Two years after their triumph over Peru in the 2019 Copa America final, hosts Brazil are once again back in the hunt, this time for their 10th Copa America title in history. The Selecao have entered the final without losing a single game and face arch-rivals Argentina in the summit clash, 14 years after their previous clash in a Copa final.
LA FINAL QUE HARÁ VIBRAR AL CONTINENTE
🇧🇷 Brasil 🏆 Argentina 🇦🇷
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A FINAL QUE FARÁ VIBRAR O CONTINENTE
🇧🇷 Brasil 🏆 Argentina 🇦🇷
Quem é seu favorito? #VibraElContinente #VibraOContinente #CopaAmérica pic.twitter.com/nHtXN1X0Hz
— Copa América (@CopaAmerica) July 7, 2021
The final looks to be a pulsating clash between the two favourites of the tournament, and both have had similar runs to the final. We, at FootTheBall, look at how Brazil reached the final and review their tournament campaign.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
Before the start of the Copa America, Brazil had two FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Paraguay, in which they won both the games with a 2-0 scoreline. These games virtually acted as a warmup to the actual tournament as the squads for both were the same, with the important players getting the required game time for the preparation ahead of the tournament.
And they could not have started better as they thumped Venezuela in a 3-0 victory and went on to better that performance by beating Peru 4-0 in their second group stage match. They suffered a minor hiccup in the third game when they had to come from behind against Colombia to secure a 2-1 win, and this win consolidated their first position in Group B.
Although their final game of the group stage ended in a 1-1 draw against Ecuador, they entered the knockout stages unbeaten.
It was in the knockouts that Brazil showed why they were the defending champions as they grinded out two consecutive 1-0 wins over Chile and Peru in the quarterfinal and semi-final, respectively. The steel which they displayed in the quarterfinal was commendable as they held on to a clean sheet after going a man down for nearly half the game when Gabriel Jesus was sent-off in the 48th minute.
Even though it was only a 1-0 win against Peru, they were the better side in all aspects and the Selecao will hope to bank on their defence to stop the Argentines and help the nation achieve their 10th Copa America title.
BEST MOMENT OF THE TOURNAMENT
BRAZIL 4-0 PERU (GROUP B, MATCHDAY 2)
Having won the first game 3-0 against Venezuela, Brazil entered into their second game of the group stage against Peru, intending to win the game and strengthen their first place in the group. That was achieved but not in a normal way.
They took an early lead with Alex Sandro scoring in the 12th minute and went on to dominate the game but weren’t able to increase their lead until the 70th minute after which the floodgates opened.
Goals from Neymar, Everton Ribeiro, and Richarlison helped them achieve an outstanding 4-0 win and this essentially cemented their position at the top as the other teams in the group were not able to match the show the Brazilians put on.
WORST MOMENT OF THE SEASON
BRAZIL 1-0 CHILE (QUARTER-FINAL)
In what has been a near-flawless campaign, there can only be one disappointment for Brazil going into the final. Although they won the quarterfinal against Chile, that was by the skin of their teeth as they were reduced to 10 men in the 48th minute, when Gabriel Jesus was sent off after a horrendous challenge on Chile’s Eugenio Mena.
Man City's Gabriel Jesus shown a red card for this challenge in Brazil's 1-0 #CopaAmerica quarter-final win against Chile 🇧🇷⚽ pic.twitter.com/3KRpJdKZXA
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) July 3, 2021
That challenge has seen the Manchester City star miss not only the semi-final but also the final on Saturday and this suspension was confirmed by CONMEBOL on Tuesday.
His suspension had little impact in the semi-final against Peru, but with a fixture against a quality side such as Argentina beckoning, Tite will be disappointed that he cannot call upon Jesus, whose skill and talent would have been useful in the final.
THE TOURNAMENT MVP
As expected from the beginning, Neymar has carried the Brazilian attack on his own in this Copa America and goes into the final with two goals and three assists to his name. The Paris Saint-Germain star has featured in all games except the one against Ecuador, where the squad was heavily rotated and has gone on to star in almost all the games.
It was from his assists that Lucas Paqueta scored consecutively in the two 1-0 wins in the quarterfinal and the semi-final and he will again be Tite’s trump card going into the final against Argentina where the 29-year-old is set to come up against his former teammate Lionel Messi.
Honourable Mentions: Lucas Paqueta, Fred
Before his red card in the quarterfinal against Chile, Gabriel Jesus had featured in the opening three games of the group stage where he managed to muster only a single assist, in the game against Peru. Other than that the Manchester City star was very much ghosting the entire tournament and was one of the true underachievers in the entire tournament.
Gabriel Jesus has not only been one of the underachievers for Brazil but in the 2021 Copa America on a whole. (Image Courtesy: Al Jazeera / Website)
The red card can be seen as the final nail in the coffin for the 24-year-old in this tournament which has been a nightmare personally and now he will look forward to having an encouraging start in the Premier League.
(dis)Honourable Mentions: Richarlison, Everton Soares
PROBLEM POSITION: ATTACKING MIDFIELDER
Even though Brazil have not faced any tough situation on their road to the final, there is a problem in their line-up since the beginning of the tournament and this could be targeted by Argentina in the final.
In Tite’s 4-2-3-1, Casemiro and Fred act as the pivot behind a fluid front four consisting of primarily Neymar and other attackers who are rotated by the manager as per the opposition. And to Brazil’s disadvantage, none of them except Neymar and Lucas Paqueta are fluid enough to play across all positions in the attack.
Richarlison has not been worked out as a striker or attacking midfielder for Brazil in this Copa America. (Image Courtesy: CONMEBOL / Website)
Neymar primarily plays on the left-wing while Gabriel Jesus used to operate from the right with Richarlison as the striker and Lucas Paqueta as the attacking midfielder. But as the tournament went on Paqueta was dropped to the bench for Roberto Firmino but the Liverpool attacker wasn’t reaching the expectations which saw Richarlison and Everton Soares being tested at the attacking midfielder spot.
None of them have yielded encouraging results for Tite, as with Argentina beckoning he must find a solution to this problem. One answer would be to play Richarlison as the right-winger and Lucas Paqueta as the attacking midfielder, with a pure number 9 such as Gabriel Barbosa at the top.
- Despite everything, it has been a near flawless campaign for Brazil and with their talisman, Neymar, eager to prove himself against Messi, they will fancy their chances of getting their hands on their 10th Copa America title.