Copa América couldn’t have a more striking poster for football than a final between Brazil and Argentina at Maracanã. Even the Euro Cup, in anticipation of the title that England and Italy will dispute at Wembley (Sunday, 4:00 pm GMT) will be on the superclassic that has been held since 1914 (Saturday, 9:00 pm). Canarinho’s duel with Alviceleste gives glory and honor to a tournament that was difficult to follow, play and organize for covid-19.
The importance of the game explains the exceptional authorization of the city of Rio de Janeiro for 7,200 fans to be present, 10% of the capacity of the stadium in the emblematic Brazilian city. Football has not been particularly attractive so far and prominent figures have been equally scarce, yet another reason to emphasize the collective duel between Brazilians and Argentines, as well as the individual one between Neymar and Messi.
“I’m going to play the final I’ve always dreamed of”, says Neymar, after resisting participating in the World Cup. And Messi replies: “It will be very tough”. Canarinho is the host and current champion – has nine titles – and their last defeat was in November 2019 in a friendly with Argentina, winner of the tournament 14 times, the last in 1993, and loser by two to one on balance of the three finals held against Brazil.
Neymar’s team starts as favorites due to the condition of home team and the solidity delivered by Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Casemiro. The absence of Gabriel Jesus due to suspension does not worry Tite. The coach has a plan to stop Messi: “I know how to mark him, but I won’t tell him”, announces the Canarinho coach. Messi has already scored four goals, two free kicks and one penalty, and is playing freer and also more committed than ever to Scaloni’s team.
The Argentine shirt 10 returns to Maracanã after losing the 2014 World Cup final. Messi watched the trophy after being proclaimed the best player in the final against Germany. He also lost three Copa America finals. At 34, Messi plays all to win a title with Argentina and a Maracanazo it would allow him to sign in golden letters his emotional and footballing bond with Alviceleste. It seems that the two finally took the same path, Messi and Argentina.
Alviceleste has never won a Cup at Maracanã and only won in two of its 12 visits, so the challenge is capital for Messi’s team. Neymar smiles and Brazil takes on the pressure: to finish a tournament without fail, they need to overthrow Argentina. Europe will not lose America’s duel.
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