A place in the 2019 Copa America will be on the line when South American powerhouses Brazil and Argentina face off at Estadio Mineirao

Just two more rounds remain before the 2019 Copa America winner is crowned. The penultimate stage kicks off with hosts Brazil taking on arch rivals Argentina at Estadio Mineirao, with the two South American powerhouses vying for a place in the final.

Brazil have had far from a smooth sailing at the 2019 Copa America thus far, having failed to win two of their four games in regulation time. The Selecao did top Group A to put themselves in a strong position, but flattered to deceive once again in their quarter-final tie with Paraguay, having had to go through penalties to book their place in the semi-finals.

Argentina have not been too unlike their hosts, but appear to be finally starting to find some semblance of form after a horrendous start to their Copa America campaign. La Albiceleste have now won back-to-back games in the tournament, as they look to win the competition for the first time since 1993, although they need captain Lionel Messi to return to his best.

Brazil were victorious the last time they locked horns with Argentina, with Miranda scoring the only goal of the game. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Copa America encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Brazil

Brazil progressed to the semi-finals after overcoming Paraguay on penalties. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Brazil progressed to the semi-finals after overcoming Paraguay on penalties. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Tite does not have many pressing injury concerns ahead of the crucial game against Argentina. The Brazil head coach is sweating over the availability of just Richarlison, who missed out against Paraguay due to mumps.

While the 22-year-old has reportedly recovered from the illness, his involvement could be touch and go against Argentina. If Richarlison is indeed unable to make it to the starting lineup, Gabriel Jesus is expected to continue in his stead, after a decent showing last time out.

The rest of the attacking unit is unlikely to see any changes, with Roberto Firmino leading the line for Brazil, with Philippe Coutinho being the creative force behind him. Everton will complete the attacking quartet, starting on the left side of the Brazil attack.

In the middle of the park, there could be one change, with Casemiro replacing Allan as the team’s holding midfielder. Alongside him in the double pivot should be Arthur, who will be the playmaking half of the midfield duo, looking to link up with Coutinho for the most part.

There could be one forced change in defence, however, with Filipe Luis a major doubt due to the injury he picked up against Paraguay. Brazil’s formidable defence could thus, see Alex Sandro partnering Dani Alves in the full-back pairing, with Thiago Silva and Marquinhos comprising the central defensive partnership. Alisson will man the goal once again for the tournament hosts.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Alves, Silva, Marquinhos, Alex Sandro; Arthur, Casemiro; Jesus, Coutinho, Everton; Firmino

Brazil

Argentina

It has been a tale of constant tinkering for Argentina so far at the 2019 Copa America, with Lionel Scaloni struggling to get the best out of his team. But, following the 2-0 win over a stubborn Venezuela side, he might have zeroed in on his most efficient system yet.

The 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond produced wonderful results, with the onus being on the full-backs to provide the width. In such a scenario, Nicolas Tagliafico has often revelled and the 26-year-old could be the chief creator for Argentina against Brazil.

On the opposite flank, Juan Foyth looked much more assured than Renzo Saravia, although the 21-year-old’s output could do with some work. At the heart of the Argentina defence, there is no looking past German Pezzella and Nicolas Otamendi, while Franco Armani is the firm first-choice goalkeeper for La Albiceleste.

At the base of the midfield diamond, Leandro Paredes is nailed on as the preferred choice, having been a constant for Argentina in the tournament. Paredes will be defensively supported by two box-to-box midfielders, who will also be looking to link up with Lionel Messi, who will be at the tip of the diamond.

Giovani Lo Celso might have done enough to clinch one of these spots, having scored off the bench against Venezuela, with Rodrigo De Paul likely being his partner. Upfront, Messi will play off the strike partnership of Sergio Aguero and the in-form Lautaro Martinez.

Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Armani; Foyth, Pezzella, Otamendi, Tagliafico; Paredes; De Paul, Lo Celso; Messi; Martinez, Aguero

Argentina

Key Stats

  • Brazil hold s slight edge in their head-to-head record against Argentina, having prevailed in 45 of the 109 meetings between the two South American powerhouses (D25 L39).
  • Brazil are unbeaten in their last four Copa America meetings with Argentina stretching back to 1993, when Argentina won on penalties en route to the title.
  • The last five times Argentina reached the semi-final stage of the Copa America, they also made it through to the final, but managed to win the title in only one of those tournaments (1993).
  • Brazil boast the best attack and defence in the 2019 Copa America, having scored eight goals while keeping a clean sheet in each of their outings so far.
  • Brazil have kept clean sheets in each of their last six games across all competitions stretching back to March; the Selecao have conceded only two goals in their 14 outings since crashing out of the World Cup last year.

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

Will Messi lead from the front? (Photo by Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

Will Messi lead from the front? (Photo by Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

It has been a strange tournament for Lionel Messi, who is admittedly playing well below his best levels thus far at the 2019 Copa America. But, the fact that Argentina have gone through to the semi-finals without their captain influencing things much ought to be taken as a major positive.

However, with the game against the formidable Brazil up next, La Albiceleste need Messi to rediscover his best, seeing as the hosts are yet to be breached at the back. At his best, Messi can dominate any defence, and if he can indeed return to top form, it could be a long night for Brazil. If not, however, Argentina might just go crashing out of the tournament.

Prediction

Brazil 1-0 Argentina

When the two biggest teams in South American football clash, tempers are expected to flare. And, in such a setting, anything could be possible. But, Tite has forged a mentally hardened side that rarely crumbles under pressure and the strong defensive showings are indicative of the same.

While one can expect Lionel Messi to finally turn up at the 2019 Copa America, the experience of Thiago Silva is likely to trump the Argentina captain. On the other end, Brazil’s struggles in attack could continue, but Gabriel Jesus could be their wildcard against their arch-rivals.

Expect a strongly competitive clash that is likely to be played out for large parts in the middle of the park. But, Brazil should do enough to clinch a narrow win, and The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-0 success for the Selecao to advance to the final of the Copa America for the first time since 2007.