What you may have missed in South America this summer
Whilst you have all sang ‘It’s Coming Home’ and belted out Sweet Caroline during the Euros, you might have remembered there’s actually been a small matter of a tournament going on in South America. The Copa America concludes on Saturday night, or Sunday morning if you look at it that way, with the highly predictable outcome of Brazil versus Argentina. But as we turn our attention to the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy, we should remember that this could be Lionel Messi’s final roll of the dice in his attempt to win a trophy with Argentina.
Brazil have hardly been challenged this tournament and look the favourites to retain their title after waltzing through a group with Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Three wins and one draw did more than enough to see them through as group winners, and funnily enough, Argentina finished with the same results. Their three wins eased them ahead of Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia. It is always so predictable that these two behemoths of South American football will make it through, but despite the lack of competition, a Brazil Argentina final is the heavyweight clash we all want.
There haven’t been too many wild nights during the tournament, but it has come to life in recent days as the semi-finals have taken place. If you haven’t seen the shoot-out between Argentina and Colombia the other night, you need to watch it. It includes one of the best goalkeeping performances from Aston Villa’s Emi Martinez, and not just for the way he inserted himself rent free into Yerry Mina’s head. The saves he made gave Villa fans a welcome treat to go alongside Jack Grealish getting a go against Denmark. And then of course, Messi taunting Mina about his dancing was just ridiculously funny, but it is more than that. Argentina are not here to compete, they are here to take over, and that mentality shows they will take on anyone and everyone and in any which way they need to.
Their opponents have done slightly less when it comes to mind games, but their football has made up for that. A 1-0 win over Peru got them to Sunday’s final, and although that doesn’t really scream eventual winners, it reminds you they have class up and down the park that can get the result for them. After all, with Neymar and Richarlison on the field, it was a surprise to see Lucas Paqueta get the winner rather than the usual suspects. There is talent leaking out of every corner of this team, and the fact they dodged extra-time will always be on their side compared to Argentina. For Peru, the heartache of losing to Brazil in the 2019 final and the 2021 semi-final will sting, but they were outclassed, and Brazil rightly earned their place.
It won’t be easy expecting anyone in Europe to stay up for the final after what could be an energy sapping final, but when Brazil play Argentina you know there will be some sort of drama to make it worth it. Brazil could claim a tenth Copa America title, or Messi could finally captain Argentina to a major trophy having had apart in every single goal scored by his side. There’s a bit of every fan around the world that wants to see Messi finally win something with Argentina, but there’s always that doubt they could bottle another final given their track record, but there’s always that doubt about how much longer he will carry on with his country. Dare I say this could be the final dance for the skipper?
The logistical challenge of expecting Brits to stay awake until silly o’clock for games like Peru versus Bolivia is always going to be a deterrent, but this is a fixture with so much more than that, and it will only allow to you enjoy a blockbuster day of football that little bit longer. Your choice.