There was disappointment once again for Lionel Messi in his Argentina jersey as La Albiceleste were beaten 2-0 in the semi-finals of the Copa América by the hosts Brazil.
The Seleção will meet surprise finalists Peru in Sunday’s final in the Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro.
After the somewhat dreary performances in the quarter-finals (that saw just two goals scored over the four games and three goalless draws), the semi-finals were quite the opposite with both finalists finding their form.
The Peruvians, whose last appearance in the championship match was in 1975, knocked out the defending back-to-back champions Chile with a near-perfect display, beating them 3-0.
Brazil’s performance against Argentina not as impressive, but goals by English-based Roberto Firmino and Jesus ensured they got the job done, prompting captain Dani Alves to say that they had taken a major step towards their overall objective.
“We’re achieving all the goals that we’re setting ourselves. A lot of people doubt us but we have a lot of faith in ourselves, in our plan, in our hard work. We’re reaping the fruits of the seeds we’re sowing every day,” he said.
The hosts, whose last major trophy they won was in 2007, when they beat Argentina in the Copa América final, go into Sunday’s match without influential Chelsea midfielder William, who picked up an injury in the quarter-final win against Argentina.
His absence notwithstanding, Brazil will, of course, go into the game as the overwhelming favourites. Not only did they beat Peru 5-0 in their final group game, they have also won the showpiece event of South American football every time they have hosted it.
Peru, on the other hand, have their own run to defend. They have twice appeared in the final and both times they ended up winning. Although they won in 1939 by topping the table, their last group game was a de-facto final as it was a straight shoot-out between themselves and Uruguay.
In 1975 they beat Colombia in the final.
Goals by Edison Flores, Yoshimar Yotun and Paolo Guerrero gave La Blanquirroja the emphatic victory against Chile and left coach Ricardo Gareca praising his team for their never-say-die attitude.
“We’ve come through some tough moments in the Copa and we deserve to be in the final. We managed to overcome the huge adversity that was this defeat to Brazil that was hastily judged and provoked a wave of harsh criticism,” the Argentine-born coach said.
Veteran skipper of the side Guerrero said that whilst the win against Chile was good, they were not yet finished. “We kept our concentration and we’re in the final. Now we have to work hard and think about Brazil. It will be a very difficult final.”
And it will be a final that no African football fan will want to miss. And they need not miss it, as Africa’s leading digital-TV operator, StarTimes, will broadcast the match live and exclusively on the StarTimes football channels.