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 semifinal, 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 centre-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 teammates Aguero and centre-back Nicolas Otamendi, but only after the match.
While Brazil are the most successful team in World Cup history with five titles to Argentina’s two, the roles are reversed at continental level as Argentina have won the Copa 14 times compared to eight for Brazil.
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.”
Ahead of the game, there is one name that most occupies the thoughts of Brazil centre-back Thiago Silva, and that’s Messi.
“Obviously no matter how much attention you pay it doesn’t count for much against the best player in the world,” said Silva.
“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 semifinal has got everyone excited for what will be the 106th official Fifa-recognised 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 semifinal with a final at stake for the winners.
“We need to play this, not like just another match, but like a Copa America semifinal, 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.