Thom Malone
Thom Malone

11.38 3 Jul 2019


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Brazil were 2-0 winners over a Leo Messi-inspired Argentina in the first of the Copa America semi-finals in Belo Horizonte.

After a fractious start, play settled down with Brazil dominating early possession. The Samba boys had the better early chances. Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring on 19 minutes, converting a Roberto Firmino cross from six yards out.

The Argentinian defence was highly charitable, leaving the City forward free in the penalty area. The 36-year-old Dani Alves was sublime in the build-up, slipping the ball to Firmino after an exquisite chip, control and pass.

Argentina almost equalised just nine minutes later when Messi supplied a cross for Sergio Aguero, who hit the bar with a looping header.

In an unsurprising turn of events, much of what was good from Argentina came through the Barcelona maestro. Argentina had the best of the chances over the following quarter of an hour with Messi and Aguero combining for the better Argentina efforts.

Threat

Jesus and Firmino were a constant threat at the other end and forced a fine save from Argentina goalkeeperĀ Franco Armani before the hour mark. Messi came close to equalising with a free-kick in the 65th minute. The shot was on target but Alisson saved easily. The Barcelona star also hit the woodwork.

The second Brazil goal was a reversal of the combination for the first. Jesus broke from inside his own half after Messi saw an attack he initiated break down. Two Argentinians made feeble tackle attempts before the ball was squared to Firmino to convert.

To demonstrate just how poor the Argentinian defence was, Jesus's run from inside his own half to the six-yard box comprised of just six touches of the ball.

Messi

Such displays do little to dispel the notion that Argentina is a one-man team. Messi was prominent throughout and Argentina created more chances in the game. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was involved in four of the eight opportunities.

The international trophy haul for Messi remains atĀ just the 2005 U-20 World Cup and a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. Following this latest defeat, Messi may be questioning his decision to return from international retirement after a Copa America defeat in 2016.

Brazil will face the winners of Chile and Peru at the Maracana in the final on Sunday night.


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