July 25, 2021

Argentina-Brazil, a final to make Messi and Neymar forget their old demons

It is an Argentinian disease which is not about to disappear. In the country of Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, the story of the two geniuses with the Albiceleste is a constant source of debate and unreasonable comparisons. So when Messi, usually a silent leader, turns into the fiery boss of the national team, a whole country starts dreaming again. Seven months after the death of Maradona, a wound that will certainly never close in Argentinian hearts, the “Pulga” will take Argentina to the Copa America final, on the night of Saturday 10 to Sunday 11 July (from 2 hours French time).

Wound, there is still question when Messi sees himself severely mown by Fabra, during the semi-final against Colombia, won on penalties (1-1 a. P., 3-2). His bleeding ankle is reminiscent of Maradona’s damaged one at the 1990 World Cup and Diego’s memories are still summoned.

Saturday, in the enclosure where he saw the German Mario Götze stealing the show in the 2014 World Cup final, Lionel Messi has the opportunity to finally win a major trophy with the selection. Argentina’s six-time Golden Ball could break the curse after four lost finals (2014 World Cup, 2007 Copa America, 2015 and 2016) and end an endless famine of his country, which has not won a trophy since the Copa America 1993.

Linked destinies

Ignored by the public and Brazilian viewers, first planned in Argentina and Colombia – relocated due to the health situation in Argentina and the social crisis that Colombia is going through – questioned by some executives of the selections and even threatened boycott by Brazilian players, this Copa America owes its survival only to the insistence of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, eager to remake an image after the catastrophic management of the epidemic in Brazil.

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After an endless group phase on lawns in a catastrophic state, the supporters will finally be able to vibrate. The Maracana, the legendary stadium in Rio de Janeiro, will host the final between Argentina and Brazil. To get there, Messi’s teammates quietly dismissed Ecuador in the quarter-finals (3-0) before offering themselves a victory on penalties against Colombia, with an exceptional performance (three saves during the session ) of Martinez, the keeper of the Albiceleste.

Neymar in action during the Copa América semi-final between Brazil and Peru, July 5, 2021, in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil beat Chile in the quarterfinals (1-0) before leaving Peru in the semi-finals (1-0), without convincing and relying on the exploits of Neymar and on the great level displayed by the Lyon player Lucas Paqueta . This final will be the fifth in history between Brazilians and Argentines: only one Argentine victory in the 1937 Copa America, and three Seleção victories (Copa America 2004 and 2007 and Confederations Cup 2005). But it is also a clash between Lionel Messi and Neymar, friends since their Barcelona era. Two players with linked destinies.

“Brazil will win the final”

After the semi-final won against Peru, Neymar said: “I want to face Argentina, I’m for them because I have friends in this team, but Brazil will win the final. “ The wish of nO 10 of PSG – which will find his teammates Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria in the opposing camp – is therefore granted. Often criticized in Brazil for his too personal game, Neymar shone during this Copa while sometimes leaving the light to his teammates, such as Richarlison or Paqueta.

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Performances that earned him the praise of his coach, Tite: “He has matured a lot. Before, at Barcelona and when I started in the national team, he was more of a winger, scoring goals, dribbling and doing individual actions. Now, he has changed his game, he also manufactures actions for his teammates. Its arsenal is much superior. “

A mark of confidence on the part of the coach who had entrusted him with the captain’s armband of the selection, before withdrawing him under national pressure after several controversies. If he won the Olympics in 2016 with Brazil, Neymar did not win a major title in the Auriverde jersey and rarely achieved national unanimity. Injured to the ankle, he did not take part in the conquest of the ninth Brazilian title during the last edition, in 2019, at the Maracana. Nine goals from the record of his idol, Pelé, Neymar can this time guide his people to the title.

Messi in selection, defeats and tears

Football does not care about merit and Leo Messi knows that very well. His history with the Argentine selection is made of defeats and tears. First that in the final of the Copa America 2007, against Brazil, while Argentina was given largely favorite. Then in 2014, in the World Cup final against Germany. A year later, Messi and his family lost the Copa America final to Chile. And despite the revenge offered at the next Copa in 2016, “the Pulga” still sees the title escape him, still against Chile.

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A defeat that will even push him to announce his international retirement, he who is convinced that the curse will pursue him forever. Returned in 2018, before the World Cup in Russia, Messi is no longer surrounded in the same way. The golden generation of Mascherano, Romero, Lavezzi, Higuain is no longer there and he now guides a team made up of players “Normal”, as summarized by the Argentinian daily Ole.

In the group that will play the final in Brazil, only Agüero and Di Maria – both now luxury jokers – were present in the 2014 World Cup final. Messi, who only won the 2008 Olympics with Argentina , has long been criticized in the country and (unfairly) compared to Maradona, him, the winner of the 1986 World Cup. After qualifying for the final, Messi recalled his attachment to this jersey: “What I want most is to win a title with the selection. “

With this final, the nyou 10 Argentine and Brazilian therefore have the opportunity to finally forget the past debacles by adding the Copa America to their national record. A title that neither Pelé nor Maradona, the illustrious predecessors, have won.