Lionel Messi faces old friend Neymar in latest offer for Copa America glory with Argentina

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Standing in his way, as he tries to end his country’s 28-year drought, will be a familiar face to ex-Barcelona team-mate Neymar.

Brazil are the current defending champions and have the formidable record of having won all previous editions played at home. .

Few would expect a disappointing Argentina side to go far at next year’s World Cup in Qatar and Messi will be 37 the next time the Copa America is held in 2024.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Messi’s relationship with the Argentina national team and his fans has been strained at times.

In the past, after quite poor performances, he has been accused by some of caring more about Barcelona than Argentina, something Messi has always firmly denied.

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Lionel Messi led the celebrations after Argentina reached the Copa America final.
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Over the years, however, he has become a revered figure in his homeland.

It was never more evident than when Messi announced his retirement following his loss in the 2016 Copa America final – the second year in a row Argentina had lost to Chile on penalties – and the whole country backed down. is united in a successful attempt to convince him to remove on the blue and white shirt again.

At times Messi has singlehandedly carried the national team over the years, most notably during the 2018 World Cup qualifying process, in which Argentina flirted with the possibility of not reaching the final.

In the semi-final penalty shootout win over Colombia, Messi – who scored four goals and five assists in this Copa America – once again showed the kind of leader he has become for Argentina. .

National broadcaster TyC Sport featured a “Messi-Cam” during the shootout, which was focused on the Argentine captain the entire time. It showed his intense reaction to every penalty Argentina scored, as he was also the first to console Rodrigo De Paul after his failure.

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Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Argentinian Lionel Messi embrace Emiliano Martinez after the heroism of the goalkeeper penalty shootout.

However, it was his reaction to Yerry Mina’s failure that generated the biggest reaction on social media.

The Colombian defender became known for his somewhat over-the-top celebrations after scoring in the penalty shoot-out and after his penalty was saved by Emiliano Martinez, Messi could be seen shouting ‘dance now’ at Mina throughout his walk to the circle central.

Messi’s exuberance was a stark contrast to the last time he appeared in a penalty shootout for Argentina. After missing his penalty in the final against Chile in 2016, Messi was passed on the grass and appeared to be on the verge of vomiting.

Martinez was unmistakably the hero of Wednesday’s game, saving three of Colombia’s penalties and the Aston Villa keeper was mobbed by Messi and his teammates.

Messi celebrates after scoring his penalty in the shootout against Colombia.

Saturday’s centerpiece will be the first time since 2007 that Brazil and Argentina have met in the Copa America final, Messi’s first for the national team.

There will be 5,500 spectators in the iconic Maracana Stadium to watch it, the first time fans will be able to watch matches at this tournament.

Participants will need to show a negative Covid-19 PCR test, wear masks and maintain a distance of two meters from indoors.

Brazil hope to repeat the comfortable 3-0 victory and approach the game as favorites.

Under head coach Tite, Brazil are far from playing the “beautiful football” of yesteryear, but this team is down-to-earth and hard-working, a style that has enjoyed considerable success over the past five years.

This culminated with victory at the 2019 Copa America, the country’s first major piece of silverware since 2007.

Old friend Neymar stands on Messi's path in the final.

Brazil have never quite stepped up a gear in this tournament, but have found success thanks to a stingy defense; the team have conceded just two goals throughout the tournament and none so far in the knockout stage.

Even when it was just 10 men left for the entire second half of the quarter-final against Chile, Brazil never seemed to concede a goal.

Neymar’s legacy with the Brazilian national team is already guaranteed to be one of glory. Not only has he led the team to Olympic and Copa America glory at home, but he will most likely end his career as Brazil’s top scorer, currently just nine goals behind Pelé.

If Messi led Argentina to glory it would certainly change their legacy completely.

Rodrigo Pedroso contributed reporting.

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