The Copa America 2021 finalists have finally been confirmed. Brazil will face Argentina to decide who lifts the prestigious trophy on July 10.
The semi-finals were action-packed, with world-class quality on display. Two of the best footballers in the world, Brazil's Neymar and Argentina's Lionel Messi, led their countries excellently, and will now face each other in the summit clash.
Peru and Colombia fought hard against Brazil and Argentina respectively, but failed to stop them from establishing their dominance. Both the Selecao and the Albiceleste deserve to be the Copa America 2021 finalists and the match-up promises to be an entertaining one.
Here, we look at the five best players from the semi-finals of Copa America 2021.
#5 Lucas Paqueta (Brazil)
Lucas Paqueta has been in good form for Brazil at the Copa America 2021, and has now scored two winning goals in the tournament for his country.
The Lyon midfielder scored the only goal of the game against Peru in the Copa America 2021 semi-finals to ensure that Brazil qualified for the finals. With Casemiro and Fred providing defensive cover in midfield, Paqueta flourished in an advanced role against Peru.
The 23-year old also scored the winner against Chile in the quarter-finals. Though he hobbled off towards the end of Brazil's match against Peru, he looks certain to start in the final against Argentina. Paqueta enjoyed a good 2020-21 season with Lyon and has carried that form over to the national side.
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#4 Lautaro Martinez (Argentina)
Lautaro Martinez has been the preferred no.9 for Argentina at the Copa America 2021, ahead of the vastly experienced Sergio Aguero.
After a slow start to the tournament, Martinez is now flourishing. He now has three goals in the Copa America 2021, and is second on the goalscorers list in this year's competition, behind Lionel Messi.
Martinez put Argentina ahead against Colombia in the semi-final and converted his penalty with aplomb in the shootout. The 23-year old is regarded as one of the best young forwards in world football and manager Lionel Scaloni's trust in him has been vindicated.
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#3 Neymar (Brazil)
Neymar may not have scored a goal in the Copa America 2021 semi-final, but the Brazilian was at his influential best against Peru.
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar very rarely fails to entertain when he is on the field, and it was no different this time around. Neymar's creativity and dribbling continue to stand out, and it is evident that he is Brazil's talisman and source of inspiration. He recorded two key passes and completed 87% of his passes against Peru.
The 29-year old will be keen to lift the Copa America 2021 trophy, but will have to be at his very best against Argentina. Neymar enjoys a good relationship with Lionel Messi and it will be interesting to see which attacker propels their team to success in the final.
#2 Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Lionel Messi has been the best player at the Copa America 2021 by a comfortable distance. The 34-year old has four goals and five assists in the tournament so far.
He provided the assist for Lautaro Martinez's goal against Colombia in the semi-final, and later converted his penalty in the shootout with aplomb. The pressure on Messi is immense to win a trophy with the national team as it has been for numerous years now. He has another chance to taste success at the international level when his side take on Brazil at the Macarana on July 10.
Messi and Argentina have often fallen at the last hurdle, and they will have to be extremely focussed against a good Brazil side in the Copa America 2021 final.
#1 Emiliano Martinez (Argentina)
Emiliano Martinez has enjoyed a rapid rise to the top in the last few years, and is now the first-choice goalkeeper for his national side despite making his debut only in 2021.
Martinez was one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League last season, and the Aston Villa man was Argentina's star in the penalty shootout against Colombia in the Copa America 2021 semi-final. The 28-year old saved penalties from Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona to ensure Argentina's qualification for the finals.
It has been a joy to see Martinez's rise. From being a backup goalkeeper at Arsenal for several years, the Argentine has become a first-choice shot-stopper at a Premier League club. To top it all off, he is now the no.1 for his national team as well.
Martinez deserves all the applause that he has received and will look to guide the Albiceleste to victory in the Copa America 2021 final.
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