Brazil v Argentina: Seleção can overcome old foes to reach Copa América final

Lionel Messi and Thiago Silva
Can Lionel Messi find a way past Brazil's excellent defence?
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Jack Lang runs the rule over the evening's big South American face-off...

"With only 10 goals conceded in 40 games under Tite, the Seleção will take some breaking down, and Scaloni's side have rarely played in a way that suggests they have a proper plan"

Brazil v Argentina
Wednesday, 01:30
Live on Premier Sports 1

Hosts still looking for ignition

When Brazil's quarter-final clash with Paraguay went to penalties after a frustrating goalless draw in 90 minutes, many fans feared the worst. The Seleção, after all, had been knocked out of the Copa América twice in the previous three editions by La Albirroja - both times after spot-kicks. But despite a few jangling nerves here and there - hi, Roberto Firmino! - the story ended differently this time. Tite's charges kept their heads and booked a place in the final four.

There will be more resonances from the past on Tuesday night. The last semi-final they played at the Mineirão didn't exactly go well, and Fernandinho and Daniel Alves have first-hand, 7-1 themed memories they will be trying to surpress. But this is also a chance to kick-start a stuttering Copa campaign; they have not been brilliant so far, but a match against their biggest rivals will get the adrenaline flowing at the very least.

Tite will recall Casemiro after he served a suspension against Paraguay, with Allan dropping back to the bench. Willian is also pushing for a start after a lively cameo in that one (Gabriel Jesus would be the man most likely to make way) and there's an outside chance that Fernandinho could reinforce the midfield, with an eye on Lionel Messi. That would be a concession to their opponents' strengths, but not necessarily an unwise one.

Will Argentina click?

With every passing match, the same questions get asked of Argentina. Are they finally clicking? Is this the right system? Has someone found a way to unlock Lionel Messi's potential in this team? The mood music is definitely a little more positive after the quarter-final win over Venezuela, but it's still hard to answer any of those questions in the affirmative with any great conviction. Was the display against Venezuela their best in the Copa so far? Yes, but it's a bit of a tallest dwarf competition.

Lionel Scaloni will probably stick with the system he has used in the last couple of games, with a narrow, flexible front three. The only worry would be over the defensive nous in the midfield: Rodrigo de Paul and Marcos Acuña are hard workers but essentially jobbing wingers, and even Leandro Paredes in the centre is better on the front foot than back. The back four can also expect a much stiffer test than Qatar or Venezuela provided.

The Messi question is still open, and there will be more focus on him here because he was unusually quiet on Saturday. A couple of promising moves broke down with heavy touches - he is human! - and it was Lautaro Martínez who posed the greatest threat. But Messi already has four goals to his name against Brazil and will be keen to properly stamp his mark on the tournament.

Brazil will take some beating

Brazil are yet to really hit the heights in this Copa: two of their games have ended goalless, and the wins over Bolivia (3-0) and Peru (5-0) were not quite as impressive as the scorelines would suggest. That said, they might easily have beaten Paraguay by two or three goals on another day, and they have suffered mainly because opponents sit deep and suck the life out of games.

Argentina probably won't do that. They don't have the defensive stability, for a start: Nicolás Otamendi can be got at, Juan Foyth isn't really a right-back and Paredes' positioning can be suspect. The Albiceleste aren't well drilled enough to feel confident of keeping Brazil out, which is likely to mean they give it a go in attack.

The question, then, might be whether Argentina can get much change out of the Brazil defence. With only 10 goals conceded in 40 games under Tite, the Seleção will take some breaking down, and again, Scaloni's side have rarely played in a way that suggests they have a proper plan. It's often a case of waiting for individual inspiration, which can work - they have good individuals - but Brazil are a savvy team and will restrict them.

Brazil themselves have lacked a bit of cutting edge without Neymar. But we favour their more established approach and top-rate defence, and are happy to side with them at 1.865/6.

Everton can shine again

Everton was Brazil's best attacking outlet against Paraguay, and unlucky not to score: he saw a powerful late effort deflected just wide. The Grêmio man will be up against Foyth and might also fancy attacking the space between the Tottenham man and Nicolás Otamendi with his searing pace. 3/1 is a fair price for him to score on the Sportsbook.

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