Lionel Messi fails again as hosts Brazil clinch place in 2019 Copa America final
Brazil win semi-final 2-0 thanks to a goal in each half from strikers Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino
Lionel Messi's chances of winning an elusive international title with Argentina are over for another year after a 2-0 defeat to Brazil in Belo Horizonte ended their 2019 Copa America hopes.
The hosts advanced to the final with a 2-0 win over their old rivals thanks to a goal in each half from strikers Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino.
The result was harsh on Argentina, who dominated large parts of the game, registering 14 shots to Brazil's four and just shading possession.
"We should have been the team going to the final because we deserved it, no doubt about that. But sometimes football is unfair," Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni complained.
Messi, who turned 32 during the group stages, will now weigh up whether to have another crack at winning the Copa next year, when the South American continental championship will be staged in Argentina and Colombia. It will be the fourth edition of the Copa America in the last five years.
Messi's record against Brazil now stands at: played 10, won 3, drawn 1, lost 6, with four goals.
On Messi's performance, Scaloni added: "It was thrilling to see him play. It didn't work out today but he'll have his rematch and the whole squad will have their rematch."
Brazil, who have lost twice in 42 games under manager Tite, will now head to the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro for Sunday's final against either Peru or reigning champions Chile.
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.
"It was another step towards our objective. We're achieving all the goals that we're setting ourselves," said Brazil captain Dani Alves, who was instrumental in Jesus' opening goal on 19 minutes.
"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."
Argentina have not beaten Brazil in a major competitive fixture dating back to 2005. The state of the pitch at the Mineirao stadium was hardly conducive to free-flowing football, and Argentina left-back Nicolas Tagliafico was booked for a wild lunge at Jesus early on.
Brazil took the lead on 19 minutes after a piece of individual brilliance from Alves.
Even at age 36 Alves showed he is still an attractive proposition to potential suitors after being released by French club Paris Saint-Germain. The marauding right-back showed beat three players before an outrageous no-look pass to Firmino, who crossed for Jesus to prod home.
The concession of a goal sparked a reaction from Argentina. Sergio Aguero headed a Messi free kick on to the bar on the half-hour before Brazil cleared their lines, while the same players combined again only for Marquinhos to make a last-ditch block before Aguero could pull the trigger.
Moments later, Messi beat two men on the right, won back the ball with a sliding tackle after overrunning it, but then wastefully shot high and wide.
Argentina kept up the momentum in the second half with Lautaro Martinez unable to make the right connection with a volley at Alisson.
The upright came to the Brazil goalkeeper's aid next as Messi lashed in a fierce shot. The Liverpool custodian then produced an excellent save to deny the Argentina No 10 a goal from a trademark free kick.
Just as Argentina looked capable of finding a way back into the match, Brazil stung them on the counter-attack with Manchester City striker Jesus getting away from two defenders and teeing up the unmarked Liverpool striker Firmino for a tap in on 71 minutes.
"We knew that it would be difficult because of the players they have," Brazil midfielder Casemiro said.
"It’s about details. We knew it would be scrappy and that there would be wind-ups and time wasting. But we have to congratulate our strikers who did a great job. When they got chances, they scored."
Updated: July 3, 2019 01:02 PM