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Argentina’s Lionel Messi gestures during the penalty shootout of their Conmebol 2021 Copa America football tournament semi-final match at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 6, 2021. (Photo : NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)
The 2021 edition of the Copa America will have the championship showdown that it deserves after bitter rivals Argentina and Brazil booked their spots in Saturday’s final that will be held at the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil barged into the final after beating Peru, 1-0, in the semis on Monday. Lucas Paqueta scored the winning goal in the 34th minute, converting a pass from Neymar who tricked Peruvian defender Alexander Callens on the left edge of the box.
Argentina followed Brazil into the final, edging past Colombia in a penalty shootout. Lautaro Martinez opened the scoring for Argentina in the seventh minute before Porto star Luis Diaz leveled the score for Colombia with a tight finish in the 61st minute.
Argentina and Brazil renew storied rivalry
Tension was palpable as the game headed into the dreaded shootout but it was Argentina who emerged victorious in the end, thanks in large part to goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez who saved three of the five penalties he faced.
The stage is now set for the dream final between these two powerhouse nations. Argentina and Brazil have combined for seven World Cups and 23 continental titles and will add one more to that total this coming Saturday.
FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi wants Argentina to be the one to add to that tally badly as he has yet to win any major trophies with his country. He has previously appeared in four major championship matches for Argentina, losing the Copa America finals in 2007, 2015 and 2016 as well as the 2014 World Cup Final which ended in defeat to Germany.
Argentina and Brazil have squared off with each other more than 100 times in their storied rivalry but only in four deciders. Argentina won the first title decider against Brazil in the 1937 South American Championship, 2-0.
The Selecao have won each of the last three deciders since then, winning in final matches in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Brazil defeated Argentina 4-2 on penalties to win the 2004 Copa after Adriano equalized in dramatic fashion with the last shot in regular time.
They renewed their rivalry a year later in the final of the Confederations Cup with Brazil destroying Argentina, 4-1. Brazil then dismantled heavy favorites Argentina in the 2007 Copa, 3-0, in Messi’s first final appearance for his country.
Messi looks for his first major international title
Messi has been on a mission in this tournament as he looks to capture the one title missing in his illustrious trophy cabinet He has proven to be Argentina’s star performer in the 2021 Copa, recording four goals and five assists thus far. Messi has been directly involved in nine out of the 11 goals La Albiceleste has scored in this competition.
It won’t get any easier for Messi and co. though as standing in their way in the final are the mighty Brazilians. The hosts like Argentina have won five of their six matches in this tournament. They will fancy their chances of making it six wins in the final as Brazil has never lost a Copa America final at home.
They will be without Gabriel Jesus for the final, however, as he was handed a two-match ban by CONMEBOL after receiving a red card in the quarterfinals for a flying kick to Chile’s Eugenio Mena’s face. That decision was lambasted by Brazilian star Neymar, saying “It is very sad to be in the hands of people who make these kinds of decisions.”
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