Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni insisted he has already passed a major test of leadership ahead of his team's Copa America third-place play-off against Chile.

After several years of chopping and changing managers, Argentina were hopeful Scaloni would lead them to trophy glory in Brazil to prove without any doubt he is the right man for the job.

He was appointed last year in the wake of Argentina's World Cup failure, when Jorge Sampaoli was in charge.

At the Copa, however, Argentina missed out after losing 2-0 to hosts Brazil in the semi-finals and inevitably that led to questions being asked of Scaloni's leadership.

He addressed that issue on Friday, saying: "I do not feel as though I am on trial. I think my test has already passed. Bringing these players and making them play was my test, and I did it. What we came to do, we did."

Scaloni believes he has selected the best available squad for Argentina and said: "These players will be the future of the national team, whoever the coach is."

His contract runs until the end of the year, and it might help Scaloni's prospects of a longer run at the job if Argentina can deliver an assured performance on Saturday at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo.

"The match with Chile is important," said Scaloni. "We want to finish in the best way possible. Everyone is motivated."

The match is a repeat of the 2015 and 2016 final, both of which Chile won on penalties after goalless draws.

Chile's Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda looked back to the title match of three years ago, saying both teams are now in a new era.

Arturo Vidal is a major doubt for the game, Rueda revealed, saying the Barcelona midfielder's sprained ankle needed to be cared for. "But we know his character and his desire to be out there," Rueda added.

The former Honduras and Ecuador boss saw Chile lose 3-0 to Peru in their last-four game and, like Scaloni, he wants to leave Brazil on a winning note.

"It is an important match in every sense," Rueda said. "For dignity, pride and for wanting to finish well in a tournament at which something we achieved something important."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina - Lionel Messi

Messi was furious with the officiating in Argentina's semi-final defeat, reflecting the mood of a nation after two possible penalties were turned down and not referred to VAR. If he plays, will the Barcelona superstar be in the mood to take out his frustration on Chile? Messi has suggested he is ready to play on at least until next year's Copa America, which Argentina are co-hosting with Colombia, so this is not likely to be a farewell game.

Chile - Alexis Sanchez

While his Manchester United team-mates prepare to jet off to Australia on tour, Sanchez is finishing off his campaign in Brazil. The man who has flattered to deceive at Old Trafford could give United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a close-season boost by signing off from this tournament with a stirring performance - and he could still finish as the Copa America's outright top scorer given he is one of 13 players tied for the lead on two goals.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Argentina have won 59 of their 88 meetings against Chile in all competitions (D23 L6).
- Argentina lost on the only previous occasion they played in a third-place play-off in a Copa America tournament, beaten 2-1 by Colombia in 1987.
- This will be the first third-place play-off between two teams that have faced each other before in a Copa America final.
- Chile and Argentina lost their semi-final games against Peru and Brazil, respectively, despite having attempted 10 shots more than their opponents (Chile 19-9 Peru; Argentina 14-4 Brazil).
- Chile's Charles Aranguiz has created the most chances (17) in the 2019 Copa America; at least four more than any other player.

Sonny Bill Williams is a doubt for New Zealand's Rugby Championship opener against Argentina due to a hamstring injury.

The Blues centre was this week named in the initial All Blacks squad for the clashes with the Pumas in Buenos Aires on July 20 and South Africa in Wellington a week later.

Williams may not be available to feature for the world champions, though, as he is suffering from a tight hamstring.

The 33-year-old missed much of the Super Rugby season after undergoing knee surgery.

Williams played 50 minutes in a club match for Ponsonby against Grammar TEC last week before suffering another fitness setback.

The powerful midfielder has been linked with a return to rugby league after the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Sergio Aguero was angered by refereeing decisions as Argentina lost to Brazil in the semi-finals of the Copa America.

Brazil ran out 2-0 winners in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday despite Argentina recording 14 shots to the tournament hosts' four.

Aguero hit the crossbar with a header and Argentina captain Lionel Messi later struck the post, while Lionel Scaloni's side twice saw penalty appeals rejected.

Messi described decisions that went against his team as "bulls***" in the aftermath and Aguero, who appeared to be fouled by Dani Alves in the box, was similarly disparaging over the performance of referee Roddy Zambrano and his colleagues.

"The feeling is not good. The second goal was controversial," Aguero told reporters.

"Juan [Foyth] stops, thinking that the referee was going to stop. VAR worked very well until today - incredible!

"We do not pay attention to those things on the pitch, except for the blow that Dani Alves gives me from behind.

"I do not know why he [the referee] did not check it. At the time, he may not see it, and they told us that the VAR would become like a fifth referee."

There were contrasting emotions for Aguero's Manchester City team-mate Gabriel Jesus, who scored the opening goal and then superbly set up Roberto Firmino to clinch Brazil's first Copa final appearance since 2007.

"I'm speechless. I consider every match to be important, even the ones I don't perform well, because I take lessons from them," said Jesus, who struck his first goal of the tournament.

"Tonight I decided I was going to score, I was very confident from the kick-off. I missed a chance, then I managed to score. Firmino was able to spot me well, it gave me confidence.

"I'm very happy not only for the goal, but for how the team performed. Last week I've said they would struggle to break our defence. We worked hard and battled hard tonight.

"Unfortunately we couldn't score against Paraguay but we grabbed the goals tonight. Everyone should be pleased for the match they played, for the effort.

"This is Brazil! We have to play every match as we've been playing, with the same spirit, that we will achieve our goals."

Brazil, who have kept clean sheets in all five of their matches, will play either Peru or defending champions Chile in Sunday's final.

Lionel Messi railed against refereeing decisions as Brazil knocked Argentina out of the Copa America, the Barcelona star's rage coming after he suffered yet more international heartbreak.

Messi lost international finals in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but Argentina fell in the last four of this year's tournament, Brazil running out 2-0 winners in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

His lack of success for the national team - outside of the Under-20 World Cup in 2005 and striking gold at the Olympic Games three years later - contrasts sharply with his club career, with Messi inspiring Barcelona to 10 LaLiga titles as well as four Champions League crowns.

Messi will likely have another shot at glory as the Copa America is being held again in 2020 - Argentina are co-hosts with Colombia - but how have things gone wrong for him in Albiceleste colours?

 

World Cup final (2014): Argentina 0-1 Germany (aet)

When measured against the all-time greats, one thing has always proven to be easy pickings for Messi's detractors – unlike Pele and compatriot Diego Maradona, he has not won a World Cup.

That argument could have been laid to rest in Brazil, where Messi scored four goals to help Alejandro Sabella's side secure a final clash with Germany.

But Messi was below-par at the Maracana and Argentina fell to a 1-0 extra-time loss courtesy of Mario Gotze's goal, with the Barca star having fired a late free-kick off target.

He was named the player of the tournament in the immediate aftermath but showed little interest in the award as a far greater prize had just slipped through his fingers.

 

Copa America final (2015): Argentina 0-0 Chile (aet, 1-4 pens)

Messi did not shy away from his spot-kick duties when the 2015 Copa America final went to penalties against hosts Chile.

At the end of a tournament in which Messi scored just once, he stepped up to take Argentina's opening effort, just as he had in the quarter-final win over Colombia.

The result was the same – Messi found the net. However, he was then reduced to the role of spectator.

And what followed was agonising to watch for the forward, as misses from Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega preceded Alexis Sanchez's decisive strike.

 

Copa America final (2016): Argentina 0-0 Chile (aet, 2-4 pens)

The Copa America Centenario proved a far more productive one for Messi, who hit five goals in Argentina's march to yet another final against Chile.

Gerardo Martino's men scored 18 times in the United States, including a 2-1 triumph over Chile on their way to winning Group D.

But when the final rolled around, the goals dried up, with a 0-0 stalemate ensuring more shoot-out drama.

Messi again went first, but this time blazed over the crossbar as Chile defended their title. The crushing blow of the subsequent loss forced him into a decision to retire from the international game, though he later changed his mind.

 

World Cup last 16 (2018): France 4-3 Argentina

After a poor qualifying campaign, Messi dragged Argentina to Russia 2018 single-handedly with a stunning hat-trick against Ecuador, but he could not repeat the magic at the tournament.

A superb goal against Nigeria helped Jorge Sampaoli's side squeeze through the group stage, Argentina having opened with a draw against Iceland before losing 3-0 to Croatia.

But despite Messi recording a brace of assists in the first knockout round, France ran out 4-3 winners in Kazan on their way to winning the trophy.

Argentina captain Messi subsequently refused to speak to the media and took nine months out of the international spotlight amid speculation he would not play for his country again.


Copa America semi-final (2019): Brazil 2-0 Argentina

Messi did return to play for his country in the build-up to the Copa America, but there was yet more disappointment for the 32-year-old on the international stage.

He struggled to show his best form in Brazil, with a penalty against Paraguay his only goal of the tournament heading into the semi-finals.

Although unplayable at times in Belo Horizonte, Brazil's defence kept a fifth clean sheet in a row as Messi struck the post with a shot and set up Sergio Aguero for a header that hit the crossbar.

Whether Messi, who argued Aguero should have had a penalty at 1-0, is willing to put himself through the hurt again remains to be seen, but the chance to have one last Copa crack - and on home soil - will be tempting.

Lionel Messi is an "alien" but Brazil were able to neutralise him in their Copa America semi-final defeat of Argentina, according to Tite.

Gabriel Jesus scored the opening goal and set up Roberto Firmino for the clincher as Brazil won 2-0 in Belo Horizonte to reach the final for the first time since 2007.

Their clinical triumph heaped more international misery on Messi, whose Argentina team were beaten on penalties by Chile in the previous two finals.

Argentina's captain strongly criticised referee decisions after the game, branding the officiating "bulls***", while coach Lionel Scaloni insisted his side deserved to win.

But Tite, whose Brazil side have yet to concede a goal at this year's tournament, was thrilled with the way a defence led by Thiago Silva marshalled Messi.

"I talked to Scaloni, maybe after he spoke to you [the media], but Messi is an alien. Messi is exceptional," the Brazil coach told reporters.

"He deserves such consideration, that reverence he deserves. And to neutralise such a player, with your actions on the field, you can't stop him. 

"We had to tinker with the structure of the team, so we brought Firmino a little further back to close the midfield to reduce his actions, and also to explore our speed.

"We scored and then got less possession of the ball than we normally do, but we brought effectiveness and we were decisive.

"It's another step, happy, but it's another step to the final and tomorrow [Wednesday] we will see the other opponent."

Brazil were without Richarlison, Filipe Luis and Fernandinho against Argentina but Tite hopes the trio may be available for the final, which will be played against either Chile or Peru on Sunday.

"Filipe Luis is already recovering from the injury, but as for the physical aspect, he could not withstand the 90 minutes, even more with a possibility of extra time," Tite added.

"And on the other hand, Alex Sandro has come in very well. Fernandinho is in a process of evolution, maybe if I needed him during the game, he would come in. Even with some restriction.

"And Richarlison, I do not know, but he's had a good recovery time for mumps. I believe the time has passed."

An angry Lionel Messi blasted the refereeing after Argentina were denied two penalties in a Copa America semi-final loss to Brazil.

Goals from Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino saw Brazil overcome Argentina 2-0 in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

However, Argentina hit the woodwork twice through Sergio Aguero and Messi, and twice had penalty shouts turned down.

Nicolas Otamendi went down under a heavy challenge from Arthur following a corner and Aguero appeared to be brought down by Dani Alves, the latter occurring just before Firmino's sealer.

Messi felt Argentina deserved two spot-kicks, with the VAR – which has dominated headlines at the Copa America – not asking the referee to look at either incident.

"They were not better than us. They found the net early and the second goal came from a penalty [to Aguero] they didn't award," Messi told reporters.

"They [the officials] had booked a lot of bulls***, but they didn't even check the VAR, that's incredible.

"That happened all over the game. At the first glance of contact, they ruled in their [Brazil's] favour and this kind of bulls*** distracted us from the game.

"There is no excuses for us, but we need to review this, analyse it and let's hope CONMEBOL does something about it."

Messi, whose wait for a first senior trophy with the national team continues, praised Argentina's performance against Brazil.

"I think we played a great game. We made a great effort and they were not superior to us," he said.

Messi added: "If I have to help from somewhere, I'm going to do it. I felt very good with this group."

Lionel Scaloni felt Argentina deserved to win their Copa America semi-final against Brazil after suffering a 2-0 loss on Tuesday.

Argentina had their chances in Belo Horizonte, but fell after goals from Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino for Brazil.

Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi hit the woodwork for Scaloni's side, who enjoyed plenty of possession after the hosts opted to sit back having gone 1-0 up.

Scaloni, who was unhappy with the refereeing amid suggestions Argentina could have been awarded two penalties, felt his team deserved a place in the final.

"On merit, the team that should have gone to the final was Argentina," he told a news conference.

"We were superior to Brazil."

Scaloni added: "We showed that this group of players feel the shirt like nobody [else].

"We leave an image for the future of this national team and a very good way forward."

Aguero hit the crossbar after Jesus' opener, while Messi struck the post in the second half, before Firmino's sealer.

Asked about his future at the helm, Scaloni – in his first management job – said it was not the time to discuss his position.

"I don't think it's time to talk about it, because that's the least of my worries right now," he said.

"I want to be with my players and share this hard moment."

Brazil moved into their first Copa America final since 2007 with a 2-0 win over Argentina in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Gabriel Jesus starred for Tite's men, scoring the opener before setting up Roberto Firmino's sealer in the semi-final at the Estadio Mineirao.

Led by Lionel Messi, Argentina had their chances, hitting the woodwork twice through the star forward and Sergio Aguero.

But their chances were dashed by Firmino's 71st-minute goal as eight-time champions Brazil reached the decider.

In what was a frantic start, Leandro Paredes went close for Argentina, his powerful effort from range going just over.

Jesus had looked bright early and he opened the scoring for Brazil in the 19th minute.

Dani Alves did brilliantly to release Firmino down the right side of the area, the forward crossing for Jesus to convert from close range.

As Brazil appeared content to sit back after their opener, Argentina went close to an equaliser on the half-hour mark.

Messi's well-weighted set-piece from a central area was met by Aguero, whose header bounced back off the crossbar.

Philippe Coutinho had a great chance to double Brazil's lead in the 56th minute, the attacker blazing over after being set up following a wonderful turn by Jesus.

And, just a minute later, Argentina hit the woodwork again, Messi's volley from the left side of the area bouncing off the post after a blocked Lautaro Martinez shot fell to the star.

Argentina continued to dominate as they looked for an equaliser, Messi's 20-yard free-kick comfortably saved by Alisson in the 66th minute.

Instead, Brazil struck on the counter-attack to double their lead thanks to some excellent work from Jesus.

Jesus led a break with a brilliant run from inside his own half before composing himself to square for Firmino to tap in and make it 2-0.

That was the decisive blow as Brazil, who had already sat back after their opener, held firm to progress to the final.

What does it mean? Belo Horizonte ghosts brushed aside

At the scene of their 7-1 mauling at the hands of Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals, Brazil found a way – and got some luck. Argentina hit the woodwork twice, but Brazil did enough to reach their first Copa America final since 2007.

Brazil continue Argentina dominance thanks to Jesus

Brazil have never lost a competitive game at home to Argentina and that record was maintained, thanks largely to Jesus. The Manchester City forward was exceptional throughout, scoring once and assisting the other while causing constant problems.

Messi's wait goes on

Now 32, Messi's wait for a first senior title with Argentina continues. The star struggled to find top form at the Copa America, although he looked threatening against Brazil.

What's next?

Brazil will face either Chile or Peru in the final on Sunday, while Argentina meet the loser of that clash in the third-place play-off a day earlier.

As Argentina's Copa America campaign spluttered during its opening stages, familiar unflattering observations were made.

Once again, the great Lionel Messi was being let down on his quest for an elusive international honour by a team performing in an abject manner both individually and collectively.

A 2-0 loss to Colombia and 1-1 draw against Paraguay, where Messi levelled from the penalty spot, had strong echoes of Argentina's shambolic World Cup efforts in Russia last year.

But Lionel Scaloni's men have found their feet to stay in with a shout of glory – back-to-back 2-0 wins over Qatar and Venezuela setting up Tuesday's mouthwatering semi-final showdown against bitter rivals and hosts Brazil in Belo Horizonte.

Further improvement is likely to be required to see off the Selecao, but a more settled line-up has shown glimpses of the undoubted talent at the disposal of rookie coach Scaloni.

Perhaps most significantly, Messi has been well shy of his usual excellence in the past two games, forcing these standout members of the supporting cast and others to step up in a manner many have struggled to do so over recent years.

Lautaro Martinez

Martinez earned a start against Paraguay and survived the subsequent change of personnel and formation to a 4-4-2 diamond. Paired with Sergio Aguero in attack ahead of Messi at number 10, the Inter youngster struck early versus Qatar and Venezuela to settle La Albiceleste's ever-fragile nerves. The striker now has six goals in 10 international appearances and, crucially, carries none of the baggage of recent failures that many in Scaloni's squad remain lumbered with.  

Franco Armani

Thrust into an Argentina debut after Willy Caballero's World Cup horror show against Croatia, Armani appeared ill at ease with international football in Russia. But the 32-year-old River Plate goalkeeper secured the second Copa Libertadores of his career last December and has operated with impressive assurance in Brazil. Without his penalty save against Paraguay, Scaloni's men would probably have already packed their bags. Armani has proved an increasingly calm presence behind a still-suspect back four – his handling against Venezuela was superb.

Rodrigo de Paul

Angel Di Maria had to wait for a late cameo in the round of 16 to claim his 100th Argentina cap and the Paris Saint-Germain star's delay on reaching his landmark owes much to De Paul's emergence. The Udinese winger's verve after being introduced for an abject Di Maria at half-time was arguably the sole positive against Colombia and he has since tucked in on the side of Scaloni's diamond with committed and technically assured performances.

Leandro Paredes

Like many of his performances since joining PSG from Zenit in January, Paredes' outings for his country have often underwhelmed. But he excelled against Venezuela, with De Paul's industry and Marcos Acuna's pleasing tenacity allowing the 25-year-old's exquisite passing range to come to the fore – something Argentina lacked from the base of midfield during the arduous final knockings of Javier Mascherano's international career. Paredes' set-piece deliveries also caused plenty of problems at the Maracana as he shared dead-ball duties with Messi.

Brazil and Argentina will renew one of the most iconic rivalries in world football when they meet in the Copa America semi-finals on Tuesday.

A place in the showpiece will be on the line when they do battle at the Mineirao, the site of Brazil's 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Germany when they last hosted a major international tournament – the 2014 World Cup.

The Selecao will be keen to vanquish the darkest moment in their recent history by triumphing, while Argentina are hoping Lionel Messi can finally end their 26-year wait for silverware by leading them to glory in Brazil.

We recount some of the greatest and most controversial meetings between the South American powerhouses.

 

Argentina 1 Brazil 3 - 1982 World Cup second group stage

Tele Santana's side are remembered as the greatest team to never win the World Cup, but they did score a particularly impressive victory over Argentina.

Zico stabbed home after Eder's free-kick crashed down off the crossbar, before Serginho nodded Falcao's cross past Ubaldo Fillol and defender Junior slotted in off a brilliant throughball from Zico in the 75th minute.

It was all too much for Diego Maradona, who was shown a red card for a wild lunge on Batista in the closing stages.

Ramon Diaz pulled one back, but Brazil gained a degree of vengeance after Argentina's controversial 6-0 win over Peru saw La Albiceleste get to the final at their expense four year's prior.

 

Argentina 1 Brazil 0 – 1990 World Cup last 16

The Selecao were on top throughout in Turin but were denied by the frame of the goal on three separate occasions and Argentina took advantage.

Maradona burst past Alemao in the centre circle and surged forward, drawing three defenders towards him and sliding a pass to Claudio Caniggia. The striker rounded Taffarel and fired in an 80th-minute winner to stun Sebastiao Lazaroni's men.

However, controversy reigned days later when it was alleged that Brazil midfielder Branco was handed spiked 'holy water' by Argentina's physio during a break in play shortly before Caniggia's winner.

It remains a bone of contention between the two nations and the animosity was revived in 2005 when Argentina's coach at the competition Carlos Bilardo said: "I'm not saying it didn't happen."

 

Argentina 3 Brazil 2 – 1991 Copa America second group stage

This was undoubtedly one of their most chaotic meetings, with five goals and as many red cards.

Brazil touched the ball just once before Dario Franco headed Argentina ahead in the opening minute, but a stunning free-kick from Branco quickly levelled things up.

Caniggia and Mazinho were dismissed following a 31st-minute altercation and Argentina forged into a 3-1 lead through Franco and Gabriel Batistuta.

Joao Paulo reduced the deficit for Brazil, but Carlos Enrique, Marcio Santos and Careca were all given their marching orders before the final whistle and Argentina went on to claim the title.

 

Brazil 2 Argentina 2 (4-2 on penalties) – 1995 Copa America quarter-finals

It was the world champions against the Copa holders and it proved to be another controversial chapter in their incredible rivalry.

Brazil responded well to seeing Abel Balbo fire in a second-minute opener, as Roberto Carlos whipped in a low cross for Edmundo to slot home.

Batistuta launched a powerful drive through Taffarel at his near post to restore Argentina's advantage, but Leonardo Astrada was dismissed for wiping out Savio before half-time.

Juan Jose Borrelli, Diego Simeone and Nestor Fabbri could all have seen red too as Argentina looked to keep Brazil at bay, but their resistance was broken when substitute Tulio brought down Jorginho's cross with his arm and dinked past Hernan Cristante.

Daniel Passarella had already been removed from the dugout but returned to the pitch at full-time to remonstrate with referee Alberto Tejada over what was branded the 'Hand of God' - a reference to Maradona's infamous first strike against England at the 1986 World Cup - before witnessing his side lose on penalties.

 

Argentina 0 Brazil 3 – 2007 Copa America final

This was the first of Messi's four painful final defeats with Argentina.

Julio Baptista fired Brazil into a fourth-minute lead with a searing drive into the top-right corner and, after Juan Roman Riquelme rifled against the post, Roberto Ayala inexplicably guided Dani Alves' cross into the back of his own net.

The win was beyond doubt when Alves brilliantly picked out the far corner from Vagner Love's pass.

Brazil ensured Argentina's wait for a first senior title since the 1993 Copa America continued, and that barren run remains ongoing.

 

Argentina 4 Brazil 3 – 2012 friendly

It may not have been a competitive match, but it was one in which Messi showed he is capable of anything on his day.

The crowd at MetLife Stadium were treated to one of the Barcelona superstar's greatest international displays, which he began by sending Gonzalo Higuain's pass beyond Rafael to cancel out Romulo's opener.

He rounded the Brazil keeper off a throughball from Angel Di Maria three minutes later to double his tally, but Oscar and Hulk got Brazil back in front by the 72nd minute.

Federico Fernandez restored parity and Messi sealed the win in trademark fashion five minutes from time.

He picked up the ball on the right wing and beat Marcelo before angling towards the box. Juan Jesus stepped out to challenge him, but Messi sidestepped him and curled an exquisite 20-yard effort into the top-left corner to spark delirious celebrations on the Argentina bench.

Red cards for Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marcelo in stoppage time did little to overshadow a magnificent display from Messi.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni again backed Lionel Messi, saying he was happy with the star's performances at the Copa America.

Messi is yet to get to his best at the Copa America, but Argentina are into a semi-final against rivals Brazil in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

While the star forward has been criticised for his performances, Scaloni said he was satisfied with Messi's displays.

"We are used to him scoring three goals each game or dribbling past five opponents," he told a news conference.

"We are asking for something else. We are more than satisfied with his work. He has embraced the workload, he is our flag-bearer."

With Argentina into another semi-final, the Copa America is shaping as a great chance for Messi to win his first senior trophy with the national team.

Scaloni said his squad, who are coming off wins against Qatar and Venezuela, wanted to deliver for Messi.

"The players love Messi so much that sometimes they say they want to win the tournament for him," he said.

"The best player in the history of football is missing a title with Argentina, but we all want to win, not just him."

Tite believes Lionel Messi is unstoppable, but he hopes Brazil can find a way to slow down the Argentina star in the Copa America semi-finals.

Although Messi is yet to hit top form at the tournament, Argentina have reached the last four, where fierce rivals Brazil await in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Tite is wary of Messi, but also pointed to the talent in his attack ahead of the showdown.

"We spoke not only of the individuality of Argentina. They have grown in collective terms as well," the Brazil coach told a news conference.

"The collective enhances individuality. You don't cancel out Messi, no, you can slow his actions, but you cannot neutralise his actions.

"Just as [Philippe] Coutinho does not neutralise himself, [Roberto] Firmino, David Neres. They will, at some point, be decisive."

Brazil are in another semi-final in Belo Horizonte, the scene of their 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Germany at the 2014 World Cup.

However, Tite praised the support his team had received in the city and hopes fans can replicate it at the Estadio Mineirao.

"If the fans can bring all the affection they have given us when we arrived at the hotel to the stadium, it will leave me and all the players gratified and strengthened," he said.

"[Belo Horizonte] was the place of the greatest affection, greater empathy," Tite added.

"More than Porto Alegre, which is my land."

Lionel Scaloni confirmed Sergio Aguero would start for Argentina in their Copa America semi-final against Brazil on Tuesday.

Aguero, 31, has started three of Argentina's four games at the tournament, making up a front three including Lionel Messi and Lautaro Martinez in wins over Qatar and Venezuela.

Amid some doubts over the Manchester City star's place in the starting XI for the blockbuster clash at Estadio Mineirao, Aguero's spot was the only one Scaloni would confirm on Monday.

"What I can confirm is that Aguero is going to be a starter," he told a news conference.

"It always comes out that the doubt is Aguero and he ends up playing."

"The rest is not confirmed, not even Messi," a laughing Scaloni added.

Argentina must turn around a poor record away to Brazil, who are tournament hosts and arguably favourites, if they are to reach the final.

Brazil have never lost a competitive game at home to Argentina, winning eight and drawing two.

Scaloni believes Tite's side, who scraped past Paraguay on penalties in the quarter-finals, are favourites to win the Copa America.

"They are in an important situation. They have been playing together for a long time, the coach has been [in charge] for a long time. That is an advantage for them," he said.

"Brazil are the favourites for the Copa, the rival that everyone wants to beat."

Brazil's Alisson is hoping his positive experiences of facing Lionel Messi will help him keep the Argentina star at bay in Tuesday's Copa America semi-final.

Alisson will go head-to-head with Messi once more when Copa America hosts Brazil take on old rivals Argentina at Estadio Mineirao.

The goalkeeper has faced Messi's Barcelona four times across the past two seasons, with both Roma and Liverpool.

On both occasions – in the Champions League quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively – Alisson's sides have ultimately come out on top over two legs.

Messi did score past Alisson twice at Camp Nou on May 1, but Liverpool's goalkeeper kept a clean sheet in the second leg as the Reds completed a miraculous comeback at Anfield.

And Alisson believes if Brazil can replicate the performances of Roma and Liverpool, they will have a chance of stopping Messi in his tracks.

"I have confidence in my team, in my work, in the conviction that we are going to make a great game, we have to be prepared for everything," Alisson told a news conference.

"Roma and Liverpool were both very different. Fortunately they were two happy stories for my side.

"I was on two teams that played collectively. Our team has played like this, as a team, with a relationship. I have now lived two important experiences.

"But in a game like this there is no room for error against Argentina, everyone has to give their best."

Alisson played a crucial role in Brazil reaching this stage, making a fine save from Gustavo Gomez's penalty in the shoot-out win over Paraguay in the last eight.

"I do not see myself as a hero," Alisson said. "If I make saves, and the others do not convert their chances, it's no good. 

"We all know that football has circumstances within the game, so we have to be prepared for everything."

Lionel Messi continues his bid to end a career-long wait for major international silverware with Argentina, but Brazil stand in his way at the Copa America.

Messi has acknowledged his form has yet to peak at this year's tournament, Argentina's captain scoring only once in four games to date – a strike that came from the penalty spot.

With Argentina having lost each of the past two Copa America finals to Chile on spot-kicks, Messi will be determined to right that wrong in Brazil, though he failed to convert a strong personal desire for 2018-19 Champions League success into glory for Barcelona.

"He's playing well, for me, he's doing things right, he's not just scoring goals, which is what he usually does," Angel Di Maria said to Diario Ole. "He's running, giving everything, that's very important. He knows more than anyone that in the Copa America you have to run and think of others."

Having seemingly hit their stride in a 5-0 demolition of Peru, Brazil then needed penalties to knock out a stubborn Paraguay in the quarter-finals. They have drawn a blank in two of their past three Copa games.

Like Messi, Brazil are desperate for international success with a ninth Copa triumph likely to go some way to healing the still painful wounds from their 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Germany on home soil in the World Cup semi-finals five years ago.

Gremio winger Everton has sporadically impressed as a replacement for injured talisman Neymar, ruled out of the tournament by an ankle injury sustained in a friendly against Qatar, with Tite often fielding Gabriel Jesus from the right.

But failing to break down both Venezuela and Paraguay indicates a rethink may be required with Everton attacker Richarlison potentially an option to come into the front line after he recovered from a bout of mumps.

Midfield duo Arthur and Casemiro return from suspension but Fernandinho (knee) is a doubt and left-back Filipe Luis (thigh) may not be able to start for the hosts either.

Neither side head into Tuesday's clash in particularly good form but Brazil against Argentina, a fixture the Selecao have won four times in a row at the Copa America and arguably the biggest rivalry in international football, surely cannot fail to deliver drama.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil - Gabriel Jesus

Handed Manchester City's number nine shirt during the tournament, Jesus has yet to score his first Copa America goal but he could argue not being used as a central forward has affected his ability to find the net. Jesus did convert the winning penalty to down Paraguay in the last round, but another start on the right seems likely and he will have to find a way to make an impact from wide areas.

Argentina - Sergio Aguero

Jesus' City team-mate Aguero will not be shunted to the flank, but he has similarly been unable to show his typically prolific form in front of goal. A single strike against Asian Cup winners Qatar is not an impressive return for Aguero given he has Messi serving him and Inter striker Lautaro Martinez - who has been linked with a surprise switch to Barcelona - has outscored him by netting in successive matches.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil have never lost a competitive game at home against Argentina (W8 D2), and are unbeaten in their last seven meetings with their rivals in all competitions (W6 D1).
- Argentina have made it through to the final each of the last five times they reached the Copa America semis; indeed, they only failed to progress from the last four in 1987, when they lost 1-0 at home against Uruguay.
- Brazil have attempted the most (84) and have faced the fewest (24) shots so far in the 2019 Copa America – they have only faced five shots on target.
- Philippe Coutinho has been involved in the most shots so far in the 2019 Copa America: 29 (16 attempts and 13 chances created) – at least 12 more than any other Brazilian or Argentinian player (Roberto Firmino, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi all on 17).
- Brazil have made it through to the final in each of the last six occasions they reached the Copa America semi-finals; the last time they failed to progress from this stage was in 1979, against Paraguay (two legs).

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