This is the game that stops everything in South America. The two giants on the continent, Brazil and Argentina, will play each other in the Copa America final on Sunday (02:00 CET).
After Brazil narrowly beat Peru 1-0 in the first semifinal on Tuesday, Argentina faced a fierce game against Colombia. Lautaro Martinez opened the scoring for Argentina after seven minutes, but Luis Diaz equalized in the second half (’61). The tie couldn’t be decided over 120 minutes of football, so it went to penalties. Argentina won the shootout 3-2.
The Brazil vs. Argentina clash will be taken to another level by the confrontation between Neymar and Messi, arguably the most prominent players on the two teams. They are good friends off the pitch and never hesitate to show appreciation for one another whenever the chance comes around. On Sunday, however, the two superstars will wear the flags of their national teams at the Maracana.
𝗠𝗢𝗦𝗧 𝗚𝗢𝗔𝗟𝗦 & 𝗔𝗦𝗦𝗜𝗦𝗧𝗦
𝗠𝗢𝗦𝗧 𝗖𝗛𝗔𝗡𝗖𝗘𝗦 𝗖𝗥𝗘𝗔𝗧𝗘𝗗
𝗠𝗢𝗦𝗧 𝗙𝗢𝗨𝗟𝗦 𝗪𝗢𝗡
Bring on the Copa América final. pic.twitter.com/pemYjjAMrx
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 7, 2021
Messi and Neymar dominate the stats
Messi shone throughout the competition, leading the stats in terms of goals, stats, number of shots, chances created, and dribbles. After scoring one goal and assisting two others in front of Ecuador in the quarterfinals, Messi helped Lautaro score against Colombia in the semis. He now has four goals and six assists to his name. Neymar seconds him in almost every chapter, having himself netted three times and assisted another three.
A triumph at Copa America might put Messi in front of his competitors in the race for the Ballon d’Or. The 34-year-old saw Mbappe, Kante, Ronaldo, Lewandowski, and De Bruyne all eliminated from Euro 2020. Argentina winning with a key contribution from Messi would definitely place him above the competition, basically putting into shade their performances at the club level.
For those still in the chase of the cup at the Euros, none seems to have done enough at the club level to trouble Messi in the race to a seventh Ballon.
Messi about keeper Martinez: ‘He’s a phenomenon’
In the shootout that decided Argentina’s advancement to the Copa America final, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez stopped three penalties to put a big smile on Messi and his colleagues’ faces. The Aston Villa keeper was highly praised by Messi after the game.
MESSI SCREAMING 'DANCE NOW' AFTER YERI MINA's MISS 😂😂😂😂pic.twitter.com/P8120ApG7J
— Messi Worldwide (@Messi_Worldwide) July 7, 2021
“We have Emi, who is a phenomenon,” Messi said. “We trust him. Our goal was to play all the games and now we are going to the final.”
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni concurred, saying “We are very happy with Emiliano’s performance. It’s not just because of the penalties, but also because of the safety, we feel with him in goal.”
Having played three finals at Copa America, Messi has yet to win the trophy. He’s not favored to do so this time, either, as the bookies have Brazil at -190 to win the final, with Argentina at +150. Messi is at the top of the list when it comes to winning the tournament’s Golden Boot, which is given to the highest goalscorer. He’s at -833, with Neymar at +2000.