Whilst the world was focused on the postponed European Championship, South America hosted its continental competition, The Copa America. Despite a lot of negativity surrounding the competition amidst the global pandemic, it produced world-class moments of magic, emotion and showcased the beauty of football.
The tournament came at a time of chaos when Covid-19 cases were running riot throughout South America. Many national teams were against playing in the tournament, but the show went on and to everyone’s relief, it was fairly successful. After months of group and knockout stages, dramatic moments, and pure magic, we have a final to rival that of its European counterparts – Brazil vs Argentina.
Two giant nations etched in football history, two legacy nations collide once again, just like the good old days to fight for South America’s prestigious national competition, the Copa America. Brazil were formidable throughout the tournament and it was clear why they were favorites, buoyed by stars from all around Europe, Fabinho, Ederson, Neymar, Jesus – it was difficult to pinpoint a weakness in this rejuvenated team.
Things are finally looking promising for a nation that was subjected to so much mediocrity and pain since their last major tournament win, and this would be a perfect rehearsal for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Brazilian fans are loving their football again, they play with flair, samba, and technique, boosted by the arrogance and trickery of Neymar, the solidity provided by Fabinho, and the craftmanship of Tite, Brazil is building a dynasty to take over football once more.
Not so far away from Rio is another nation steeped in football glory, Argentina. Always underperforming and falling short, Argentina has made it to another final and many hope they’re able to cross the line this time – if not for the nation, then at least for their not so little magician, Lionel Messi. Often criticized for not performing on a national level, not winning enough major trophies with Argentina, Messi, perhaps in the twilight era of his career has a chance to win something that has eluded him and his country, and aim to push on to finally bring the World Cup back to Argentina.
Neymar vs Messi
Two friends, one master, one former-heir, meet in national colors to battle for South American supremacy. If there is pressure on anyone, it would be Messi. This time, however, Messi has a team that he can rely on, players he can trust. Messi has often come under scrutiny but takes the brunt of the negativity, protecting other underperforming players in the past, such as Aguero, Higuain, and Di Maria. To say that Messi doesn’t care or play as well for Argentina as he does for Barcelona is absurd, just look at the passion shown in their semi-final win against Peru.
Neymar doesn’t carry the same pressure as Messi, but the nation looks to him the same way they did at Pele, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, and Cafu. He’s their special one, their leader, and no longer just a boy with amazing ability. He has grown in his role within the national team and no longer just plays for his ego, but is beginning to understand the weight that he carries when he puts on the yellow jersey. Neymar has incredible players around him that allow him to express his best self on the pitch and he will know that they have their best chance in years to win both Copa America and fight for next year’s World Cup.
Goalkeepers: Franco Armani, Emiliano Martinez, Juan Musso, and Agustin Marchesin
Defenders: Gonzalo Montiel, Nicolas Otamendi, German Pezzella, Nicolas Tagliafico, Lucas Martinez Quarta, Marcos Acuna, Lisandro Martinez, Nahuel Molina Lucero and Cristian Romero
Midfielders: Leandro Paredes, Giovani Lo Celso, Exequiel Palacios, Nicolas Gonzalez, Guido Rodriguez, Rodrigo De Paul, Alejandro Gomez, Angel Correa and Nicolas Dominguez
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria, Joaquin Correa, Sergio Aguero and Julian Alvarez
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson, Weverton.
Defenders: Emerson, Danilo, Alex Sandro, Renan Lodi, Felipe, Éder Militão, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva.
Midfielders: Casemiro, Douglas Luiz, Everton Ribeiro, Fabinho, Fred, Lucas Paquetã
Forwards: Everton, Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Barbosa, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar, Richarlison, Vinicius Junior
The final takes place on Sunday 11th July at the Maracana Stadium, in Brazil. Who do you think will win Copa America? Let us know in the comments below.
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Main Image Credits: Embed from Getty Images