Mineirão-- No Neymar, no problem, right? The Seleção outclassed Argentina to reach the Copa America final, while Lionel Messi and Argentina have another disappointing trophy-less summer.
Man City striker Gabriel Jesus played his best games ever in a Brazil shirt, showing off his skill, strength, pace, and vision. He was a blur the whole game, flying by Nicolás Tagliafico, Nicolás Otamendi, and the rest of the back line. Firmino played a solid game as well for Brazil, adding a goal and an assist for the Liverpool striker.
Lionel Messi once again was disappointed by his teammates just not helping him in the clutch. Sergio Aguero hit the crossbar on a header in the first half and Messi hit the post in the second half. But those were the only chances for La Albicileste. Messi tried to show off his Barcelona magic by taking on defenders, but Brazil was ready for him. Casemiro, a defensive midfielder for Brazil, was hounding Messi like a rabid pitbull all game, he had no room to operate like he normally does. It also did not help that Messi's teammates stood around watching him dribble around the whole field like it was a 5th-grade travel soccer game.
Mineirão is infamous for Brazil fans because of the 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals. The fans have the image of that score ingrained in their brains forever. But, the players were going to do whatever they could so a loss like that wouldn't happen again.
55,947 fans showed up for a classic match between two South American giants. As soon as the whistle blew, it was clear both teams were ready to physically impose themselves but Jesus scored in the 19th minute from a beautiful low cross from Firmino.
Messi had a chance to even the score in the 67th minute after drawing a foul right outside the Brazil box. He tried to beat Allison Becker to the upper left-hand corner the same way he beat the Liverpool keeper in Barcelona's Champions League first-leg win over Liverpool in May. But Allison was ready for it, and snagged Messi’s kick out of the air like an All-Pro wide receiver.
Shortly after the free kick, Firmino scored an easy tap in after Jesus sprinted by the entire Argentina defense to put them in a 2-0 hole with 20 minutes remaining.
The Brazilian crowd was sent into a frenzy for the first time in 5 years.
The camera broke to Messi with his hands over his head, and man I felt for him. He played well but he was still a shadow of his former self. La Albicileste is still looking for their first major title since lifting the Copa America in 1993. The wait will have to continue.
Brazil will be awaiting either 2X Copa America champion Chile or Peru in the finals.