The Copa America goes down the wire once again, this time on Sunday as hosts and 9-time winners Brazil take on Argentina who are hoping to win their first title since they last did in 1993.
But who needs it the most remains the question on the minds of many. In recent years, Messi and Argentina have fallen short in 5 of the 5 finals they’ve gotten to at both the Copa America and the World Cup since 2004, and hence have this as a mission to reclaim lost glory.
Brazil who on the other hand, go in as defending champions, hold a personal mission to catch up with record Copa America holders Uruguay (15), and runners-up Argentina (14) – leaving this as a final unpredictable until the end.
REDEMPTION FOR MESSI AND CO?
Lionel Scaloni-side started the road to redemption on a not-so-convincing note following their 1-1 draw with Chile in their opening game but picked themselves up to finish top of a Group A, thanks to slim wins over Uruguay and Paraguay and a 4-1 last group game over Bolivia.
Knockouts came easy and difficult for La Albiceleste with 10-man Ecuador, unable to reply to their three goals in the quarterfinals, but Colombia proving a stiffer test in the semifinals – a tie decided by penalties to see Argentina cruise into their 29th Copa America finals.
But how well can Scaloni’s men fare against a Brazilian side who has been more impressive than they’ve been at the competition, winning 5 of their 6 games as compared to Argentina’s 4?
Argentina’s Star Men
Lionel Messi has undoubtedly been the La Albiceleste’s best performer at the competition, having contributed to 9 of their 11 goals – 4 goals, and 5 assists, and is expected to be joined in attack by Lautaro Martinez who has found the net in each of their last three games
But with Argentina’s recent record of flopping finals, attention might turn to another department of the Argentine team Messi has little or no control over – the defence.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez who stole the headlines in the semi-finals against Colombia has also put in some eye-catching performances in Copa America. It will be up to him to see how he coordinates the team from between the sticks, something he’s not new to considering he’s played with a consistently altered back four throughout the competition.
HOSTS TO HAVE THE FINAL LAUGH?
Coming into this year’s competition, Brazil were considered pre-tournament favourites leading to so much expectation, considering their status as defending champions, and they lived to the billing in the group stages, winning three of their first three games against Venezuela, Peru and Colombia, and then a 1-1 draw with Ecuador in their final group game.
Two 1-0 knockout victories over Chile and Peru in the quarter and semi-finals meant Tite’s side had a sweet passage to the finals and set up a final with their biggest rivals on the continent.
Brazil’s Star Men
Like his dear Argentine friend Messi, Brazil’s talisman Neymar has been his side’s most impressive player scoring two goals and registering three assists in five Copa America games this year. He would be expected to lead an attack comprising of Richarlison and Everton, without an also impressive Gabriel Jesus ruled out of the fixture due to a red card.
Brazil would hope that Lucas Paqueta who have taken the responsibility of winning them games since the knockout phases have begun, continues his scoring form in the finals after impressive feats against Chile and Peru.
Sunday’s final will be the 108th clash between these two nations, with Brazil boasting 43 wins and Argentina having won 39.
However, it is Argentina who boasts more competitive victories over their rivals, having won 19 of the 49 games between the sides in competitions, including 15 Copa America victories compared to Brazil’s 10.
The teams most recently met in the 2019 semi-final of this tournament, as Brazil knocked La Albiceleste out with a 2-0 win on their way to lifting the trophy.
This will not be the first time the two nations have squared off in the final either, as Brazil defeated Argentina on the big stage in consecutive finals in 2004 and 2007, firstly winning on penalties after a 2-2 draw before thrashing their rivals 3-0 to retain the title 14 years ago.
ARGENTINA: D – W – W – W – W
BRAZIL: W – W – D – W – W