Copa America: Brazil beats Argentina, through to Copa America final

Goals in either half from Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino help Brazil down Argentina and progress to the Copa America final.

Brazil takes on Argentina in the Copa America 2019 semifinal.

 

 

MATCH REPORT: Brazil moved into its first Copa America final since 2007 with a 2-0 win over Argentina.

FULL TIME! BRAZIL 2-0 ARGENTINA

Brazil advances to the final of the Copa America for the first time since 2007. Goals from Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino were enough to defeat Argentina tonight, although it was far from a classic performance from Tite's men. The Selecao were the more clinical side in the final third, taking their two clear-cut opportunities in front of goal. Argentina was made to rue its missed chances as Sergio Aguero struck the bar, while Lionel Messi was denied by the post. Brazil is still yet to concede in the tournament and it will take that defensive resilience into the final where it will play either Chile or Peru as it attempts to win the title for a fifth time.

Argentina has failed once again on the major stage, while Messi was also off the boil not for the first time in a leading tournament. It will have to pick itself up for the third-place playoff on Saturday to end its campaign on a high note.

90'+4'  goes into the book for his tackle on Dani Alves.

90'+3' Frustration gets the better of Aguero as he brings down Dani Alves with a poor challenge.

90' + 2' The ole chants are out from the Brazil fans as their side move the ball seamlessly around the pitch. Dani Alves fires a cross in from the right towards Firmino, forcing Foyth to head behind. The corner gives Brazil a further opportunity to take time off the clock.

90' FOUR MINUTES OF TIME ADDED

89' Foyth rolls the ball into the feet of Lo Celso, who takes a touch before going for a strike at goal. However, the ball is blocked behind for a corner by Casemiro.

87' Firmino goes on the charge down the right flank and loses out to Pezzella. Good challenge by the defender.

POSSESSION Both Brazil and Argentina are equally sharing it now, 50% each.

SUBSTITUTION Tagliafico is replaced by Paulo Dybala. Meanwhile, Allan goes into the book.

84' Otamendi goes down in the box after colliding with Arthur, but the referee deems that the contact was incidental and waves play on. The Argentina defender remains on the ground and requires treatment before we can continue.

83' It is all Argentina at the moment as it tries to reduce the deficit and then force extra time. Alves clears from Di Maria and Argentina wins a corner on the left. The corner is curled in and Brazil clear at the far post.

SUBSTITUTION Gabriel Jesus is replaced by Allan

78' A handball decision against Dani Alves and Argentina has a free-kick. Messi takes it. It’s from the same position as before but he fails to beat the wall this time. It deflects out for a corner.

Brazil clears the resulting corner as far as Di Maria, who goes for an ambitious strike from 20 yards. However, he gets his effort all wrong, firing the ball over the bar.

75' Martinez brings down Firmino, but the referee opts not to show the Argentina forward his second yellow card.

74' Martinez brings down Firmino and that halts the play as tempers are flaring up all over the pitch! Lautaro, who has already been booked, is in danger picking up a second yellow for his protests. The referee, meanwhile, shows Argentina's coach Scaloni the yellow card.

71' GOAL! FIRMINO DOUBLES THE LEAD FOR BRAZIL! The first goal saw Firmino tee up Jesus. The Manchester City man now returns the favour. He produces a brilliant run on the counter, beating the challenge of Otamendi to surge into the left inside channel. He keeps his footing under pressure before cutting back onto his right foot, spots Firmino in space and picks him out. Firmino is left with a simple finish to double his side's lead, putting the host in a commanding position in the contest.

SUBSTITUTION Javier de Paul is replaced by Giovani Lo Celso. Lo Celso came on as a sub in the quarterfinal against Venezuela and scored the second goal. Can he make an impact tonight too?

66' Messi freekick is on its way into the top left corner before a diving Alisson picks it up in the air with ease.

65' Messi runs at the Brazil defence, but gets brought down 25 yards from goal by a loose challenge from Dani Alves. The Barcelona man has a freekick.

SUBSTITUTION As expected, Marquinhos is replaced by Joao Miranda.

64' Marquinhos is down injured and he is asking to come off. 34-year-old Joao Miranda is warming up immediately.

SUBSTITUTION Angel Di Maria replaces Acuna.

63' Firmino collects the ball in the Argentina half but he gets crowded out by four sky blue shirts before he can advance further.

61' Argentina is pressing forward and is beginning to create good opportunities, but has not been clinical enough in the final third to level the scores.

58' Lionel Messi hits the post! Martinez's shot falls to Messi and his first-time effort rattles off the woodwork. Aguero is unable get control of the rebound. Brazil try to counter but Lautaro gets booked for the tackle on Alex Sandro that stopped that counter.

56' Substitute Willian is brought to the ground but the referee waves play on as Coutinho takes the ball forward. He passes down the right wing, gets it back, wriggles his way into the box but blazes well over the bar. Juan Foyth is booked after the play stops for a foul earlier.

54' Argentina has dominated the proceedings in the second half so far. Fans start whistling around the ground as Aguero races down the middle. A well timed tackle by Alex Sandro stops that attack.

52' Messi drops deep again, links up with Aguero and sets up De Paul with a flick. He lines up a shot but only manages to find row Z!

51' Dani Alves makes a run down the right and calls for the ball. The pass has way too much power on it and it goes out of play. And Alves is furious at that sloppy pass.

50' SAVE! Martinez latches on to a cutback across the edge of the box and has a path to goal. However, he slices his left-footed strike and Alisson makes a comfortable save.

48' Tagliafico surges down the left flank and he sends a threatening cross to the near post for Aguero. The striker rises to head at goal, but Thiago Silva is well placed to clear ahead of the forward.

47' Coutinho whips the ball into the box from the flank, but Armani claims the cross with ease.

46' Tagliafico is put under pressure down the left flank and he concedes a cheap corner, failing to keep the ball in play.

SUBSTITUTION Willian comes on for Brazil as a half-time substitute. He replaces Everton and there are boos as soon as that swap in announced.

SECOND HALF Brazil has not lost a Copa America match after opening the scoring since 1979, when it lost 1-2 to Bolivia in La Paz. 51 matches have passed since then (42V 9E). Can Argentina break that run? We'll find out in 45 minutes.

STAT: 1 - Gabriel Jesus’ goal was Brazil's first shot against Argentina and its latest first shot attempted in a Copa America game since 2011 (Alexandre Pato vs Paraguay, 18’ 49’’).

HALF TIME The referee blows the whistle and that brings an action-packed first half to an end. The referee, and his assistants, are surrounded by players of both teams who presumably made a case for how most players of the team should have been booked by now. Gabriel Jesus walks away quickly though, shaking his head. And the others slowly let the referee go.

Can Argentina come back stronger in the second half? Will Brazil assert itself in the second half too and go through to the final? Will both teams have 11 players on the pitch by the end of the game? All of them will be answered soon. A fifteen minute break now before we are back.

45' + 1' Argentina keep the ball and the players are happy to pass it around. Messi squeezes in a pass between his two markers to Aguero on the edge of the box, who tries to find the Barcelona man again but Brazil clear the ball before Messi could get to it.

45' TWO MINUTES OF TIME ADDED AT THE END OF THE FIRST HALF.

43' Argentina clear the resulting corner from Coutinho as far as Arthur 20 yards from goal. The midfielder lines up a strike that is saved with ease by Armani.

42' Everton tries to weave his way through the Argentine defence. He almost gets through the line, but Foyth is well placed to clear ahead of the forward, although he concedes a corner in the process.

40' YELLOW CARDS! Acuna and Dani Alves have a melee down the flank. Both players square up to each other. The referee brings the incident under control, but Acuna is booked for his part in the confrontation. Dani Alves also goes into the book for his part in the melee, although he's not happy about it.

38' Messi dispossesses Alex Sandro with a sliding tackle 25 yards from goal. He takes a shot from distance, his first of the game, but it curls well wide of the goal.

36' Messi skips past players like they don't exist, twists and turns Casemiro before finding Aguero with the outside of his foot. The Manchester City striker goes for a first-time shot and Marquinhos blocks it.

POSSESSION: Brazil 55% - 45% Argentina.

32' Play continues, three passes are put together before Dani Alves is sent to the ground by Acuna.

31' Replays show Neymar going wild after Jesus scored. He has been a big miss but going by the game so far, Brazil hasn't missed him much.

30' Messi's delivery is good! He chips the ball into the box and Aguero heads against the crossbar. Was a well takes header as an outstretched Alisson could not get close to it! So so close to an equaliser. The Brazilians scramble the rebound clear and catch their breath.

28' Messi gets fouled again and he is furious! Casemiro the culprit this time. He gets up, runs to the referee and waves an imaginary card in the referee's face. That doesn't convince him to pull out his yellow card though.

26' Messi is being forced to drop deeper and deeper to collect the ball. Not good for Argentina but that should help Brazil.

25' The battle continues in the midfield and tackles keep coming in strong. This time Argentina has a freekick for a foul on Messi. The delivery following that was poor though. And Foyth snuffs out a Brazilian counter.

23' Remember how I mentioned that Dani Alves is currently a free agent? He has been the best player on the pitch so far and his agent's phone should be buzzing now!

21' Argentina try to force things after that goal but there's a clear lack of cohesion. If Messi has been invisible, you;d be forgiven for forgetting that Aguero is on the pitch. He has been chasing shadows so far.

19' GOAL! GABRIEL JESUS GIVES BRAZIL THE LEAD! Dani Alves finds Firmino on the right wing. The Liverpool striker's low pass across the box evades the Argentine defenders and Jesus, unmarked, makes no mistake. It is his first goal in open play this tournament.

Gabriel Jesus ends a run of nine competitive games without scoring for his national team (excluding penalty shootouts) - he had last scored vs Chile in 2017 during the World Cup Qualifiers (2 goals).

That's a very Brazilian goal, with a nutmeg from Coutinho and a sombrero by Dani Alves there in the buildup.

16' Martinez forces a corner off Marquinhos. The delivery is short to Messi and then to De Paul, whose cross is too low. There's a counter on from Brazil as Jesus races away. He doesn't look up for Firmino's run and a Juan Foyth's outstretched leg saves Argentina.

15' This game has started on a very fast note. But both teams have worked hard and been disciplined when defending and that's nullifying the creativity so far. At this rate, we might not see a goal until everyone is tired.

14' Brazil giving it back now. Lionel Messi (who else?!) get hacked down trying to start an attack. Leandro Paredes gets involved but is pushed away quickly. Will we end the game with 22 players on the pitch?

12' Leandro Paredes whacks one from 40 yards out and the ball flies just over the bar. Good effort that.

POSSESSION: Brazil 64% - 36% Argentina.

11' Jesus gets tacked AGAIN! This time, in his own half. The referee has a look but that's it. He limps to the sideline and gets treatment.

9' Jesus gets tacked again. This time by Tagliafico and the referee stops play. He check on Jesus and then pulls out the yellow card. Less than ten minutes in and we have the first yellow card. 

8' Gabriel Jesus gets clattered. Get up, plays on and gets clattered again. The referee waves play on and the crowd, obviously, aren't liking it.

7' A hopeful long ball from Alisson finds Lautaro but he has Alves shadowing him and get dispossessed for a corner.

5' Armani takes his time before taking the goal-kick. Looks like Argentina is trying to calm the game down and control the pace. Brazil has started strong.

3' Tackles flying in thick and thin! Brazil press Argentina high up the pitch and Alves slides in on Foyth and stops him in his tracks. And the crowd loved it!

2' A long ball find Firmino. He wrestles the Brazilian CBs and gets a shot away. The GK makes a diving save but the flag had gone up by then. Replays show that he was indeed offside.

1' Both teams exchange possession in the opening minute. Nervous few passes, I must add.

KICKOFF!

Teams, technical staff and fans. The Brazilian anthem gets belted out with passion by everyone! Almost like the Maori's Haka, minus the dance. 

Right, the teams have waked out to the pitch. The anthems, handshakes and mandatory photos will follow.

Lionel Messi and Dani Alves exchange pleasantries in the tunnel as the team lineup to come out. If you are a Barcelona fan, that'd bring a smile to your face.

Estadio Mineiro is packed! The fans, mostly in yellow, are loud and singing.

MESSI

We might be missing one superstar in Neymar but the other, Lionel Messi, is available and should be starting against Brazil. So how's his record against Brazil? Well, in nine matches, he has won just three. Scaloni and Argentina fans will be hoping for the Messi that showed up in the USA in July 2012, when he scored a hat-trick to guide it to a 4-3 win.

Messi's major tournaments record with Argentina:

2006 World Cup: quarterfinals

2007 Copa America: runner-up

2010 World Cup: quarterfinals

2011 Copa America quarterfinals

2014 World Cup: runner-up

2015 Copa America: runner-up

2016 Copa America: runner-up

2018 World Cup: round-of-16

SOME STATISTICS AHEAD OF THE GAME

* Brazil has never lost a competitive game at home against Argentina (W8 and D2), and is unbeaten in its last seven meetings with its rivals in all competitions (W6 D1).

* Argentina has made it through to the final each of the last five times it reached the Copa America semis; indeed, it only failed to progress from the last four in 1987, when it lost 1-0 at home against Uruguay.

* Brazil has attempted the most (84) and has faced the fewest (24) shots so far in the 2019 Copa America – it has only faced five shots on target.

* Philippe Coutinho has been involved in the most shots so far in the 2019 Copa America: 29 (16 attempts and 13 chances created) – at least 12 more than any other Brazilian or Argentinian player (Roberto Firmino, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi all on 17).

* Brazil has made it through to the final in each of the last six occasions they reached the Copa America semifinals; the last time it failed to progress from this stage was in 1979, against Paraguay (two legs).

* Brazil has won the Copa America on all four occasions that it has hosted the tournament.

* Brazil has now kept clean sheets in its last six outings across all competitions, stretching all the way back to March. And it has conceded only two goals in its 14 games since crashing out of the World Cup last year!

* Brazil has won three of the last five meetings between these two sides. It last lost to Argentina in 2017.

* Brazil has managed to score in at least eight of its last meetings. Argentina will do well to keep a clean sheet.

Having said that, just one of the previous five meetings between these sides has seen over two goals scored. That was a 3-0 win for Brazil in the 2018 World Cup qualifier. In fact, only one of the last five meetings has seen both teams score.

Here are the clubs represented by the players in today's Copa America semifinal:

3 each: PSG, Barcelona, Manchester City

2: Liverpool

1 each: Ajax, Fiorentina, Gremio, Inter Milan, Juventus, Real Madrid, River Plate, Sporting, Tottenham Hotspur, Udinese

That makes it 21 players. Dani Alves, who was with PSG last season, is now a free agent.

A semifinal at Estadio Mineiro? Brazil fans, look away. Remember what happened to the boys in yellow at this stage of a different competition? Yup, that's right. That memorable/horrible (depending on who you support) 7-1 defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup!

STAT: Victory against Brazil would see Argentina win three games in a row for the first time since June 2016.

HISTORY

The last time Brazil and Argentina played each other at the Mineirao Stadium was in November 2016. It was a 2018 World Cup qualifier and Brazil won 3-0. Tite was in charge then, he is still there now. Argentina? It has changed coaches thrice. Edgardo Bauza, Jorge Sampaoli, and now Lionel Scaloni. Scaloni, I must add, is on an interim basis with Argentina. So, there could be a fourth soon!

Head To Head

Argentina and Brazil have not met at the Copa America since the 2007 final, which Brazil won 3-0 with Dani Alves among the scorers. Brazil is unbeaten in its last four Copa America meetings with Argentina stretching back to 1993, when Argentina won on penalties en route to the title.

The most recent contest in any competition came in October when Brazil won 1-0 in Saudi Arabia, and you have to go back to 1998 for Argentina's last win against Brazil on Brazilian soil.

The last time Brazil lost to Argentina at home was in April 1998 - in a friendly at the Maracana Stadium before the World Cup in France.

FORM GUIDE

Brazil and Argentina haven't impressed during the tournament. Both have had their share of troubles. Argentina, though, come into this game with a convincing 2-0 win against Venezuela in the quarterfinals. And it was the only team to score in the quarterfinals. All of the other three matches ended 0-0 and went to a penalty shootout. And Brazil? Well, it laboured in the 90 minutes against Paraguay before making it through to the semifinals via a penalty shootout. In fact, Brazil had 71% possession and 26 shots against a Paraguay team that was a man down before the hour mark!

If we go back to the group stages, the form book reads slightly better for Brazil. It played three games, won two and drew one. In all, it has scored 8 goals and conceded none. Can Lionel Messi finally punish a defence that has not been breached? We'll find out.

Argentina, on the other hand, started with a 2-0 defeat to Colombia. It then played out a draw with Paraguay before winning 2-0 against AFC Asian Cup holder Qatar 2-0.

La Albiceleste actually have an impressive record in the competition over the past 15 years, reaching the final in four of the last five editions only to be beaten at the last hurdle on each occasion.

Brazil's record of eight goals scored and none conceded makes it the best attack and best defence of all the semifinalists.

Brazil's Copa America form: WDWW

In all competitions: WWWDWW

Argentina's Copa America form: LDWW

In all competitions: WWLDWW

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

For Brazil, it is Manchester City striker (winger?) Gabriel Jesus.

Handed Manchester City's number nine shirt during the tournament, Jesus has yet to score his first Copa America goal but he could argue not being used as a central forward has affected his ability to find the net. Jesus did convert the winning penalty to down Paraguay in the last round, but another start on the right seems likely and he will have to find a way to make an impact from wide areas.

For Argentina, that will be Sergio Aguero. Yes there's Lionel Messi but he's always one to watch.

Jesus' City team-mate Aguero will not be shunted to the flank, but he has similarly been unable to show his typically prolific form in front of goal. A single strike against Asian Cup winner Qatar is not an impressive return for Aguero given he has Messi serving him and Inter striker Lautaro Martinez - who has been linked with a surprise switch to Barcelona - has outscored him by netting in successive matches.

Initial reaction to the lineups? Argentina sticking to the same starting 11 for two games in a row! It has been forty games (!) since Argentina last stuck to the same 11 for two games.

TEAM NEWS!

BRAZIL: Alisson; Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Alex Sandro; Casemiro, Arthur; Gabriel JesUs, Coutinho, Everton; Firmino.

ARGENTINA: Armani; Foyth, Pezzella, Otamendi, Tagliafico; De Paul, Paredes, Acuna; Messi, Aguero, Lautaro M.

In a change from the quarterfinals, teams will play extra time if the first 90 minutes are drawn.

Brazil needs the Copa win to make sure coach Tite's job is safe and secure until the 2022 World Cup. It needs to build the team for the event and Neymar's injury hasn't helped!

Lionel Messi's Argentina, on the other hand, seeks its first trophy in 26 years! Its last trophy? The Copa America in 1993.

How could the teams lineup?

BRAZIL: Casemiro returns from suspension and will replace Allan in central midfield. No other changes are expected from the side that edged Paraguay on penalties in the quarter-finals, though Alex Sandro is on standby to replace Filipe Luis if he fails to prove his fitness in time.

Richarlison missed Brazil's quarterfinal win over Paraguay with mumps but the Everton forward is understood to be fine now. He could make the bench against Argentina. Tite also has to choose between a midfield with two defensive midfielders or just one alongside Artur.

Tite does not like to make tinker much, which means Brazil should be lining up in its regular 4-1-3-1 formation. It has stayed the same through this competition at least. What does that mean? Well, Everton Soares, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino will be lining up behind Gabriel Jesus. Filipe Luis is recovering from an injury so Alex Sandro could start in his place. Not a bad replacement, eh?

ARGENTINA: Argentina has no reason to make any changes from the side that brushed aside Venezuela 2-0 in the quarterfinals. That means Rodrigo de Paul should keep Giovani Lo Celso out of the team and Juan Foyth should continue at right-back.

Lautaro Martínez and Sergio Aguero will partner up top once more with Lionel Messi behind.

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni did reveal that Sergio Aguero will start the game in the pre-match press conference but did not reveal anything more. It is a toss-up between Lautaro Martinez and Angel di Maria, according to various rumours. We might also see Giovani Lo Celso, the Real Betis midfielder apparently wanted by Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, start the game.

Match preview

Lionel Messi continues his bid to end a career-long wait for major international silverware with Argentina, but Brazil stands in his way at the Copa America.

Messi has acknowledged his form has yet to peak at this year's tournament, Argentina's captain scoring only once in four games to date – a strike that came from the penalty spot.

With Argentina having lost each of the past two Copa America finals to Chile on spot-kicks, Messi will be determined to right that wrong in Brazil, though he failed to convert a strong personal desire for 2018-19 Champions League success into glory for Barcelona.

"He's playing well, for me, he's doing things right, he's not just scoring goals, which is what he usually does," Angel Di Maria said to Diario Ole. "He's running, giving everything, that's very important. He knows more than anyone that in the Copa America you have to run and think of others," he added.

Having seemingly hit their stride in a 5-0 demolition of Peru, the Selecao then needed penalties to knock out a stubborn Paraguay in the quarterfinals. Brazil has drawn a blank in two of its past three Copa games.

Like Messi, Brazil is desperate for international success with a ninth Copa triumph likely to go some way to healing the still painful wounds from its 7-1 humiliation against Germany on home soil in the World Cup semifinals five years ago.

Gremio winger Everton has sporadically impressed as a replacement for injured talisman Neymar, ruled out of the tournament by an ankle injury sustained in a friendly against Qatar, with Tite often fielding Gabriel Jesus from the right.

But failing to break down both Venezuela and Paraguay indicates a rethink may be required with Everton attacker Richarlison potentially an option to come into the front line after he recovered from a bout of mumps. Midfield duo Arthur and Casemiro return from suspension but Fernandinho (knee) is a doubt and left-back Filipe Luis (thigh) may not be able to start for the hosts either.

Neither side heads into Tuesday's clash in particularly good form but Brazil against Argentina, a fixture the Selecao have won four times in a row at the Copa America and arguably the biggest rivalry in international football, surely cannot fail to deliver drama.

— Right. The big game of Copa America 2019, the biggest in fact, is here. It is Brazil vs Argentina for a place in the final. Who will come out on top?