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Bitter Rivals Set for Copa Semi-final

Brazil and Argentina take patchy form into their Copa semi-final, but it should still be compulsive viewing.

Argentina v Venezuela: Quarterfinal - Copa America Brazil 2019
Sergio Aguero, still only one tournament goal so far, expects to face Brazil in Belo Horizonte tonight.
Photo by Bruna Prado/Getty Images

It’s a tournament that Argentina and Uruguay have traditionally dominated. Brazil have tended to peak more for World Cups, but they will be keen to win this mammoth clash tonight.

Undoubtedly the game of the day, as it would be most days when these two giants of World football clash whenever something’s at stake.

Only Uruguay has won more Copa Americas (15) than Argentina who are one behind. But the last time La Albiceleste got their hands on the trophy was 26 years ago in Ecuador, defeating Mexico 2-1 in the final. Brazil, their hosts tonight, have won it four times since Argentina’s last success, but not since 2007, and remain six titles behind their bitterest international rivals.

Neither side enters the game on top form, each have stuttered somewhat in reaching this stage. Brazil couldn’t score in 210 minutes of football against Venezuela and Paraguay combined, the last 120 of those minutes the quarter-final, ending in a nervy penalty shoot-out against the Paraguayans. Roberto Firmino missed, before Brazil triumphed 4-3.

Until Argentina defeated Venezuela in their quarter-final, they had beaten only Qatar in this competition, losing to Colombia and drawing with Paraguay. The victory over Qatar was vital, as it prevented an early ride home.

Leo Messi (32), oft criticized for not finding his Barcelona form when he plays for his country, has scored only once, from the penalty spot, so far, earning that draw against the Paraguayans, and claims he is not yet playing his best football.

Argentina v Venezuela: Quarterfinal - Copa America Brazil 2019
Leo Messi - still seeking his first national team title with Argentina.
Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images

”The truth is I’m not having my best Copa America,” said the Barcelona forward, who has yet to win a major international title with Argentina.

”It’s always very difficult for us because we want to do something different and attack and teams pack out the middle of the pitch.”

Brazil defender Thiago Silva refuses to be taken in by speculation around Messi’s lack of form.

”He is the best player in the world and he still could spring to life.”

”We will have to be especially focused on him when we have the ball and when we don’t.”

”Sometimes he can be at walking pace during a game but he’s always looking for space to launch a counterattack. It’s a privilege to be able to face him again and we’ll have to try and put the brakes on him.”

Casemiro is free from suspension and is likely to replace Allan in centre-midfield. No further changes for Brazil are anticipated although Alex Sandro is on stand-by should Filipe Luis not be declared fit. Everton’s Richarlison was absent from the quarter-final line-up, with mumps, but is expected to make the bench tonight.

FBL-COPA AMERICA-2019-PER-BRA
Casemiro, celebrating a goal against Peru in the group stages, returns from suspension this evening and is expected to play from the start.
Photo credit should read MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/AFP/Getty Images

Argentina are likely to be unchanged from the side that defeated Venezuela 2-0, so Sergio Aguero will be partnered up front by Lautauro Martinez again, with Messi just behind.

Neither side in convincing form, but as always when these two meet, fireworks can be expected.