If Lionel Messi and Argentina are to end a 26-year drought of major international titles the Albiceleste will have to get through eternal rivals Brazil to do it.
The two traditional South American powerhouses meet in the semifinal stage of the Copa America on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The winner will play in the final against either defending champions Chile or Peru, who play in the other semifinal on Wednesday in Porto Alegre.
Argentina stumbled out of the gate at this tournament, losing its opener 2-0 to Colombia. But a 2-0 win over Venezuela in the quarterfinals on Friday earned them a place in the last four of the 12-team tournament, which they have not won since 1993. Messi, for all his success with his club Barcelona, has never led Argentina to a major senior-level trophy. The Olympic gold medal won at Beijing 2008 came in a modified u-23 tournament.
Brazil advanced to the semifinals by virtue of penalties after a 0-0 draw with Paraguay on Thursday. The Brazilians dominated the match but failed to score, even though the Selecao played with a man advantage from the 58th minute after Paraguay’s Fabian Balbuena was sent off.
For the home country, a Brazilian win over their bitter rivals would likely go a long way in purging the negative vibes at the Mineirao, the venue where Brazil conceded seven against Germany at the 2014 World Cup. The crushing 7-1 defeat continues to weigh heavily on the minds of Brazilians.
Like Brazil, both Chile and Peru reached the semifinals by winning a penalty shootout after a scoreless draw. Chile advanced over Colombia by 5-4 on penalties on Friday while Peru did the same to Uruguay by the identical score on Saturday.
Chile has beaten Argentina on penalties after scoreless draws in the last two finals of the Copa America. There has not been a goal scored in a Copa America final since 2011, when Uruguay beat Paraguay 3-0.
Photo: Lionel Messi has scored only one goal at Copa America 2019 (Getty Images)