By Andrew Downie
Two years after they suffered a humiliating 7-1 defeat by Germany in the World Cup semi-final, Brazil return to the same Belo Horizonte stadium charged with overcoming that bitter memory – and their toughest rivals Argentina.
The five-times world champions face their neighbours in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday and memories of the mauling by the Germans at the Mineirao stadium add extra spice to what is one of world football’s great rivalries.
“The scars are going to remain but we can only change what happens from now on,” midfielder Renato Augusto told reporters after joining up with his team mates in the central Brazilian city.
Brazil have overcome one major psychological barrier in recent months, when their Under-23 team, including overage players Renato Augusto and Neymar, beat Germany at the Maracana stadium to win the Olympic gold medal for the first time.
Renato Augusto, who plays for Beijing Guoan said the players discussed the 7-1 match before that game and admitted there was no avoiding it before facing Argentina.
Seven members of the Brazil squad were in the Mineirao that fateful July day in 2014, two (Marcelo and Fernandinho) starting the match and another two (Paulinho and Willian) finishing it.
“We can’t put more pressure on those that were there,” Renato Augusto.
“A win would be good to take the weight off a bit. We discussed it at the Olympics and obviously now that the game is at the Mineirao it will be back again. But we have to look to the future and not to the past.”
Nevertheless, the past can also serve as an incentive for a team that has struggled in recent years.
Brazil have never lost a home World Cup qualifier and they have won three and drawn one of their four previous games against Argentina at the Mineirao.
Perhaps more importantly, they come into this game having won all four qualifiers since Tite replaced Dunga as coach in June and they are top of the 10-team standings.
Argentina’s recent record, meanwhile, is almost the opposite, with just one win in four since coach Edgardo Bauza took the reins in August.
They are sixth in the table, with the top four qualifying automatically and the fifth-placed side going into a playoff with a team from Oceania.
Lionel Messi will return to the side after missing the last three games through injury, none of which Argentina won.
Brazil will be without Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro but are otherwise at full strength.