After two scintillating semi-finals, the 47th edition of Copa America 2021 reaches the grand finale with a high octane match-up between the two football powerhouses and eternal rivals Brazil and Argentina. They will play at the Maracana stadium, in Rio Je Janeiro on Sunday early morning. The quality of football has been quite high considering the fact that staging of the tournament itself was a big question mark. The tournament organizers have come under a lot of criticism with Brazil hosting the tournament amid the third wave of COVID in Brazil. Both the finalists, who are incidentally joint tournament favorites, had a fairly decent run through to the finals, with very few hiccups. Brazil defeated a spirited Peru by a solitary goal, while Argentina got past a rugged Colombia in penalties. So who do you think will come on top in the finals? Can Argentina end its international trophy drought? Can Lionel Messi finally break the jinx and get his hands on his first trophy with the Argentina senior team? Let’s quickly find out the team news, coach strategies, and likely team formations for this upcoming blockbuster fixture and find out which team is more likely to triumph.
Head to head
Argentina has 14 continental titles and is just one behind Uruguay, but their last continental triumph came back in 1993. Defending champions Brazil has won the competition on 9 occasions. Brazil has played Argentina 112 times before in all competitions with the former winning on 46 occasions to the latter’s 40 wins. The last time the two teams met in Copa America was in the 2019 semi-finals, where Brazil blanked Argentina by 2-0.
Brazil is undefeated in their last 13 encounters and managed to win 12 of those. The five-time World Champions scored 3+ goals on five occasions during this time. Tite’s players kept 10 clean sheets and hit the back of the net on an astonishing 29 occasions of these meetings. Yet, Brazil looks far from convincing and has often been
criticized. Apart from their victory on the opening day fixture versus Peru, Tite’s Brazil has been quite drab in their gameplay. Tite will also be wary of the fact that the last time they lost was against Argentina in a friendly at Riyadh. Their midfield and attack have come under the scanner time and again. Players like Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus, Everton have been inconsistent and far from convincing in Copa America 2021. One relief for Tite is the form of the ever-dependable Casemiro in the midfield and the availability of a fully fit in-form Neymar. Neymar has already scored twice and set up another three for his teammates.
It is unlikely that Tite would tweak his winning team combination and formation for the finals. He will stick with his 4-2-3-1 formation and try to attack more through the flanks and put pressure on Argentina’s susceptible defense. He has to have a strategy to disrupt and contain Argentina’s compact and fluid attacking play and has to closely mark the opponent team’s number 10. The full-backs will also have their work cut out as they have to handle a lot of attacks down the flanks. Tite should use Neymar in a more free role where it will be difficult for the Argentine defense to mark him. His marauding runs bamboozled opponents’ defense throughout the tournament. His experience in big matches will also be crucial. The combination and understanding between the two center-backs, Thiago Silva and Marquinhos will definitely give a lot of solidity to the team’s backline.
Predicted Starting Lineups:
Encouraged by a string of imposing displays at the tournament, Argentina entered their first Copa America final since 2016. Although they scraped past Colombia via penalties in the semis, Argentina has shown a lot of character in this edition of Copa America thanks to their talismanic number 10. Lionel Scaloni’s men are now unbeaten in their last 19 international outings in a row winning on 12 occasions. Lionel Messi has been brilliant in the tournament so far. Messi has contributed to 9 (4 goals and 5 assists) out of 11 goals in the tournament for his team. He has been simply superlative right from the beginning of the tournament despite being badly manhandled by opponent defenders, and should Argentina triumph Messi will surely have a very good shout at winning his seventh Ballon d’Or. Another outstanding player for them has been their goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. He made three saves in the tiebreaker to take his country through to the finals. His consistency will surely give a boost to Argentina’s backline.
Though in the last match against Colombia, Argentina struggled in the second half, Scaloni has been consistent in picking up the right team combination. With the inclusion of Lauturo Martinez and Gonzalez, Argentina’s attack looks less predictable and Messi-centric; hence, it has been difficult for opponents to read Argentina’s playing pattern. Although opponents have incessantly doubled or tripled up on Messi in order to disrupt his game and nullify Argentina’s attacks, still the football demigod has carved his way past them and provided crucial goals and assists at the right moment. Scaloni is expected to carry on with the same eleven and formation in the Copa America 2021 final against Brazil. Argentina’s midfield has to improve on their ball possession and create more balls in the final third against Brazil. The right-back position remains a problem with Nahuel Molina being inconsistent. Rodrigo De Paul has had a tough outing against the Colombians in the middle of the park and has to improve considerably. The forward line has been wasteful and needs to convert their chances or else Argentina will pay a heavy price for profligacy in front of the goal.
Only a halfwit will predict an outcome for such an even contest. So just enjoy the game.