Another major tournament ends in heartbreak for Lionel Messi and Argentina as Brazil advance to the Copa America final after a 2-0 victory.
Goals either side of half time to Premier League stars Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino sealed Brazil’s place in the final, where they will meet either Peru or Chile at the Maracana stadium.
The stakes could not have been any higher as the two South American heavyweights met once again.
Pressure had reached an all-time high for Tite with his future as Brazilian head coach still up in the air, while for Argentina – and Lionel Messi – it was about bringing themselves a step closer to ending a 26-year trophy hoodoo.
The Argentines started with Sergio Aguero, Lautaro Martina and Lionel Messi up top – leaving Juventus star Paolo Dybala on the bench until he was brought on in the 85th minute.
In typical fashion, tempers flared early in the tie with both teams adding to the intensity and hostility in the stands.
Messi’s impact early was limited as a result of Casemiro’s hard work in midfield, giving the host nation an early upper hand.
It did not take Brazil long to take advantage of this as Gabriel Jesus drew first blood in the 19th minute, finishing off a well-worked goal from close range after a Firmino defence splitting pass.
The Argentines bit back hard and thought they had an equaliser when Aguero’s header struck the inside of the cross bar and bounced a metre in front of the goal line.
The goal allowed for the match to open and Messi to find his feet in this game.
Still trailing midway through the second half, Messi was brought down just outside the area albeit on a difficult angle for a left footer.
This did not seem to faze the five time Ballon d’Or winner who struck the ball towards the top corner but was denied by Brazilian goalkeeper Allison, whose significant reach made the save look effortless.
The Argentines did not stop there as Messi was once again on the end of a golden opportunity, this time hitting the post, as Argentina began to question whether this would be their day.
Their woes were soon exacerbated as Firmino put the nail in the coffin in the 71st minute to book Brazil’s place in the final.
Jesus repaying the favour in setting up Firmino for this goal, after a blistering counter attacking run down the centre of the Mineirão to set up Firmino for the easiest of finishes into an open net.