Here it was, the one they had all been waiting for. A semi-final showdown between the two biggest rivals in international football. Brazil vs Argentina is always a battle between two elephants and at the stage of Copa America, the oldest continental tournament, these two are always expected to give fans a match to enjoy and it lived up to the billing.
The host nation’s limp support also blasted since their opening fixture against Bolivia, finally, it had woken up to Copa America fever.
Singing the national anthem with vigour and continuing its acapella long after the music had finished. They cheered Tite’s men on passionately where previously there had been boos.
Rather than be intimidated by what had happened here five years ago against the Germans, Brazil’s paying public attempted to transform this into a hostile environment for their guests. After all, the venue had also become a place to forget for their eternal rivals too after a 3-0 World Cup qualifying trouncing in November 2016 – their last competitive meeting – which still lingered.
As it was expected, this was a rough affair from the get-go with Argentina, in particular, targeting Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus with a string of crunching tackles.
After just eight minutes, Ajax left-back Nicolas Tagliafico – charged with marking the Manchester City No:9 on Tuesday – was booked, though that still did stop attacker, Lautaro Martinez also having his own dig in sequence.
Keeping Alisson on his toes with a long-range shot just over the bar, Leandro Paredes was additionally involved in a spot with Philippe Coutinho around the quarter of an hour mark just before Brazil started enjoying more success moving forward.
Although it didn’t come when Juan Foyth got too confident and was robbed of the ball near the 18-yard box, given that Gabriel Jesus couldn’t control it to his advantage, Captain Marvel Daniel Alves took matters into his own hands three minutes later.
While it seemed like it had been all Argentina for the best part of the second half, the crowd picking up on this and murmuring among themselves tensely, Brazil couldn’t have retaliated better when Jesus won the ball in his own half after another move had been snuffed out.
Charging forward with determination, Jesus repaid the favour to Firmino in the box to make it two, in turn capping his best night in the iconic yellow and green jersey as Brazil placed one foot firmly in the final.
Tite brought the 22-year-old off for Allan with 10 minutes to spare, so that the Man of the Match contender received the hearty ovation he deserved. Roars of ‘Eliminado!’ (Eliminated!) rang around the Mineirao as military police beat unruly and rattled Argentina fans behind the Alisson’s goal with their batons.
Just like one would expect in a fixture of this magnitude, Argentina fought until the end but by then the damage had been done.
It is yet again disappointment on the big stage for Messi when representing his country and should he decide to continue for next year’s home Copa America, this will likely be under a different manager.
For Brazil, the Maracana now beckons for the grand finale. On Sunday, they will attempt to maintain their 100 percent record of winning the trophy every time they have hosted South America’s most prestigious competition and lift the first piece of major silverware in 12 years.
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Author: Moses Echodu
Moses is a freelance writer for Newslibre and Programs Manager at the Craft Silicon Foundation. He loves writing about sports, politics and news around the globe and Inspiring new young people!!