Argentina face Colombia in the second Copa America semi-final in the early hours of Wednesday morning, one day after Brazil beat Peru to progress to the Maracana showpiece
Neymar has issued words of encouragement to Lionel Messi as Argentina bid to set up a Copa America final clash with Brazil.
Argentina face Colombia in the second semi-final in the early hours of Wednesday morning, one day after Brazil beat Peru to progress to the Maracana showpiece.
Messi is aiming to reach his fourth Copa America final and win his first title having finished as runner-up in the 2007, 2015 and 2016 editions of the tournament.
And although Argentina are the harder opponent for Brazil on paper, Neymar will be cheering on his former Barcelona teammate as he captains the side against Colombia.
“I want Argentina, I am cheering them on,” said the Paris Saint-Germain superstar. “I have friends there and in the final Brazil will win.”
Argentina and Brazil last met competitively in the semi-finals of the 2019 Copa America, when Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino fired the Selecao to a 2-0 victory en route to their ninth title.
The two nations faced off again later that year, when Messi scored the only goal in a friendly match.
The last time Argentina and Brazil contested a Copa America final came in 2007, when the latter emerged 3-0 victors, although Messi was named the tournament’s best young player.
The 34-year-old also suffered final heartbreak on penalties against Chile in 2015 and 2016, but he has been in scintillating form this summer.
Messi is the Copa America’s top goalscorer and top assister with four apiece, while Neymar is in pursuit of the personal accolades with two goals and three assists.
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The 29-year-old set up Lucas Paqueta’s 35th-minute strike against Peru to set Brazil on course for a deserved but hard-fought victory at Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Stadium.
“It wears us down not only physically, but mentally too,” said Brazil boss Tite in his assessment of the match. “In these Copa America matches we play a mental marathon.”
Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro added: “Today we were solid at the back, everyone helped, that’s the spirit to win titles. Now it is all about mentality and heart. You don’t play a final, you win a final.”
Meanwhile, Peru will face the loser of Argentina and Colombia’s semi-final in a third-place match in Brasilia in the early hours of Saturday morning.
“The key is the constant overcoming of this team against adversities we face, the reactions we have. Peru has young players who did well,” said manager Ricardo Gareca of his side’s defeat by Brazil.
“We wish we had advanced, but now we have to prepare in the best way possible for the future.”