Copa America 2021: Can Argentina break the final jinx when they face Brazil?

Argentina will take on Brazil aiming to win a record equaling 15th Copa America title whereas Brazil is aiming for consecutive continental title triumph.

Argentina national football team in a file photo; Credit: Twitter/@CopaAmerica
By Sreejith C R | Jul 9, 2021 | 4 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Argentina will face hosts Brazil in the final of Copa America 2021 at Maracana on Sunday. Both sides have had a contrasting kind of run to the final. Brazil topped Group B before overcoming Chile and Peru with narrow 1-0 wins in the knockout stage. Similarly, Argentina topped Group A before thrashing Ecuador 3-0 and then edging out Colombia on penalties. It is fair to say that both teams have been in scintillating form. The likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar are leading from the front for their respective teams.

Argentina and Brazil have faced each other 108 times. The Selecao have won 43 encounters whereas Argentina registered 39 wins. In the 2019 Copa America semi-final clash Brazil defeated Argentina 2-0. Ironically, that was their last loss. Since then, Argentina has been unbeaten in 19 matches.

This is not their first meeting in the final of the Copa America. In 2004 and 2007, Brazil got the better of the their bitter rivals. Brazil lifted the trophy in 2019 at home by beating Peru in the final. It was their ninth Copa America title whereas Argentina’s last major title triumph was in 1993.

Argentina’s run to the Copa America final

Argentina started the campaign with a 1-1 draw against Chile but as the tournament went on they grew in confidence. Lionel Scaloni’s side beat Uruguay and Paraguay 1-0 before thrashing Bolivia 4-1 in their final group fixture. La Albiceleste continued the good form to the knockout stage as goals from Rodrigo De Paul, Lautaro Martinez and Messi ensured a smooth victory in the quarter-final against Ecuador. However, the semi-final was a tight affair as the 2016 runner-up had to dig deep. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez produced three brilliant saves in the penalty shootout to take Argentina through to their 29th Copa America final.

Brazil’s run to the Copa America final

The Selecao started the campaign with a 3-0 and 4-0 thrashing of Venezuela and Peru respectively. Tite’s side came from behind against Colombia to earn three points thanks to a 100th minute winner from Casemiro. In the knockout stage, they had to grind out wins against Chile and Peru. Against Chile, the hosts got the lead through Lucas Paqueta. Gabriel Jesus received a red card as Brazil played with 10 men. Despite being down a player for 40 minutes, they managed to hold on to the slender lead. In the semi-final, Paqueta found the back of the net again to help his side get through.

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Brazil will be without Jesus. The 24-year-old has been handed a two-match suspension for his reckless tackle in the quarters. Ederson is likely to keep his place in goal ahead of Liverpool’s Allison Becker after keeping two consecutive clean sheets. Meanwhile veteran Thiago Silva and Marquinos are going to be the two central defenders. Danilo is a sure starter at right-back whereas Renan Lodi will play at left-back. Casemiro and Fred are going to be the two holding midfielders. This will allow Neymar, Paqueta, Richrlison and Everton to play freely up front.

On the other hand, Scaloni has no real selection issues other than central defender Romero’s fitness. Emi Martinez, who became a national hero after his brilliance in the semi-final match is going to keep his place. Meanwhile Nicolas Otamendi and German Pezzella will be the two central defenders in Romero’s absence. Tagliafico has been doing a fine job at left-back therefore he is likely to continue ahead of Acuna. Meanwhile Nahuel Molina could keep his place at right-back. The midfield trio is going to be Paredes, Giovani Lo Celso and De Paul. Meanwhile Messi will lead the attack with Nicolas Gonzalez and Lautaro Martinez in support.

How the teams will play out

It’s going to be a tactical battle between Scaloni and Tite at Maracana. Both sides have been in very good form of late and there isn’t much separating them.

Brazil plays with a 4-2-3-1 formation with defensive midfielders- Casemiro and Fred. Those two are going to be key as Casemiro might be given the task to man-mark Lionel Messi. That will allow the likes of De Paul and Lo Celso a bit more space to work with in the middle and right side. Neymar is more than capable of taking on players and creating space. However, Scaloni may not want to deploy a player to man-mark him. Rather, he might prefer zonal marking to neutralise the PSG man.

But Tite has to be wary of the fact that Messi is also very effective even when he doesn’t get the ball. The Barcelona legend is one of the smartest footballers on the planet. He will drop back and create space down the right flank as he draws markers towards him.

Gonzalez down the left side is going to be key for Argentina as he will make the runs behind the opposition defence. Martinez has scored three goals in the previous three games.

The match is likely to go down the wire as both sides may cancel each other out in the regular time.

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