Europe could expect England against Italy in Sunday’s Euro 2020 show, but there is an even bigger match to look forward to in South America than an older rivalry between two of the most successful teams in the final. of Saturday’s America’s Cup.
Brazil against Argentina is a true classic.
The teams first met in 1914 and in the years that followed, they established themselves as two of the most historic sides of world football.
Together they have won seven world cups.
The two teams have been head to head against their rivals in this year’s Copa America and in Neymar and Lionel Messi are the two most important artists of the tournament.
Argentina are unbeaten in 19 games going into the match at the Maracana Stadium, while Brazil, the hosts and reigning champions, have not lost because Argentina beat them in a friendly in November 2019.
This year’s final is particularly interesting because of the time, in terms of organization and staff.
The tournament was supposed to be held in Colombia and Argentina but Brazil took the lead at the last minute due to unrest in Colombia and a COVID-19 fountain in Argentina.
It’s also another tournament where Argentina – and more particularly Messi – are looking to finish a long series of trophies.
They have not won a major title since the Copa America win in 1993 and Messi has never won silverware with the national party.
Brazil is a tight favorite and not just because it’s at home and has a slightly better record until the tournament. They also have a reputation for beating Argentina in crunch games.
The two parties met four times in the final, three in the Copa America and one in the Confederations Cup – in 2005.
Argentina defeated Brazil in the forerunner of the Copa America in 1937 but have not done so in a showpiece match since.
Brazil won in 2004 in the Copa America final in Peru and returned to Venezuela in 2007, when they overcame a fanciful match involving a young Messi in his first international final.
Meanwhile, a major controversy ensued before the final.
A famous Brazilian sports journalist, Fabiola Andrade, published a photo of herself with the Argentina jersey, saying that she will support Argentina instead of Brazil because Messi deserves a title.
This has generated huge discussions involving celebrities, politicians and players, with Neymar playing jokes against “the one who rages against it”.
But far from that, the mood in general has been one of contempt for the tournament.
Brazil has reported more than 19 million cases of coronavirus, including more than 531,600 deaths, the second highest number of deaths being the United States.
Maracana opens for fans
On Sunday, up to 7,800 people will be allowed to enter the 78,000-capacity Maracana.
This will make it the first match in the 2021 America’s Cup, South America’s largest international football tournament, with fans in the stands.
Those wishing to attend should arrive with a negative coronavirus test done no more than 48 hours in advance. Once inside, they will be required to observe social distance.
More than 29,000 have died of coronavirus in Rio alone. The city’s mortality rate from the virus is 432 per 100,000 inhabitants, almost double the 252 / 100,000 figure across the country.
“I don’t support the host of the tournament and I will never do it,” 36-year-old Brazilian Paulo Leierer told Al Jazeera.
“It’s unacceptable [given the COVID situation]. The Copa America did not help drive away the COVID problems. What helps to alleviate the concern is economic stability.
“I love football but I haven’t really followed the national team for a while since I was used to politics by a candidate who attacks democracy. I lost interest.”
That moment when Brazil finally won the Olympic gold in front of a delirious crowd at the Maracanã stadium. They could win again tonight in the #CopaAmerica final? 🇧🇷#StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/K7BrGWkMXf
– Olympics (@Olympics) July 10, 2021
Strong support for the event’s reception came from Brazilian far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, whose critical handling of the pandemic is the subject of a parliamentary inquiry.
The build-up to the final gained a little more traction and interest.
Ratings of matches on public TV have been very low, not only losing in number of viewers for the Euro, but also other regular shows.
“I don’t support the tournament taking place in Brazil because of the health scenario we are facing with the pandemic,” Isabelle Jungton, 28, told Al Jazeera.
“Such a big event in Brazil now makes the situation much more chaotic. Football will not eliminate the biggest concern that is the pandemic. I support the Brazilian team, but that is not relevant now.”
Despite the outcry, not everyone in Brazil is against the tournament taking place.
“I support the tournament.” Football was already done nationally with very strict health and safety protocols, plus the infrastructure in Brazil was ready for the event. This debate about whether or not the tournament is just political, ”Alex Roberto Arno, 56, told Al Jazeera.
“It’s certainly not at the same level as the Euro. The quality is not even what you see in the Euro, but they support Brazil and I think they will win. “
More information from Chris Goldenbaum in Sao Paulo.