Brazil go to head-to-head with their greatest foes Argentina in the Copa América final for the first time in 14 years on Saturday night.
They are chasing their 10th title as they look to close the gap on their archnemeses, who are the most-decorated side in the competition with 14 titles. The Verde-Amarela are looking to their star man Neymar, who has provided two goals and three assists so far, to fire his side to another Copa América title. This stellar fixture looks set to make up for what has been a disappointing tournament which has been played behind closed doors and, as a result, been left without its much-needed atmosphere.
It is the first time the two sides are facing each other in the final since 2007, when Brazil were convincing 3-0 winners over La Albiceleste. The fixture is one of international football’s greatest rivalries thanks to the great history between the two sides, who have entertained and revolutionised the game with fast-flowing and creative play.
As soon as this final had its sides confirmed, the interest of the world piqued, even if Brazilians are not that keen. The format has not been great, with 20 games played in the group stage to eliminate only two teams ahead of the quarter-finals. Brazil’s opening victory over Venezuela was watched by fewer people than Saturday night variety shows taking place at the same time. Talisman Neymar is not best pleased with them, and while it is not for that exact reason it may have added to his anger. The PSG star has hit out at Brazilians who are backing Argentina to win the final because they support Lionel Messi.
Neymar has a lot of respect for his ex-Barcelona teammate, saying ahead of the final: “Our friendship is on the line. The respect between us is still great but only one can win.”
For the Argentine magician this is the greatest chance he will ever have to add a much-coveted international title to his glowing CV of club titles. He has been sitting in the shadow of the late Diego Maradona for a lot of fans who would not recognise Messi as his equal without any international titles to his name.
With everything going pear-shaped at Barcelona, Messi is pouring all his energy into bringing success to his nation in a bid to leave a lasting legacy on the international stage and be considered on the level of his Maradona. Not only will he be doing it for himself, he will be trying his very best to bring some pride to Argentina, who have not lifted this trophy since 1993.
While Messi has been the hero for most of the campaign so far, it was his teammate and goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez who took all the plaudits for getting Argentina to the final after a brilliant display in the penalty shoot-out against Colombia. Nonetheless, it feels as though Messi has rallied his teammates together and there is a real chance that he and his nation could get their hands on this trophy for the first time in 28 years.
Argentina v Brazil gets underway at 0100 BST on Sunday morning, so there’s more than one final you should be making time to watch this weekend.