Hosts Brazil will face their sternest test of Copa America so far when they face arch-rivals Argentina in the Superclasico de las Americas at the Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. The Brazilians have been in fine form so far and have progressed to the semi-finals without conceding a goal.
Argentina, on the other hand, managed to squeeze through and qualify from their group only after their last group match against Qatar. They were far from convincing in the group stage and qualified with only 4 points when in reality they were expected to win the group with ease.
Brazil – Argentina Under Pressure
However, after the Argentineans managed to get out of their group they immediately started performing better. This was to be expected as Messi and co were under immense pressure to qualify from their group and it is obvious that this Argentinean generation of players just doesn’t respond well to pressure.
Their 2:0 victory against Venezuela wasn’t the most convincing result or performance that we have seen from the Argentineans, but it was much better than the horror show against Colombia, the tepid draw with Paraguay, and the nervy victory against Qatar.
The Argentineans had that very same problem at last year’s World Cup in which they once again only managed to squeeze out from the group with 4 points even though they were up against far inferior opponents such as Iceland and Nigeria.
This means that in spite of his hard work, Scaloni hasn’t managed to change that fragile mentality that ruined Argentina’s World Cup hopes. However, this doesn’t mean that the Gauchos should pack up their suitcases before the match against Brazil has even started.
Playing without the Favourite Tag
One thing that the Argentineans got going for them is that they are definitely the underdogs in the semi-final match against the hosts. That is something that they will look to exploit as for the first time in this tournament they won’t be the favourites.
This means that their fifth competitive match at Copa America will actually be the first one in which they are expected to lose and, ironically, that will probably work wonders for their confidence on the pitch. The pressure will finally be off of their shoulders and they will know that even if they lose they won’t be lambasted back home.
Sure, they will have lost against their arch nemesis and the fans will feel bad for a day or two, but the fact that they reached the semi-finals with a team which is top heavy and whose defensive and midfield talents don’t match their front three will definitely mean that they have achieved their minimum expectations.
As a result, the Argentineans will probably give their best performance of the tournament so far and will look to upset the odds and maybe even book their place in the final. When you think about it, if the Argentineans were to beat Brazil and reach the final, they would have done that by playing badly for most of the tournament and only performing to their potential in their last couple of games which is quite strange.
Bet on Argentina to win - Betfred 9.5, LeoVegas 4.6
The Brazilian Steam Train
The Brazilians have been the complete opposite of their South American rivals. They started convincingly and justified the favourites tag in their first match against Bolivia which they won 3:0. In their second match, the draw against Venezuela, they seemed like they relaxed a bit and put the foot off the gas, but they still had almost 70% possession and 19 shots towards goal. In addition, and in fairness to the Brazilians, they faced an inspired Venezuela side consisting of the same core of players which reached the U-20 World Cup final under their current coach, Rafael Dudamel in 2017.
The Brazilians most convincing performance was in their third group game against Peru, a match they won by a 5:0 landslide. This feat becomes even more important when you remember that the match was actually crucial for the Peruvians’ hopes of progressing to the knockout stage and they still managed to concede five and score zero goals. And mind you, the Peruvians are not a weak team. The fact that they won against a strong Uruguay team in the quarter-final and are now only a step away from the final means that they are certainly not pushovers.
In the quarter-final against Paraguay, the Brazilians dominated from start to finish, and especially after Balbuena was sent off for the visitors in the second half. After that sending off, the Brazilians could have won the match immediately as the referee Roberto Tobar Vargas pointed to the penalty spot. However, after he reviewed the incident using VAR, the referee gave a free kick on the edge of the box which Dani Alves almost turned into a goal as well.
The Brazilians piled the pressure after that 58th minute, but luck just wasn’t on their side. Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and Arthur all had very good chances to score and Willian even hit the post. However, it just wasn’t meant for the match to finish in regular time and it had to be decided on penalties.
In the penalty shoot-out, both Gomez and Gonzalez failed to score for the Paraguayans and Roberto Firmino pulled his shot wide for the Brazilians. However, Gabriel Jesus managed to keep his cool and score the decisive penalty resulting in the eruption of celebration and joy at the Arena do Gremio in Porto Alegre.
Brazilian Dream Team
When you look at this Brazil side it is evident that they are a much more balanced team than the Argentineans. In goal, they can choose by arguably the two best goalkeepers in the world right now, Alisson Becker and Ederson. Their defensive line has played together for a long time now and some of them such as Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and even Dani Alves also played for the same club for quite some time. They know each other inside-out and those four consecutive clean sheets are certainly not coincidental.
In midfield, the Brazilians have hard-working players such as Arthur and Allan and they are perfectly complemented by attacking midfielders such as Coutinho and Willian. Finally, Tite has the luxury of choosing between players like Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus, and Everton for Brazil’s front line.
Imbalanced Argentina Side
Compare that side to Argentina’s team which is full of star players such as Messi, Aguero and Latauro Martinez up front, but has to make do with average defenders and midfielders such as Tagliafico, Pezzella, Foyth, Acuna, and Paredes.
It is evident that this Argentina team is very imbalanced and that has been a problem that has been going on for quite some time. Fans of national teams around the world for years envied the fact that the Argentineans had forwards such as Messi, Aguero, Higuain, Dybala and Mauro Icardi. But what use are they when you can only play two of them on a given day and even when they do play they have to get service from mediocre players playing behind them.
Brazil to Win It Copa America Semi-Final
This means that even though the Argentineans will probably produce their best performance of the tournament in Belo Horizonte, they will find it very difficult to get past a Brazil team which is so perfectly balanced.
In addition, the Brazilians are playing on home soil and that will come as a further incentive for their players to give their maximum and win this extremely important match in front of their compatriots.
Finally, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that the Brazilians are playing this tournament without their best player Neymar who was removed from the squad due to the problems that he is having in his personal life.
However, while this looks like a huge handicap from the outside, it has actually galvanized a very talented and hard-working Brazil team to perform far better without their talisman. What’s more, Neymar’s presence would have certainly distracted the players from their on-pitch duties and Tite’s decision to send him home looks smarter with each passing day.
All in all, the Argentineans will be a tough nut to crack, but they will have to work hard to overcome their squad shortcomings. They might be in a favourable mental state coming into this match, but not feeling the pressure can only help you so much when you are playing against a talented and balanced side such as this Brazil team.
Bet on Brazil to win - Betfred 4.5, LeoVegas 1.85