as a false nine, connecting with attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta. Richarlison has been used as a center forward in this variation, one of the wingers has been dropped, and Paqueta is used to cut in from one of the flanks.

What if, though, there was a method to have a center forward as well as two wingers? In the present. Paqueta steps into Fred's shoes this time, moving deeper to play from center midfield. There is space in front of them for a front three with him to the right of Casemiro and Neymar on the left. Paqueta must work a defensive shift as a result, but so must everyone else. Brazil works as a team to regain control after losing it.

Ghana struggled to establish any sort of rhythm, and the rare occasions when they did, the ruthless Marquinhos was there to put an end to the threat with his quickness and understanding. At the conclusion of a first half that, against respectable opponents, was almost laughably one-sided, Brazil was on its way to the 3-0 victory — and could have been more. Ghana's 4-1-4-1 formation was no match for Brazil's array of attacking talent, and front-loading the team did not make it appear weak.

This new setup won't be effective in all circumstances or against all opponents. But Brazil now have another weapon in their toolbox, one that will undoubtedly give their World Cup adversaries the willies.

Is this Argentina squad Messi's finest yet?

Argentina's 3-0 victory over this Honduras team scarcely entitles anyone to greatness on its own. 34 games without a loss, though, speaks for itself. And what was remarkable was how foreseeably inevitable the Argentine victory in Miami was.

Honduras reminded me of a lesser-known boxer facing off against Muhammad Ali at his prime. Throughout the entire night, Argentina carefully and purposefully jabbed at them, forcing them out of position and preparing them for the big punch. They never came close to laying a glove on Argentina. Some people may remember the 2006 team that lost to Germany on penalties in the quarterfinals, with a young Lionel Messi helplessly watching from the bench.

Argentina were in disarray for a large portion of his previous tenure with the national squad. Giving the ball to Messi and hoping was Plan A. Giving the ball to Messi and wishing was Plan B. Plan C was also nonexistent. not now. They stole the game away from Honduras in the first 15 minutes. This team plays a possession-based style of football that has an almost mesmerizing appeal. It's a team that works, and in Messi's sixth World Cup, it may even provide him his best chance to win the event.

Will Uruguay be shaken by Diego Alonso's first defeat?

Diego Alonso has only seen success since taking over as Uruguay coach at the end of last year, along with a scoreless draw against the United States in a friendly in June when he fielded a reserve team. He has already experienced defeat after his team's 1-0 loss against Iran on Friday in Vienna. There is no reason to be dejected, he stated after the game, but he has some things to consider.

With a few of centre-backs making their debuts against an opponent who dropped back and looked for the counterattack, Uruguay played defense well enough despite a positional injury crisis made worse by Ronald Araujo's limping off in the first minute. A pair of full-backs with the ability to advance was clearly advantageous since it allowed the wide players in a 4-3-3 formation to enter the penalty area. Darwin Nunez, whose ineffective left foot was a concern when he played out on that flank, needed to pay particular attention to this. Nunez is undoubtedly a greater threat as a center forward, and if the team can only field one, Alonso may have a significant impact.

The team's most obvious opportunities were lost by Luis Suarez, who appeared to be far from at his peak. Nunez and Suarez were both used in Uruguay's final 4-4-2 formation, a decision that, on the other hand, might have lost them the game (Edinson Cavani is not with the squad as he settles in with new side Valencia). Matias Vecino held the ball while Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde searched for space between the Iranian lines for the majority of the game as Uruguay played with a three in the middle of the midfield.

Vecino had been sacrificed for the last 20 minutes when Alonso altered his tactics. Shortly after, the game's lone goal was scored, with the play coming from the area that Vecino was no longer defending. With, Uruguay are undoubtedly at their best.

Where will Ecuador's goals in Qatar come from?

Clean sheets are always appreciated by coaches, so Gustavo Alfaro, the manager of Ecuador, could find solace in his team's 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia in the Spanish city of Murcia in June after going three games without conceding. The region's sizable Ecuadorian community was disappointed by the lack of goals at the opposite end, and the coach was worried about it as well. True, his squad has gone four games without conceding, but Tuesday's encounter against Japan promises to be a tougher challenge.

However, Ecuador has only scored twice during these four games. Ecuador was a free-scoring team at times throughout qualification, but the goals have stopped coming recently. Alfaro might find solace in the fact that his team produced chances against the Saudis in a variety of ways, including Gonzalo Plata's right-side thrusts, Pervis Estupinan's left-side crosses, relentless midfield pushing, set-pieces sent into the box, and long balls over the top of the defense.

However, the team is not innovative. Veteran Enner Valencia is the best scorer for Ecuador all-time. He probably prefers operating via the middle, as he did in this game, than cutting in from the left. And he usually achieves his aims in bursts. The rangy Michael Estrada, the team's leading scorer in qualification, who came off the bench against the Saudis but is unquestionably the favorite to lead the line in Qatar, is arguably Alfaro's only option for the center striker position. His six goals, with one exception, came in the early part of the qualifying matches, and Ecuador needs him to regain his best form.