Belo Horizonte (Brazil): Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino scored the goals as Brazil beat arch-rivals Argentina 2-0 on Wednesday to qualify for the Copa America final.
Jesus and Firmino netted a goal apiece in each half to give Brazil a victory which ensured Lionel Messi’s frustrating wait for a major international tournament title with Argentina continued.
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.
English-based Jesus and Firmino were the stars, each creating the other’s goal, although captain Dani Alves had a major say in the opener.
“It was another step towards our objective. We’re achieving all the goals that we’re setting ourselves,” said Alves.
“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,” he added.
But it was a miserable night for Messi, whose hopes of landing a major international honour with Argentina ended in disappointment once again.
He will get another opportunity next year, though, with the fourth Copa America in the last five years, due to be played in Argentina and Colombia.
“We should have been the team going to the final because we deserved it, no doubt about that. But sometimes football is unfair,” complained Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.
In what was always expected to be a feisty affair there were some wild early tackles flying in, and Argentina’s Nicolas Tagliafico was first to be booked for a lunge at Jesus.
The uneven pitch looked like it had been trampled by a herd of wildebeest before kick-off and both sides struggled to play flowing football.
Brazil’s Casemiro was even jeered after sending a ball straight out of play.
The first chance came when Argentina’s Leandro Paredes let fly from 30 yards but the ball whistled just over the top of goalkeeper Alisson’s goal.
Brazil took the lead on 19 minutes after a piece of individual brilliance from Alves. He beat three players on a mazy run before sending Firmino clear down the right with a no-look pass, the Liverpool forward crossing for the unmarked Jesus to tap home. He returned the favour for the Liverpool man on 71 minutes.