What factors will tip the scales on Wednesday’s mouthwatering semifinal?
So this is it: Brazil v Argentina will lock horns for the 106th time in history. But Wednesday’s clash in Belo Horizonte is worth more than a spot in the Copa América final.
Brazil needs a victory to kickstart their campaign towards Qatar 2022 while Argentina is after their first international title since 1993.
Both South American powerhouses could do with a victory. These are some reasons that might determine the outcome of the game.
Why Brazil will have the last laugh
1) Their defence is rock solid
Brazil is the only of the four semifinalists that did not concede a single goal in the Copa América so far. The strength of their defence is also expressed by another statistic: with only 10 goals in 39 matches under Tite, Brazil have the best defensive performance amongst the 20 best-places teams in the Fifa World Ranking.
The last goal Brazil conceded was Kevin de Bruyne’s screamer in Belgium’s 2-1 win in Russia 2018.
2) The Seleção has figured Argentina out in competitions
Yes, Brazil have been defeated by Argentina in 2017. But that was a friendly in Australia. In official matches, you’d have to go back to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to find the first Argentina-triumph in an official match.
Since them, the Selecao has kept their arch-rivals at bay.
3) The Messi curse
Lio Messi has scored against Brazil: 4 times in 8 matches. All of them friendlies.
When it matters, the Barcelona man still has not been able to hurt the Selecao.
4) Casemiro is back
Brazil’s talismanic midfielder will return to run a tight ship on the midfield.
Brazil have never lost a game with “Kaisermiro” on the pitch.
5) Argentina have been shaky on the back
Argentina’s right side of the defence was a gold mine for the opposition in the first two games of Copa América – all three goals conceded so far came from that side.
The arrival of young defender Foyth seems to have stemmed the bleeding but will he be up to Everton’s speed?
Why Argentina could prevail
1) They seem to have grown as a team
It is true that Messi has been far from his Barcelona form in the Copa América, but Argentina seem to have improved during the competition – much as victories against Qatar and Venezuela should not have been a big surprise.
They will be motivated by the thought of hurting Brazil at home/
2) Messi is still Messi
All he needs is a hint of a chance. And Brazil have been exposed once or twice during the competition.
3) Aguero and Lautaro Martinez
These are two players with enough skills to give headaches to any defence. They will be looking forward to chances.
4) The Coutinho factor
Argentina will be encouraged by how Philippe Coutinho has struggled against more pressure at this tournament. Bullying him will deprive Brazil of a crucial connection between midfield and adapt and disrupt their flow.
5) Neymar’s absence
The injured forward was present in all the recent victories against the Albiceleste, including the 3-0 routing in Belo Horizonte in the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers. While Brazil has been able to cope without the PSG man they did struggle up front in half of the four games so far, failing to score against Venezuela and Paraguay.