Argentina vs Brazil – it is not just a mere football match but more than that. The tension, excitement and passion reached at its peak when the host Brazil and the other finalist Argentina came out of the tunnel to take the field. Everyone expected for a dream final, but in a rather less attack minded display, Argentina broke the jinx of internal trophy at the home of Brazilian football – Maracana.

Brazil were unchanged from their win over Peru in their semi-final clash. Neymar led the line for the Selecao supported by Everton, Richarlison and Paqueta. Marquinhos and Thiago Silva would draw on their experience to attempt to thwart Lionel Messi at the back.

Scaloni had made five changes to his side that advanced to the final in their shootout win over Colombia. Montiel, Romero and Acuna slot into the backline to replace Pezzella, Molina and Tagliafico. Paredes came into the side in the middle of the park, while Angel Di Maria replaced Gonzalez in the final third.

After a minute of silence for the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Uruguayan referee Esteban Ostojich gives the signal and we’re off and running from the Maracana. It seemed that being the hosts Brazil were feeling the pressure as Fred came in early on a challenge along the sideline and caught Monteil with his studs, drawing an early yellow card from the referee.

 

It had been all Argentina in the early going, but neither side generated a serious chance with most of the action taking place in the middle third. Neymar sprung up on the left side but the attack was broken up and a foul gave Argentina a free-kick going the other way. Otamendi caught Lucas Paqueta during a Brazil attack down the centre of the pitch, giving the hosts a free-kick from a dangerous position.

 

It was poorly taken, then Argentina won a free-kick from the shadow of their own goal after an Oscar-worthy performance from Montiel. Neymar was cut down by Paredes while in the attack. A tactical foul but yet another sign of the rugged physicality on display up and down the pitch. Brazil generated a couple of half-chances in the past three minutes, both times bypassing the midfield in search of a quick strike.

 

Then Neymar was brought down right outside the area for what appeared to be a free-kick for Brazil from about 22 yards, but Argentina are bailed out by an offside call. Argentina caught Brazil on the counter – Rodrigo de Paul produced a gorgeous longball from the deep towards the right flank where Angel Di Maria was presented with a pass courtesy of a mistake by Renan Lodi and Di Maria scripted a cool finish to give Argentina the lead.

 

At Maracana, the Brazilian fans were silenced while the Argentine flags were waving. Argentina misplaced a ball and it was an opportunity for Brazil to regain their grip over the match, but the hosts, in turn, surrendered possession and presented Argentina to counter. Messi fired in an off-balance shot from just outside the area that skid wide of the goal.

The Argentine defence started to become stubborn than ever and never let Brazil capitalize in the final third after the break. Whereas, the midfield of Brazil lacked creativity. Surely, the double pivots of Tite – including Casemiro and Fred offered little while Lucas Paqueta was well checked. Fred was a total flop and failed to provide Casemiro the ideal support and the importance of playing Fabinho could be realized.

 

While on the wider region upfront – Richarlision remained toothless along with Everton Soares. Roberto Firmino was brought on after the break-in place of Paqueta but that offered nothing.

 

The midfield remained stagnant.

Messi darted into the area and slid the ball to Di Maria, whose shot was blocked.

 

Brazil were on the counter in the blink of an eye, but Neymar is brought down by Lo Celso, who was promptly shown a yellow for his efforts. Brazil appeared to equalize through Richarlison, but the goal was correctly disallowed by VAR.

 

Argentina then made a substitution, inserting Guido Rodriguez for Paredes. Then Richarlison nearly scored again, this time from an onside position, but his point-blank shot was parried away by Emiliano Martinez.

Neymar had a go from the middle of the area while surrounded by Argentina players. He went down in a heap and the decision from the referee was an offside ruling to the dismay of the hosts.

Messi entered into the area but took one too many touches and the ball was cleared with Di Maria nearby awaiting a run on goal. Time was running out for Brazil and Tite made his changes to inject fresh legs.

 

But what one could notice was frustration and loss of temper among the Brazil players after being provoked by the opposition. There was no evidence of composure. Otamendi was shown a yellow after the vicious tackle of Neymar in the midfield. The players on both sides came together but the flare-up was extinguished and play resumed.

High tempers and higher drama in the final reel.

Vinicius Junior won a free kick for Brazil from a dangerous area toward the side of the area with three minutes remaining. Neymar whipped it in and it was blocked away, but Gabigol’s second-chance attempt is saved by Emiliano Martínez!

Two more crosses were cleared amid kitchen sink time for Brazil as Argentina batten down the hatches. Then it was Argentina on the counter with numbers and Messi was clear on goal only to stumble to the ground in a heap. But it did not matter because Argentina held firm and defended their one goal bravely.

 

“It’s crazy, the happiness the feeling is inexplicable. I knew that at some point it was going to happen,” Messi told the reporters after the match.

 

“The objective was clear and we were able to be champions. The happiness is immense. Many times I have dreamed of this.”

“I told Fideo (Di Maria) that today he was going to have his revenge and that’s how it was. I want to share this with those teammates who were so close so many times and it was not given to them. This is also for them.”

 

“I feel that God was saving this moment for me, against Brazil in the final and in his country. Great credit has to go to (coach) Lionel (Scaloni). He always wanted the best for the national team. He knew how to put together a winning team and he deserves your appreciation.”

“I needed to get rid of the thorn of being able to achieve something with the national team, I had been very close for many years. I knew that at some point it was going to go wrong, it was going to happen and I think there is no better moment than this.”

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Finally, the international trophy drought is over for Argentina and finally, Messi won a trophy for his country.

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