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Arthur and Coutinho are through to the final of the Copa América. But it’s the end of the road for Argentina and Leo Messi following Tuesday’s semi-final, with Brazil advancing on the back of a 2-0 win to meet Peru, who beat Arturo Vidal's Chile 3-0 in the other semi-final.
Joy for Brazil, despair for Argentina
All three Barça players were on for the full ninety in Belo Horizonte.
Despite some early pressure from the Argentines, it was the hosts who took the lead just past the quarter hour mark when a brilliant solo run from former Barça man Dani Alves was finished off by Gabriel Jesús. Shortly before half-time Sergio Agüero struck the post following a chipped free-kick from Messi.
Most of the chances went Argentina’s way after the break, with Messi in the thick of the action – hitting the post and being defied by the same goalkeeper Alisson from those fateful nights against Roma and Liverpool.
Brazil defended solidly, and against the run of play extended their lead when a Gabriel Jesús led counter attack was culminated by Firmino and that was as good as game over.
Brazil advance to their first final since 2007, while Argentina’s quest for their first continental crown since 1993 will have to wait.
Messi: We couldn't convert our chances
Following the game Messi spoke to the media, voicing his discontent with the refereeing, which he reckoned to have favoured the hosts, and especially two penalty claims that he felt his side was denied.
"We were always trying” he added. “And they weren’t creating chances. We hit the woodwork twice. We couldn’t take the chances we had.”
“But if I can keep helping this team in some way, I shall. I felt great with this group … There are some good young players coming through, who love their national team and want to play. There’s a solid future here and we should respect the youngsters. They’re worked very hard – we have material to build upon.”
Chile eliminated by Peru
However, like Luis Suárez’s Uruguay in the quarter finals, Arturo Vidal’s Chile also crashed out to the surprise package of the Copa América, Peru, who after reaching the World Cup Finals for the first time in 36 years, have now reached the final for the first time since 1975, when Barça’s Hugo Sotil scored the winner against Colombia to become our first ever champion of South America.
Edison Flores, Yoshimar Yotún and Paolo Guerrero scored the goals that put Peru into the final, although the real hero was once again goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, penalty save included.
Vidal: They were never better than us
“They were never better than us” said a dejected Vidal, who had been hoping to win the title for the third time in a row. “But they took the chances they had. We’re very sad, although we’re also more united than ever.”
“It was a very strange first half. They only had two chances and they scored both. We didn’t take ours. We made the kind of mistakes that you can’t afford to make in a semi-final.”
The Copa América is not quite over for Chile however. They will play Argentina for third place, although it’s not a game Vidal is particularly enthused with.
“It’s not an important game at all” he commented. “We’re only playing it because we have to go by the rules. Third place matches are like that.”
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