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Latin American archrivals Brazil and Argentina will face off in an international friendly at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in June, the Victorian state government said Wednesday.
State sports minister Martin Pakula said his understanding was that the big-name players from both countries would feature in the June 11 clash, to be held five years after the South American powerhouses attracted 95,000 fans to the venue.
“Our expectation, based on the discussions we’ve had, is that players like (Lionel) Messi and Neymar will be here,” he told Melbourne’s 3AW radio station.
“We can’t be 100% certain about that but we’ve been told this is an important preparation for them in the lead up to the World Cup.”
Neymar was left out of the Brazil team for the 2017 clash at the MCG but seven-times Ballon D’Or winner Messi featured in the 1-0 victory for Argentina.
Neymar and Messi’s former club Barcelona are also making the trip Down Under this year for a May 25 friendly against an A-League All Stars team in Sydney.
Australia was a regular off-season stop for major football teams before the country was locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Manchester United and fellow English Premier League club Crystal Palace will also play friendlies at the MCG in July.
Formula One Grand Prix racing returned to Melbourne for the first time since the start of the pandemic earlier this month, while the city also hosts the only Grand Slam tennis tournament in the Asia-Pacific, the Australian Open.
“To have two of the most successful football teams in the world return to the MCG to continue their longstanding rivalry reinforces our position as one of the world’s great sporting cities,” Pakula said.