BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – The 2019 Copa America will offer soccer fans a blockbuster match this week when Brazil and Argentina clash in the semifinals of the regional tournament.
The two squads are scheduled to take the field on Tuesday at Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, where both South American powerhouses will be seeking redemption after coming up short at the 2018 World Cup.
Fans are eagerly awaiting the match after three weeks of little soccer action.
Argentina hopes to continue making progress after beating surprising Venezuela 2-0 in the quarterfinals despite limited production from superstar striker Lionel Messi, who has been missing in action and made headlines for criticizing the condition of the fields at the stadiums being used for the tournament.
Brazil, for its part, is aiming to bring its “A game” against Argentina after an uneven tournament performance that saw the Canarinha blow out Peru 5-0 only to tie Venezuela and Paraguay by 0-0 scores.
Brazilian national team fans will be on edge because of the so-called “Mineirazo,” or “Mineirao effect.”
Mineirao Stadium was the venue for Brazil’s stunning 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup, a defeat that embarrassed the host country.
A victory over Argentina at Mineirao would help heal the wound of that awful loss.
Argentina, though, also has a history at Mineirao, where the national team has compiled a record of four losses and one tie.
In 2016, Brazil beat Argentina 3-0 in South American qualifying for the World Cup on goals by Philippe Coutinho, Neymar and Paulinho.
Argentina also stumbled in big Copa America matches, losing to Brazil in the finals in Peru in 2004 and Venezuela in 2007, and to Uruguay in the 1995 quarterfinals and Paraguay in the 1999 quarters.
Brazil’s coach, Tite, is focusing on the injury list, which has been getting longer as the tournament progresses.
Left back Filipe Luis, one of the best performers among Brazil’s starters at the Copa America, practiced at half speed on Sunday due to an injury to his right thigh. His substitute would be Alex Sandro.
Midfielder Fernandinho is still dealing with pain in his right knee and has pretty much been ruled out for the match, while forward Richarlison has recovered from the mumps and is back with the team, but he has not regained his rhythm.
Tite will at least have midfielder Casemiro, who missed the quarterfinals against Paraguay due to an accumulation of yellow cards, back in the lineup.
And Brazil will have to contend with Messi, who all of Tite’s players respect.
Thiago Silva said ahead of the match that Messi was “the best player” he had ever seen in action.
Argentine national team coach Lionel Scaloni knows what it’s like to lose to Tite’s squad.
Last October, in a friendly in Saudi Arabia, Brazil edged Argentina 1-0 on a goal by Joao Miranda in stoppage time.
Heading into Tuesday’s match, Scaloni will have the same 11 starters on the field in consecutive matches for the first time.
The coach has used 13 different lineups in the 13 matches he has had at the national team’s helm.
The big question is whether the coach will stick with the offensive trio of Lautaro, Messi and Agüero or replace the latter with Angel Di Maria to bolster the midfield.
The move would be a conservative one for Scaloni in what is expected to be a high-octane match.
Brazil: Alisson; Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Alex Sandro (or Filipe Luis); Casemiro, Arthur, Philippe Coutinho; Everton, Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino.
Argentina: Franco Armani; Juan Foyth, German Pezzella, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Rodrigo de Paul, Leandro Paredes, Marcos Acuña; Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Agüero (or Angel Di Maria).