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Promoters' fury over Brazil contract breach with Neymar to be an MCG no-show

The promotors of the MCG blockbuster between Brazil and Argentina are incensed with the Brazilian Football Federation after it backtracked on its contract obligations and said it will not send out its strongest squad for the sellout match in Melbourne next month.

Barcelona superstar Neymar was just the biggest of a number of wellknown names who were not in the squad for the June 9 game announced overnight by the CBF (Confederation of Brazilian Football).

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A spirited and often ill-tempered encounter was highlighted by a red card and two goals to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Argentina has, however, included Neymar's clubmate and the world's best known player, Lionel Messi, in its line up, but another superstar who definitely won't be on the plane is Manchester City's top striker Sergio Aguero, who has been left out of the Argentina squad.

But it is Brazil's flagrant disregard of the Australian public that has angered the match promotors, TEG and TLA Worldwide.

It is is believed that they are seeking urgent talks with the CBF and its agents over the snub given that they received assurances, which were underpinned in the contractual obligations for the game, that global superstars like Neymar would be on the plane to Australia.

Negotiations over this game went on for months and a key part of the agreement was that Brazil and Argentina would field their strongest squads. While Brazil has clearly not done so, Argentina, in what will be the first game under new coach Jorge Sampaoli, look as though they mean business.

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"We are disappointed that Neymar Jr will not be playing, as we have had assurances and undertakings that both teams would be bringing their best available squads," said event organisers Geoff Jones from TEG and Bart Campbell from TLA Worldwide in a statement on Saturday morning.

"Despite this omission there is still a plethora of international stars proudly representing their national teams in one of the oldest and most prestigious football derbies in the world and we hope that the fans will enjoy the once-in-a-generation encounter at the MCG.

 "We are delighted to confirm that Lionel Messi, one of the greatest ever footballers, will be returning to MCG ... Messi heads some of the best talent of world football coming to Melbourne from both Argentina and Brazil. Both squad announcements feature players who have won Continental, Domestic Cup and League campaigns all over the world."
 
 

The game was announced earlier this month as a sellout weeks ahead of schedule, with, presumably, many of the so-called "theatre goers" buying tickets because they wanted to see Neymar and a host of other well-known Brazil stars – such as Real Madrid's Marcelo, multiple Champions League winner Dani Alves, now at Juventus, and regular central defender Marquinhos, none of whom are included in the tour party.

According to well-known South American-based British soccer analyst Tim Vickery (who writes for the BBC and Australia's SBS): "Only four from the normal [Brazil] starting line-up have been included; the Chinese-based midfield pair of Paulinho and Renato Augusto, centre forward Gabriel Jesus, who is returning from injury and needs some game time – and, intriguingly, Philippe Coutinho [of Liverpool].

"The inclusion of the Liverpool man may be a sop to the Australian public in the absence of Neymar, a glamorous name from the Premier League to help make up for the absence of the Barcelona star," Vickery says.

This game has always been dogged by some controversey.

In March, a story broke in Latin America in which the then-Argentinian coach Edgardo Bauza made it clear that neither he nor his players were happy at the date and destination for this game.

"Because it comes after the club season the players don't really want to know about it," he was quoted as saying. 

 "They want to go on holiday, they're planning which beach they're going to be lying on with their women. And then you tell them that they have to go to Australia!

"I ran into [Brazil coach] Tite in Europe recently, and I asked him if he wanted to go and play the game. He said that he didn't. 'OK,' I told him, 'let's play out a 0-0 draw so neither of us gets attacked by our press.' And we burst out laughing."

Reports from Vickery a month later confirmed this story.