Some people make a fuss about that Lionel Messi has 76 goals for Argentina, just one less than Pele’s total for Brazil, that’s the record for South American male players. Others are making a fuss over the prospect of Copa America glory that will make Messi another world player of the year. However, the man himself should not concern himself with any of the topics.
Messi only ever saw individual awards as a consequence of successful work in a collective context. It’s all about the team and now the team is Argentina more than ever in his career (and not just because strictly speaking he doesn’t have a club after his Barcelona Contract expired).
He could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel on international football after the turmoil of the 2018 Argentine World Cup season, which ended in the round of 16. Instead, he went all-in.
For years there has been a detached atmosphere around Messi and his self-contained manner is said to intimidate other Argentine players. But he has been different since the 2019 Copa; a loud, encouraging captain and leader who is integrated into the team as both a person and a footballer.
Messi meshes with midfielders Giovani Lo Celso and Rodrigo De Paul and builds a relationship with the center forward Lautaro Martinez. A better team than ever since the 2016 Copa America Centenario, Argentina have reached the semifinals of the previous edition and are two games away from their first A title since 1993.
However, both games will be very difficult. Argentina has to come by first Colombia on Tuesday, and if, unless there is a big shock in the other semifinals, Brazil will meet in Rio four days later. In this scenario, the Albiceleste must beat the last two teams to have beaten them: Two years ago, Colombia and Brazil won 2-0 each in the group stage and in the semi-finals of the Copa.
Against Colombia, Messi and Co. have an epic battle with the defensive midfielder Wilmar Barrios, one of the best man markers in the game. There is something from the youth Javier Mascherano on the 27-year-old who walks quickly over the floor, hard in duels, crisp in passing and loves nothing more than fighting.
The two nations met shortly before the start of the Copa in a World Cup qualifier in Colombia. Amazingly, Barrios started on the bench and Colombia gave way quickly, conceding two goals in the first eight minutes. They had to watch the game and risked opening the counterattack, but Barrios came at halftime.
While organizing the danger in front of his central defenders, he was able to concentrate on the offensive and leveled the score with the last attack of the game Qatar 2022. Argentina’s defense fails in the end, and Colombia are poised to repeat on Tuesday.
Coach Reinaldo Rueda seems to have given up having a playmaker Edwin Cardona hope is off the bench with Colombia watching the game. Barrios is therefore supported in the middle by another defensive midfielder, while Juan Guillermo Cuadrado returns after a suspension to play his double role on the right.
Luis Diaz will attack from the left and Duvan Zapata will lead a two-man front trying to harass a defense that was in danger of leakage against them Ecuador in the quarterfinals when a 3-0 win for Argentina was a little deceptive. They only scored three times in five games but Colombia will be quick, direct and physical.
In the other game of the last four on Monday, hosts Brazil expect fewer obstacles against a Peru Side lacks the outstanding André Carrillo, who was dismissed in the quarterfinals after a heroic role against something harsh Paraguay.
There is considerable recent history between Brazil and Peru. Five years ago in Foxborough, Massachusetts, a 1-0 victory for Peru in the group stage of the Copa Centenario five years ago condemned Brazil to a humiliating exit, paving the way for Tite’s second term as coach of Dunga To take responsibility,
Peru has since won on American soil again – a test win from 1-0 in Los Angeles in September 2019 – but the competitive booty went to Brazil, which won two World Cup qualifiers and three Copa America wins in Lima: 5: 0 in the group phase and 3: 1 in the final two years ago and – most recently – a 4: 0 mauling in the first round of this tournament.
In the absence of Carrillo, it’s hard to see how the Peruvians can stop this streak of defeat, not least as Brazil advance from a disappointing quarter-final in which Tite clearly picked the wrong side Chile.
Its 4-4-2, with Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison wide and Neymar and Roberto Firmino central, left the team outnumbered in midfield – the line-up is more suitable for attacking games – but the half-time introduction of an additional attacking midfielder by the coach solved the problem immediately when the substitute, Lucas Paqueta, scored the only goal of the game.
Moments later, Gabriel Jesus was dismissed and his absence through a suspension should make it easier to accommodate Paqueta from Monday night kick-off when Peru’s greatest ally appears to be the deplorable condition of the pitch at the Nilton Santos stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Tite pleaded in vain to find another venue for the semifinals. CONMEBOL were terrified by the poor playing surfaces, however, and the Maracana was relocated ahead of Saturday’s final in hopes of creating a space worthy of a big occasion with Neymar and Messi or maybe even Zapata.