Yes – it’s Lionel Messi’s Argentina against Neymar’s Brazil in the Copa America final on Saturday. What a match to live for!
The entire nation watched with bated breath as Argentina won its semifinal against Colombia 3-2 on penalties after three magnificent saves by goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez with an equally breathtaking performance by none other than the incorrigible Lionel Messi, footballer extraordinaire and wizard.
Regular time ended 1-1 at the Mané Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia on Tuesday and the game went to a penalty shootout where the excitement was unbottled.
Argentina have not captured a major title since 1993 when it won Copa America. On that occasion, the team eliminated Colombia on penalties 6-5 in the semifinal after a goalless draw.
Argentina needed only seven minutes to open the scoring when Rodrigo de Paul found Messi, conveniently waiting to poach in the penalty box, with a slick through pass. The Argentina talisman star earned his fifth assist in the tournament with a pass to Lautaro Martinez, who sent the ball to the right corner past Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina.
An aggressive Colombia, led by Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, then hit the bar and the post in the second half before the Colombians leveled in the 61st minute with Luis Diaz, who received the ball on the left of Argentina’s box and miraculously kicked it with hardly a few degrees of an angle to frustrate Emiliano Martinez.
The last big opportunity in regular time came, unsurprisingly, with Messi hitting Ospina’s right post in the 81st minute from short range.
In the subsequent shootout, Martinez saved the shots taken by Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona. Messi converted his opportunity from the spot and was one of the most joyous players in the celebrations as he seeks his first major title with Argentina against favorites Brazil.
In tears, Martinez said after the match he wanted to face the Brazilians in the final in the Maracana Stadium.
“It is a great team, the favorite. But we have a great coach, we have the best player in the world and we will try to win it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Brazil beat Peru 1-0 on Monday to advance to the final.