Lionel Messi’s chances of winning an elusive international title with Argentina are over for another year after a 2-0 defeat to Brazil in Belo Horizonte ended their 2019 Copa America hopes.
The hosts advanced to the final with a 2-0 win over their old rivals thanks to a goal in each half from strikers Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino.
The result was harsh on Argentina, who dominated large parts of the game, registering 14 shots to Brazil’s four and just shading possession.
“We should have been the team going to the final because we deserved it, no doubt about that. But sometimes football is unfair,” Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni complained.
Messi, who turned 32 during the group stages, will now weigh up whether to have another crack at winning the Copa next year, when the South American continental championship will be staged in Argentina and Colombia. It will be the fourth edition of the Copa America in the last five years.
Messi’s record against Brazil now stands at: played 10, won 3, drawn 1, lost 6, with four goals.
On Messi’s performance, Scaloni added: “It was thrilling to see him play. It didn’t work out today but he’ll have his rematch and the whole squad will have their rematch.”
Brazil, who have lost twice in 42 games under manager Tite, will now head to the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro for Sunday’s final against either Peru or reigning champions Chile.
It was the first time these age-old rivals had met in a major competition since Brazil beat Argentina 3-0 in the 2007 Copa final.
“It was another step towards our objective. We’re achieving all the goals that we’re setting ourselves,” said Brazil captain Dani Alves, who was instrumental in Jesus’ opening goal on 19 minutes.
“A lot of people doubt us but we have a lot of faith in ourselves, in our plan, in our hard work.
“We’re reaping the fruits of the seeds we’re sowing every day.”
Argentina have not beaten Brazil in a major competitive fixture dating back to 2005. The state of the pitch at the Mineirao stadium was hardly conducive to free-flowing football, and Argentina left-back Nicolas Tagliafico was booked for a wild lunge at Jesus early on.
Brazil took the lead on 19 minutes after a piece of individual brilliance from Alves.
Even at age 36 Alves showed he is still an attractive proposition to potential suitors after being released by French club Paris Saint-Germain. The marauding right-back showed beat three players before an outrageous no-look pass to Firmino, who crossed for Jesus to prod home.