Neymar – and several of his big name team-mates – may be no-shows for the MCG blockbuster with Argentina next week.
But the man widely regarded as the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, and his Argentina colleagues will spend the week training in Melbourne ahead of Friday night’s big clash, the second game in a mouth-watering triple treat for soccer fans over the next week and a half.
Brazil is using South Melbourne’s Lakeside venue as a training base while they are here for the games against their traditional South American rivals and also the Socceroos, who they face on Tuesday week, also at the MCG.
The Socceroos are rather pre-occupied with a match of far greater significance themselves later this week as they prepare in Adelaide for Thursday night’s crucial World Cup qualifier with Saudi Arabia at the Adelaide Oval.
Ange Postecoglou’s squad has been arriving piecemeal in the South n capital for a game which could determine whether they get a saloon passage to the World Cup in Russia or have to earn their spot in the finals the hard way by coming through continental and then intercontinental play offs.
If they fail to beat the Saudis their chances of securing one of the top two spots and automatic qualification will be difficult: if they can take three points, then four points from their final two matches – away to Japan and at home against Thailand – should see them through.
The -Brazil game will be the team’s final hit out before they head off to the Confederations Cup for tough games against Chile, Germany and Cameroon over the following two weeks.
Brazil’s presence at Lakeside means that both South’s NPL team and its Womens NPL side cannot train or play home games at the Albert Park venue.
As a result South will play one of their traditional blockbuster games, against former NSL side Heidelberg, at AAMI Park next Sunday, June 11, while their Women’s NPL side will play the curtain raiser against Alamain FC in the first ever Women’s NPL fixture to be played at the venue.
Females are no strangers to AAMI Park as both Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City women have played at the ground in the W-League, City winning their first ever Grand Final there in 2016.
Still, the government is pumping up the occasion, sport minister John Eren saying: “It’s a great chance for fans to see Matildas captain Lisa De Vanna in action … also on show will be high-profile national and international talent such as Alexandra Gummer, Alex Cheal, Caitlin Doeglas, Amy Jackson, Erin Hudson and Young Matildas international stars Melina Ayres and Ashleigh Lefevre.”
* Fans that purchase tickets to the double-header will go into the draw to win a VIP experience for four people to the Socceroos v Brazil match on Tuesday 13 June, including MCG pitch side access during the team warm-up.