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Messi faces Brazil in semi-final

By Peter Auf der Heyde

Lionel Messi has won almost every trophy possible at the individual level. But as far as the national team is concerned, the five-fold Ballon d’Or record is rather meagre.

While he won an Olympic title in 2008 with the Under-23s and three previously led his country to win the Under-20 World Championship, he has not won anything with the senior team.

At 32, his time is running out and the Copa América is perhaps his last opportunity to add a trophy to his collection.

But for that Argentina will have to achieve what only team in history has achieved: beat Brazil at home.

The only time Brazil lost in the Copa América was 60 years ago when Paraguay rallied to win the match 2-1. An inconsequential defeat for a Seleçao already qualified and who subsequently won the final of the competition 7-0 against the same Paraguay!

This year things could be different, Brazil is struggling to convince and after its victory on penalties against Paraguay in the quarter-finals, it will have to step up on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte.

Argentina also lacked the unanimity even though they managed to beat Venezuela 2-0 in the only quarter-final match where goals were scored during regulation time.

Despite goals from Lautaro Martinez and Giovani Lo Celso, Messi admitted he needed to play better to give his team a chance to win the tournament.

« It wasn’t my best Copa América, » he admitted, adding that the state of the pitch did not allow his team to play its one-two fasts. « The terrain is very difficult. They’re in bad shape. »

The other semi-final will see the defending champion, Chile, face the surprise team of the tournament, Peru on Wednesday in Porto Alegre.

Peru came close to defeating Uruguay after Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Giorgian De Arrascaeta took the ball into the net, goals cancelled out by the referee after the video was used.

On penalties, Barcelona striker Suarez missed the first shot giving Peru the lead, which managed to convert its five chances and qualify for a return match in the 2015 semi-final, which they lost 2-1 to Chile.

La Roja, which includes Barcelona and Manchester United stars Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez in its squad, won its quarter-final match on penalties against a Colombia that seemed unbeatable.

African football fans will be able to watch the semi-finals live on StarTimes sports channels.

Peter Auf der Heyde

Peter Auf der Heyde is an award-winning writer and journalist who covers major European football leagues. South African by birth, he is particularly interested in the connections between Africa and European football and has covered 12 African Cup of successive nations live. Former director of the sports department of the German news agency dpa, he is a recognized expert of the Bundesliga.

Peter Auf der Heyde played as a professional for Bosmont Chelsea in the South African Premier League and now divides his time between South Africa, Germany and the United Kingdom.