Preview: Brazil vs. Argentina – prediction, team news, lineups

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Two of international football’s great rivals will renew hostilities in the early hours of Wednesday morning when Brazil take on Argentina for a place in the final of the Copa America.

Hosts Brazil go into the match as favourites to progress against an Argentina side that has failed to hit top gear so far in this summer’s tournament, with a showdown against either holders Chile or Peru awaiting the winner.


Brazil

Brazil's players celebrate after Casemiro opens the scoring against Peru in their Copa America clash on June 22, 2019
© Reuters

Brazil boast a proud record of having won the Copa America on all four occasions that they have hosted the tournament, and most signs so far have pointed towards them extending that 100% success rate this summer.

It has not been plain sailing all the way for Tite ‘s side, with goalless draws against Venezuela and Paraguay threatening to halt their progress, but of the teams left in the tournament it is Brazil who have impressed the most.

Indeed, the Selecao are remarkably the only group winners to have made it through to the semi-finals, while their record of eight goals scored and none conceded gives them both the best attack and best defence of the final four.

Five of those eight goals came in the last group game against potential finalists Peru but, while the attack has been either hit or miss, the defensive solidity has been a running theme of Tite’s reign.

Brazil have now kept clean sheets in their last six outings across all competitions stretching back to March, and they have conceded only two goals in their 14 games since crashing out of the World Cup last year.

Of course, Argentina’s Lionel Messi is better equipped to break through such a stubborn defence than perhaps any other player in world football, but it is still a major strength for the hosts as they bid for a first Copa America crown since 2007.

It is worth remembering that Brazil are without their own talisman in Neymar too, and his absence arguably showed more during the quarter-final stalemate with Paraguay than at any other stage of the tournament so far.

The five-time world champions had 71% possession and 26 shots against a Paraguay team that had a man sent off shortly before the hour mark, but ultimately needed penalties to avoid a major upset and book their place in the semis.

Brazil have not reached this stage of the Copa America since they last lifted the trophy in 2007 – beating Argentina in the final, incidentally – and the last four times that they have made it to the semi-finals they have ended up going all the way.

Recent Copa America form: WDWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWDWW


Argentina

Giovani Lo Celso is congratulated by his Argentina teammates after scoring his side's second goal against Venezuela on June 28, 2019
© Reuters

While Brazil may feel that their 12-year wait for Copa America glory is far too long, Argentina have not lifted this trophy since 1993 despite being South America’s second-most famous footballing nation behind Wednesday’s hosts.

La Albiceleste actually have an impressive record in the competition over the past 15 years, reaching the final in four of the last five editions only to be beaten at the last hurdle on each occasion.

It has been a long run of heartbreak, then, and it leaves Messi still without an international title to his name despite being part of four major finals with his country.

Argentina are now just 90 minutes away from yet another appearance in the showpiece event, although they may feel fortunate to have even made it this far following a string of underwhelming displays up to this point.

At one stage it looked as though Lionel Scaloni‘s side may not even make it out of the group stages having picked up just one point from their opening two games, losing to Colombia before being held by Paraguay.

2-0 win over Qatar was enough to guarantee a quarter-final spot, and they beat Venezuela by the same scoreline last week to progress through to this stage despite once again being short of their best.

Argentina were the only one of the eight quarter-finalists to score during a goal-shy round, though, with all of the other three matches ending 0-0 and going to penalties.

Scaloni will be hopeful that his side are improving at just the right time, then, and victory over their bitter rivals on Wednesday morning would see them win three games in a row for the first time since June 2016 – which incidentally came in their last Copa America semi-final appearance.

With Messi in their ranks it is entirely possible for them to do just that, although they will go into the match as fairly sizeable underdogs and would need to upset the odds – as well as the partizan home crowd – if they are to reach the final yet again.

Recent Copa America form: LDWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWLDWW


Team News

Richarlison in action for Brazil on June 15, 2019
© Reuters

Brazil were without Richarlison for the quarter-final draw against Paraguay after he contracted mumps, but the Everton man will return to training and should be available for selection on Wednesday.

The hosts also have doubts over Filipe Luis, who was taken off at half time in the previous round, and Fernandinho, who has not featured since the second group game.

Tite started with both Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus again last time out, and he is likely to do the same once more with Everton and Philippe Coutinho in support.

Argentina have no new injury concerns to worry about, but Scaloni must decide whether to start Giovani Lo Celso after he came off the bench to score against Venezuela.

Lautaro Martinez is expected to start again having scored in Argentina’s last two games, with Messi slotting in behind him and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.

There is a decision to be made at right-back, where Scaloni has used three different players during the four tournament games so far, with Tottenham Hotspur’s Juan Foyth the latest to fill in.

Paulo Dybala and Angel di Maria are among the big names who could once again miss out on a place in the starting XI.

Brazil possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alves, Marquinhos, Silva, Sandro; Arthur, Casemiro; Jesus, Coutinho, Everton; Firmino

Argentina possible starting lineup:
Armani; Foyth, Pezzella, Otamendi, Tagliafico; De Paul, Paredes, Lo Celso; Messi; Aguero, Martinez


Head To Head

These two great rivals have not met at the Copa America since the 2007 final, which Brazil won 3-0 with Dani Alves among the scorers.

Indeed, the Selecao 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.

Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero has scored 235 goals for City

Pep Guardiola hailed David Silva as “one of the best players” he has seen after he contributed to all three of Manchester City’s goals in a convincing win at Bournemouth.

‘Howe can take heart’

Eddie Howe’s side won just two of their 12 matches against top-six opponents last term and this was always going to be a particularly tough assignment for the Cherries who failed to register a shot in their 1-0 loss to Guardiola’s side in March.

The sweltering south coast conditions probably did not help, as the hosts chased shadows in the first 30 minutes with City dominating possession.

However, much of that could be attributed to Bournemouth’s own errant passing and Howe was heartened his side responded and did not capitulate against the champions.

The Cherries even had a measure of control in the 10 minutes either side of half-time, when Charlie Daniels’ knee injury prompted a reshuffle of personnel and the introduction of their scorer Wilson.

His effort that flew into the top-right corner was far from an isolated attempt at goal.

Nathan Ake miscued a volley after Steve Cook’s long throw, while Adam Smith blazed a glorious chance over the City bar from six yards, after being presented with the ball by visiting defender Nicolas Otamendi.

Callum Wilson also drew a save from Ederson as Bournemouth continued to press though, in the end, that proved scant consolation.

“We did have our chances and that’s the frustrating thing,” Howe said.

“Compare this game to our previous encounters against Manchester City, and that’s the most we’ve created by a long way. We were a constant menace to them physically, but it was a really tough afternoon – we really had to dig in for long spells.”

Man of the Match – David Silva (Man City)

David Silva
Only Ryan Giggs and Cesc Fabregas have made more Premier League assists in single games than Silva

Bournemouth’s City hoodoo – the stats

  • Manchester City have won all nine of their top-flight games against Bournemouth – the best 100% win record by a team over an opponent in top-flight history.
  • Bournemouth have lost four of their last seven home Premier League matches (W1 D2 L4), as many as in their previous 18 at the Vitality Stadium.
  • Man City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne registered his 50th Premier League assist in his 123rd appearance, reaching the tally in the fewest number of games in the competition’s history.
  • Sergio Aguero’s second goal was his 400th career goal for club and country, with 235 of those coming for City.
  • Bournemouth’s Harry Wilson became the youngest player (22 years & 156 days) to score in his first two Premier League appearances since Anthony Martial in September 2015 for Manchester United (19 years & 289 days).
  • In all competitions, City’s Raheem Sterling has scored 11 goals against Bournemouth – more than any other opponent during his club career.
  • City’s David Silva assisted twice in this game and has assisted more than once in 14 separate Premier League games – only Ryan Giggs and Cesc Fabregas have done so more often (17 games).
  • Aguero and Silva have combined for 27 Premier League goals – the only duos to combine for more are Thierry Henry and Robert Pires (29) and Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard (36).

What’s next?

Bournemouth host Forest Green in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday 28 August (19:45 BST) before travelling to Leicester in the Premier League, on Saturday 31 August (15:00 BST).

Manchester City are next in action when they welcome Brighton to Etihad Stadium in the Premier League, on Saturday 31 August (15:00 BST).

Davis Cup final: Spain beat Canada with wins for Rafael Nadal & Roberto Bautista Agut

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Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal won all of his matches this week to help Spain take their sixth Davis Cup title

Rafael Nadal clinched an emotional Davis Cup victory for Spain over Canada when he beat Denis Shapovalov in front of a jubilant home crowd in Madrid.

His 6-3 7-6 (9-7) win sealed the title, with Roberto Bautista Agut returning to the team three days after his father’s death to put the hosts 1-0 up.

Bautista Agut was in tears after beating 19-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 in the opener.

Nadal’s win gave Spain an unassailable 2-0 lead and a sixth Davis Cup title.

The world number one has won all eight of his rubbers this week to help Spain to a first title since 2011 and ensure local fans were celebrating at the end of the inaugural edition of the competition’s revamped version.

“When you have this moment it is difficult to describe with words – so many feelings, so many emotions you have never felt,” Spain captain Sergi Bruguera told Eurosport.

“Unbelievable. Imagine Roberto yesterday was in the funeral of his father, now he is here giving everything – the mentality, the spirit, giving everything for his team.

“Rafa, he is out of this world, I don’t know if he is an alien or what. Not one day we went to sleep before 3am this week.”

The new format has featured 18 teams playing in a week-long event in the Spanish capital, with a round-robin group stage followed by knockout rounds. Under the old system, teams played home and away ties through the year.

‘I could not be happier’ – Nadal caps successful year with team joy

Rafael Nadal had not lost a Davis Cup singles match since 2004 and it was always going to be a tough task for Shapovalov to send the tie to a deciding doubles rubber.

Nadal, who this year won the French Open and US Open to take his total to 19 Grand Slam titles, dominated the first set before the 20-year-old Shapovalov got himself back into the match to force a second-set tie-break.

The youngster saved two match points with blistering back-to-back winners and fashioned a set point of his own, but finally succumbed when he netted a forehand.

Nadal dropped to the ground before being mobbed by his team-mates. When he finally got to his feet, he held aloft Bautista Agut in a tight embrace as the cheers rang out.

“An amazing week, a lot of things we went through – the father of Roberto passed away… a lot of things happened,” Nadal said.

“I could not be happier. It has been an unforgettable moment in this amazing stadium; we can’t thank the crowd enough. Our team spirit prevails.”

Bautista Agut puts aside grief to deliver for Spain

Roberto Bautista Agut
Roberto Bautista Agut spoke through tears after his victory, which came three days after the death of his father

While Nadal’s victory settled the title, it was Bautista Agut’s performance so soon after his bereavement that heightened the emotions.

Bautista Agut went home on Thursday after his father was taken ill. The Spanish federation later announced the player’s dad had died.

But the world number nine returned to Madrid to watch his team-mates beat Great Britain in the semi-finals on Saturday before being recalled for the final.

The 31-year-old, whose mother died last year, pointed to the sky after claiming victory when Auger-Aliassime went wide on the first of three match points.

He hugged his captain Sergi Bruguera before leaping into the arms of his delighted team-mates in the stands.

“It was very special feeling on the court and I just could go out to try my best, give my best,” he told Eurosport.

“I am very happy I could win the first point for Spain.”