Minas Gerais    -   The 2019 Copa America semi-finals have arrived with host nation Brazil facing fellow heavyweights Argentina in what many had predicted would be the tournament final. The matchup will take place on Wednesday morning at 5:30 am, with the winner to face either Chile or Peru in the final.

Brazil made it to the quarter-finals after a tense penalty shootout against Paraguay, while Argentina edged out Venezuela 2-0 thanks to goals from Lautaro Martinez and Giovani Lo Celso. This match represents a chance for both teams to redeem themselves after the last Copa America. Brazil embarrassingly crashed out early in a group containing Peru, Ecuador and Haiti. Argentina made it all the way to the final but bowed out on penalties to Chile, with Messi missing a penalty in the shootout.

The Copa America seems to be a giant hurdle for Brazil. The last time they won the tournament was in 2007, but since then the Selecao have failed to even finish in the final four. For all of the hype around the players they have, Brazil just haven’t been able to turn it into results. Widely tipped as a hot favourite for the 2018 World Cup, the side crashed out in the quarter-finals to Belgium on the back of a herculean effort by Belgium ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois.

All tournament long, Brazil have had bucketloads of possession. With 75 per cent of the ball against Bolivia, 69 per cent against Venezuela 69 per cent against Peru and 71 per cent against Paraguay, it is imperative that Tite’s side make that possession count. Being thwarted by stubborn defences against Venezuela and Paraguay, how will Brazil score their goals? Playing more on the counter attack will present more opportunities for the side. While dominant victories over Peru and Bolivia gave their gargantuan amounts of possession some credibility, Brazil need to start thinking of a plan B. Tite has enjoyed considerable success since taking over as Brazil’s manager, losing only two games throughout his tenure — the game against Belgium, and a friendly match against Argentina in Melbourne two years ago. If Brazil are going to win this match, it could come down to Philippe Coutinho. The man responsible for linking attacks together, the Barcelona midfielder will have to be on his game if the host nation want to advance to their first Copa America final since 2007.

For Argentina, they shouldn’t need a lot of motivation to be fired up for this matchup. The opportunity to defeat their continental rivals on their home turf, let alone win the whole tournament, would allow Argentinians to gloat for years to come.

Argentina had a mixed bag of results on their road to the semi-finals. After an opening game defeat to Colombia, they drew 1-1 with Paraguay before a 2-0 victory against guest entrants Qatar sealed their passage into the knockout stages. Another 2-0 victory, this time against Venezuela, booked them a ticket to arguably the biggest matchup of the Copa America.

Messi will yet again be the man that Argentina turns to, but it could be anyone’s guess as to where he lines up against Brazil. It could be as a second striker, out on the right wing, or as the No.10. Brazil’s backline knows him all too well, as Filipe Luis (formerly of Atletico Madrid) has played against him many times in La Liga and Dani Alves was his former teammate at Barcelona.