Brazil-Argentina rivalry rekindled: why Saturday’s Copa America final between Neymar and Messi is a must-see

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Earlier this week, after beating Peru in this summer’s Copa América semi-finals, Neymar Jr. – the undisputed star of the Brazilian national team – was asked to shine with post-match sweat, who he wanted for the final. Without skipping a beat, he smiled and said, “I want Argentina.

Despite the clear indication that this was in part due to the fact that he wanted to take on his friend and former teammate Lionel Messi, Neymar was speaking on behalf of not only the team or the nation, but also all lovers of the beautiful game. worldwide.

Brazil vs Argentina, three words that effortlessly come out of the mouths of any fan, a rivalry that transcends statistics and feeds on history, creating over the years a proverbial photo album of the who’s who of southern royalty -american, granted Neymar’s wish and will indeed play the protagonist at the Maracanã stadium on Saturday night.

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Not only is this a good way to wrap up this summer’s Copa América, one that started with controversy and justified skepticism, CONMEBOL very likely thanks the football gods that it’s the final to wrap it all up because success of Euro 2020 made it almost impossible to beat. This is not to say that the football fan in general will not watch the finals or the competitions, but there is something like excess, especially when it comes to a tournament that took place on a continent still in the taken with the effects of the pandemic.

But alas, the show goes on, and if there’s any chance of making the Hollywood-style headlines on Saturday night, it’s by bringing the world the most intense rivalry in international football. It doesn’t hurt that these are nations that have given us some of the most gifted footballers the world has ever seen. From Pelé, Zico and Garrincha to Alfredo Di Stefano, Diego Maradona and Adolfo Pedernera. The artistry of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka with the stoic beauty of Gabriel Batistuta, Juan Roman Riquelme and Fernando Redondo. The shirts themselves have such a contrasting style (bright canary yellow and golden green against the sky, light blue and pristine white) but at the same time, they are also a metaphor for the best that nature has to offer, the sun and the sky . This game is therefore the highest peak that we can imagine and thanks to the fascinating paradox of football, it constitutes the perfect spectacle.

Before discussing this Saturday and the importance of the title for both teams, it’s important to remember the history of this rivalry. On the one hand, you should know that Brazil vs Argentina was born out of much more than football. This match, like any match in South America, is also linked to the cultural makeup of its people. Football is part of the political prism of every society and in South America the national teams bear the responsibility for these voices. It is no different from kneeling before kickoff in defense of social and racial justice or the simple, yet meaningful symbol of wearing a rainbow armband. Ahead of this tournament, for example, players expressed their thoughts on participating in this tournament and criticized playing in the first place due to the continent’s struggles with COVID-19 to the point that Brazilian members considered a boycott.

In “Soccer in Sun and Shadow” by Eduardo Galeano, he says that “the history of football is a sad journey from beauty to duty”. Just like his time in South America, it is a real testament to what these players represent. Most of them are, in the end, street children, who seek to make their nation proud. Brazil and Argentina share a history of tumultuous electricity, and I mean using that word directly to shock the system, both good and bad. Known as the South American Championship at the time, the 1925 match played on Christmas Day in Buenos Aires ended so badly that they waited more than a decade to replay and renew the rivalry. . It was a furious foul caused to Brazilian Arthur Friedenreich by Argentinian Ramon Muttis, which sparked a brawl between the two, followed by the rest of the squad, then it escalated with supporters scuffling in the bleachers. No player has been sent off and Argentina overcame a 2-0 deficit to win the tournament That day. The two parties will not meet until 1937.

From the late 1930s to the mid 1940s there was Argentine dominance with some controversial Brazilian victories. In 1939, two matches included destruction in Rio de Janeiro – where this Saturday’s final takes place – as part of the Copa Roca, a unique competition created by former Argentine president Julio Argentino Roca 26 years earlier. Argentina won the opener 5-1, forcing Brazil to seek revenge immediately a week later. They got it, but it was not without drama as Brazil, who fought 2-2 just before the whistle, got a penalty. Argentina captain Arcadio Lopez was so angry that he verbally attacked the official. He had to be taken off the pitch and the rest of the squad followed, leaving an empty goal for Brazil to score and win 3-2.

Over the years, more and more matches have come and gone that have created more dramatic moments, fueling the Eternal Fire. It’s like these two nations know something the rest of the world needs to know: No matter what, the two hate each other on the pitch.

Then came the long period of two leading men: Pelé and Diego Maradona. The former gave Brazil a new identity, winning three World Cup titles between 1958 and 1970. Argentina, forced to accept Brazilian royalty, finally awaited hers as Maradona led them to another chapter: that of global recognition. The two nations have created separate chapters in this rivalry, where it was no longer about performances against each other, but now legacy.

The fighting continued and the volcano continued to erupt in different competitions. There was the 1990 World Cup round of 16 game where Argentina won 1-0 but was called the “Holy Water Game” after Brazilian Branco blamed training staff Argentinian for giving him a contaminated water bottle containing tranquilizers. Or a year later, in one of the most incredible Copa America games with five goals and five red cards. Time and time again, Brazil and Argentina wanted the limelight in the most dramatic way and we, like lions in the throes, wanted more.

So fast forward until Saturday night and once again, the spotlight is on these two aging colts of world football. Neymar Jr. knows his country is there to defend the title at home, but this time he wants to be part of it. While on the other side, Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player the game has ever seen, returns to familiar surroundings (this was in 2007, his first final, when Brazil beat Argentina 3- 0) knowing that the end of his career is staring straight at him, patiently waiting to see when the curtain falls. Neither have ever won this tournament.

Messi and Argentina also know this is a glorious opportunity to win for Diego Maradona, while Brazil will do everything possible to ensure that does not happen at home.

Whoever you are this weekend just know this: this game is a battle between two rivals showing us a football metaphor. It’s beautiful and chaotic, dirty, virgin, fair and unfair. Most importantly, this is a match that requires two top-notch opponents to carry their country’s weight on their shoulders and triumph on the pitch. And no matter how much you think they hate each other, nothing beats the simple fact that one without the other isn’t a competition at all. And that’s why this match, filled with an incredible story, always starts with respect.


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