La Albiceleste’s wait for a major trophy goes on following the defeat to this year’s hosts.
The two South American giants squared off in the heavyweight Superclasico fixture to kick-off the semi-finals in the 2019 Copa America. Brazil exorcised their ghosts from the last semi-final they played at the Belo Horizonte- a resounding 7-1 defeat to Germany. Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus scored to give Brazil a 2-0 win over their neighbours and arch-rivals.
Lionel Messi and the entire Argentina side played their best football in the tournament and were on top of Brazil on several occasions. They were unlucky- hitting the woodwork twice and refereeing calls not working in their favour.
It’s still a long process of rebuilding for this young Argentina side who did not have any realistic expectations to begin with. Meanwhile, Brazil will face the winners of the Chile-Peru clash in Maracana and will have their eyes set on lifting the Copa America for the first time since 2007.
Here are the talking points from the game.
5. Has Dani Alves been the best right-back of this generation?
Dani Alves has had an extremely glorious career at the very top of the sport and even at the age of 36, he is still going strong and put up a fantastic showing in the big game against Argentina.
He was instrumental in creating the first goal for Gabriel Jesus. Winning the ball back off Paredes, he sombrero flicked it, feinted Pezzella after a short run and played a no-look pass for Roberto Firmino to square to Jesus who had no issues tapping it home from close range.
Given his consistency and the level at which he has excelled, Dani is easily the best right-back of this era and arguably the greatest in history.
4. Did the refereeing do justice to the game?
The Superclasico had it all. Intense end-to-end action, fast pace, some of the best players in the world but was let down by inconsistent and hapless refereeing. Colombian referee Roddy Zambrano was inconsistent with the whistle. Often stopping play and dishing cards for the slightest of challenges, he also let serious offences pass by and barely had justification for some of the decisions he made.
VAR was also at fault in this game as Argentina could have easily had two penalties in their favour when Thiago Silva and Arthur made blatant off-the-ball challenges in the penalty box that went unnoticed by the referee.
VAR did not even alert the referee to have a look about it and it was quite erratic given how VAR has been so often used in this tournament with the slightest of unforced errors being checked.
3. Could Lionel Scaloni have done better?
This was by far the best game that Argentina played in the Copa America and the scoreline does not do justice to their performance. Their pressing was strong and intense, passing was far better and while they lacked decisiveness and more solutions in the final third, it was their defence that let them down which was expected given the gulf in quality.
Manager Scaloni could have done better by starting Lo Celso instead of Acuna who was a major disaster for much of the first half. Scaloni then virtually threw away all the dominance that Argentina had by bringing on Angel Di María who is still ripping off the benefits for his performances in the past and has no credibility to play for the national side anymore.
Brazil’s second goal came right after this and Scaloni only brought on Paulo Dybala when it was too late with 5 minutes remaining.
Match Highlights: Brazil 2-0 Argentina
2. Was Tite right to set Brazil up the way he did?
For much of the game, Brazil looked like they were comfortable with Argentina having possession and it did pay off by the end. Thiago Silva and Marquinhos were solid in defence and along with Casemiro and Arthur, they managed to create central congestion that became hard for Messi and Aguero to penetrate without a genuine winger in the side.
The central and compact positioning did wonders for Brazil
Brazil also took their opportunities on the counter with pace and power from Gabriel Jesus and solid positioning with Firmino.
1. What’s next for Argentina?
For Argentina, the curse still goes on. They haven’t won a single international trophy since 1993. The golden generation came and it went and now, they have another young squad that isn’t the most talented but has shown a lot of desire. Foyth, Paredes, Lo Celso, Rodrigo de Paul and Lautaro Martinez have all had encouraging tournaments and show promise but there is still a lot of rebuilding to do and Lionel Scaloni is not the most tactically adept to lead this young group.
Argentina still needs a reliable goalkeeper and quality right-back, a solid centre-back pairing and another midfielder but more than that, they need vision, planning, cohesion, attributes the national team has lacked since a decade now and still needs fixing.
Messi staying is still positive and he can cover a lot of those blatant errors underneath the surface but there is very little time to give him a cohesive squad and get the best out of him.
However, with everything said and done, Argentina were good on the night against Brazil and fate did not go their way. They deserve to walk with their heads held high this time.