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Copa America: Messi-Neymar Set For An Epic Showdown At Iconic Maracana Stadium

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The Copa America competitions may not have been as classical as the EURO, but it’s due to have a classic final, one packed with stakes for the teams and individuals involved.

The Copa America Final will draw friends and former football colleagues together, former Barcelona star Neymar will play against a friend and his former Barcelona mate, at the finals with both players having played pivotal roles from the group stages through to the finals all eyeing the prize, the Copa America title.

The Neymar vs Messi match promises to be a mouthwatering prospect with both the players eyeing for glory with their respective national teams.

For the first time since 2007, South American titans Brazil and Argentina will meet in the Copa América final, with the latter’s dramatic penalty-kick triumph 3–2, over Colombia in Tuesday’s semifinal following a foul-laden 1–1 draw.

The game will bring together Super-clásico rivals against one another and put friends-turned-opponents Neymar and Lionel Messi in the final limelight, with both knowing what a title would mean in the legacy conversation.

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Photo/Courtesy

Saturday night’s final at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro may not have the atmosphere a South American championship deserves due to coronavirus protocols, but it will serve as a grand setting for the two teams, their leading men and supporting casts. It’ll cap a tournament that has been anything but a classic with a final that has the chance to deliver like one.

Over the last seven years with Messi Argentina’s history, is no secret. After three brutal, consecutive defeats in the finals (2014 World Cup, 2015 Copa América, 2016 Copa América Centenario), Argentina hasn’t come particularly close to winning anything.

Presently Lionel Messi looks ahead to end a national trophy drought that dates back to the 1993 Copa América. This version is not Argentina’s best team in Messi’s career, at least not on paper, but it could wind up being its most effective for this point in time.

Messi has been superb in this tournament and is still very much the focal point, the player on which the team is dependent for success. He has four goals and five assists in the competition, the last assist set up Lautaro Martínez for an early go-ahead goal in the semifinals, contributing to nine of Argentina’s 11 goals. He also rifled home his penalty kick in the shootout after the extra time bow no fruits from any of the sides.

BATTLE FOR GLORY

Both Neymar and Messi have played together in Barcelona and have enjoyed many successes, however at the international stage same cannot be said for both of them. While Neymar has had some success with Brazil, Messi is yet to taste glory with Argentina. Both players may be good friends off the field, but during this year’s finals, the atmosphere will be completely different as they look to bring out their absolute best with a shot at glory.

Following the match against Peru, Neymar admitted that he would like to play Argentina in the final. As the Selecao striker will look to help Brazil retain the crown on their home ground, Messi on the other hand will want to be third time lucky after missing out on two Copa America finals.

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While they haven’t met in a final in 14 years, Argentina and Brazil have locked horns on the Copa América stage since, and recently. Argentina’s last loss, period, came two years ago, to Brazil, in Copa América. The 2–0 semifinal defeat gave way to a third-place finish and kicked off a 19-match unbeaten run that leads into Saturday’s final.

Brazil will be the favourite, based on its status as host and based on the talent it has on paper. Yet for all the focus on what Messi hasn’t won for his country, it’s only prudent to point out that Neymar hasn’t technically delivered a major trophy to his, either.

The Copa América and World Cup titles are the holy grails by which these stars are ultimately going to be judged. Brazil won its 2019 Copa América without Neymar, who had to withdraw with an injury before the competition began, so while he has been a central figure in the team’s success and evolution and remains on course to surpass Pelé’s national scoring record by a wide margin, he has some unfinished business from a personal standpoint.

It’s only appropriate, then, that these two global superstars duel on the final stage to give this tournament an injection of intrigue.

The Copa América has been clouded by criticism. The initial plan, for Argentina and Colombia to co-host it, went up in smoke due to COVID-19 surges in one country and political unrest in the other prompting it to be moved to Brazil after the push and pull.

The stakes are actually quite high. For Messi and Argentina, it’s a chance to quiet years worth of doubters and critics while putting an end to a trophy drought.

For Neymar and Brazil, it’s an opportunity to complete a unique Copa América repeat a year out from a World Cup that it’ll hope and expect to win while closing the gap on Argentina and Uruguay in the all-time annals.

Where Argentina sees a milestone, Brazil sees a building block. That one side’s goal will be achieved at the expense of the other will only heighten the sense of the occasion, and regardless of how they got there, a Brazil-Argentina final with this set of leading actors will be a sight to behold.

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