Sao Paulo - Argentina forwards Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero will have to sweat
if they're going to break down Brazil's watertight defence in their Copa
America semi-final, says Selecao striker Gabriel Jesus.
Hosts Brazil have yet to concede a goal in four matches at the Copa
while Argentina have improved defensively and kept clean sheets in their
last two matches.
Jesus expects a tight contest in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday and says
Brazil's defence won't give Argentina's forward line an inch.
"It's tough to get behind a defence that doesn't concede goals," the Manchester City forward said of Argentina's backline.
"It's also a long time since we conceded a goal. It's very important to have a solid defence.
"But it won't be easy for Argentina to get behind us. Obviously they
have Messi who is the best player in the world, and they have Aguero,
one of the best center-forwards, but they're going to have to sweat to
get in behind."
Jesus said he was sure "Argentina will attack us" and he's looking
forward to joking around with his City team-mates Aguero and center-back
Nicolas Otamendi, but only after the match.
What's clear, though, is that this is the most keenly anticipated match on the continent, between the two regional giants.
Brazil are the most successful team in World Cup history with five
titles to Argentina's two, but at a continental level, the roles are
reversed as Argentina have won the Copa 14 times compared to eight for
Should Argentina win again, they would match Uruguay's record of 15 titles.
"These are two giants, from countries with a lot of history," said Jesus.
"We're playing at home and we have more pressure to win, but it's a 'clasico' against Argentina."
These two sides' defenses have been on top so far but given the
attacking talent that will be on show, a goalless draw would be
unthinkable, even though there have been three already in the knock-out
stages out of four matches.
Brazil will likely line up with Liverpool's Roberto Firmino flanked
by Jesus and the exciting Gremio forward Everton, a reported target for
Argentina are almost certainly sure to stick to the trio that played
their last two matches -- 2-0 victories over Qatar and Venezuela -- with
Lautaro Martinez joining Messi and Aguero.
'Best in the world'
But there is one name that most occupies the thoughts of Brazil center-back Thiago Silva, and that's Messi.
The Paris Saint-Germain defender has painful memories of a Messi in
full flow. He and Marquinhos, hia center-back partner for club and
country, were torn apart in Barcelona's famous 6-1 Champions League
victory over PSG in 2017 that overturned a 4-0 first leg deficit.
Messi scored Barca's third goal that day.
"Obviously no matter how much attention you pay it doesn't count for much against the best player in the world," said Silva.
"Whenever we play against him for the national team or in the Champions League, it's difficult.
"No matter how much you study him, you'll never be able to understand the difference he can make.
"In the decisive moments, you think he'll do one thing, and he pulls
out of his hat something that you never expected. That's the difference.
"But now it's Brazil against Argentina and we'll try to defend our end and admire him some other day."
The semi-final has got everyone excited for what will be the 106th official FIFA-recognized meeting between the two rivals.
Brazil lead the head-to-head record with 41 wins to 38 and 26 draws.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni wants his players to put aside that
historic rivalry, though, and treat this simply as a major tournament
semi-final with a final at stake for the winners.
"We need to play this, not like just another match, but like a Copa
America semi-final, no matter who it's against," said Scaloni.
"We can't think about playing our greatest rivals. That amplifies the legend.
"We're going to try to impose our game and do what will give us an advantage," he added.