Argentina's Lionel Messi during a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Bolivia.
Argentina's Lionel Messi during a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Bolivia. Natacha Pisarenko

Minister 'confident' superstars will play at MCG

WORLD football megastars Lionel Messi and Neymar will go head to head at the MCG.

The South American giants Argentina and Brazil will lock horns in a powerhouse battle on Australian soil on June 9.

Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events and Minister for Sport, John Eren, confirmed the blockbuster on Friday morning after the State Government had earlier announced it would make a major announcement.

"There's no bigger occasion in football than when Brazil takes on Argentina, and it's coming to Melbourne," Mr Eren said.

"These two nations are giants of the world game. This won't just be a showstopper in Melbourne - it's going to be viewed right around the world."

Mr Eren didn't confirm whether the match would replace the International Champions Cup - which last year featured world heavyweights Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur - but said Melbourne would continue to try to attract the best sporting events.

The Friday night clash will draw 100,000 fans, with both nations set to bring their full-strength squads to Melbourne.

Asked if he could be certain the match would feature the biggest names, such as Messi and Neymar, Mr Eren was bullish.

"We're fairly confident ... we insisted upon Lionel Messi and Neymar Jnr be available to play that game," he said.

The Barcelona teammates are fierce international rivals in football-mad South America, and while their countries have won seven FIFA World Cups between them they rarely face off away from South America.

Messi came out of a short-lived retirement while Neymar has been ever-present for Brazil, and has taken on Pele-esque status since leading his country to gold medal glory at Rio 2016.

Juventus star Gonzalo Higuain, Barcelona's Javier Mascherano, Chelsea's David Luiz and Liverpool pair Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firminho will be among the other global talents coming to Melbourne with both teams set to bring their strongest squads.

Aside from their feisty rivalry, both nations will view the fixture seriously as it's a year out from the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Argentina in particular is struggling, languishing fifth in the South American qualifiers, which would lead it needing to qualify via the playoffs. Brazil tops the group.

Argentina coach Edgardo Buaza was desperate to bring Messi and company to Australia to avoid domestic hype ahead of their decisive final four qualifiers, starting with a tough away duel with Luis Suarez's Uruguay on August 31.

The MCG, sometimes traffic weary after the volume of matches played on the ground during AFL season, hosts a match between Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions on Sunday, May 28.

That is scheduled to be the final game before the Brazil-Argentina blockbuster.

Hawthorn is scheduled to host the Gold Coast at the MCG on June 10 - the day after the clash.

Tickets will go on sale for the international friendly from noon on Tuesday, February 21.

News Corp Australia


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