Copa America Final - Brazil v Peru: Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus the key men

Andy West 21:41 06/07/2019
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Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus

Brazil will seek to secure the Copa America crown for the first time since 2007 with Sunday night’s final against rank outsiders Peru at the Maracana in Rio.

Tite’s men are huge favourites to take the title after disposing of arch rivals Argentina 2-0 in the semi-finals, especially as they have already beaten Peru 5-0 during the group stage.

But Peru are buoyant after recovering from that horrendous result to march to their first final since 1975, and the hosts can expect a much stiffer examination this time around.

Let’s take a look at the big pre-game talking points.


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Brazil haven’t always been able to produce free-flowing football during the course of this tournament, with their troubles in getting past Argentina – who dominated large chunks of Tuesday’s semi-final and twice hit the woodwork – underlining the sensation that this is far from a vintage Brazilian side.

However, they were able to conjure a pair of outstanding goals to progress to the final, with the team’s Premier League-based forward line of Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus making the difference.

The opener against against Argentina was set up by Firmino with a precise cross to give Jesus a tap-in, before the tables were turned for the second goal as the Manchester City man embarked upon a scintillating counter-attack to give the Liverpool forward a simple finish.

The understanding between Firmino and Jesus is the biggest threat to a Peruvian backline which has gone way beyond expectations to keep clean sheets against both Uruguay and Chile in the knockout rounds, and will now be aiming to prove the group stage humiliation against this weekend’s opposition was just a very bad day at the office.

The hosts could also do with Philippe Coutinho stepping up after a mediocre tournament, while flying winger Everton’s place is under threat following a pair of sub-par performances. But on current form, the Premier League duo could be the men who matter.


Ever since Pele and co wowed the world in 1958, Brazilian football has always been synonymous with creative and exciting attacking play – nobody does the beautiful game better, according to the popular stereotype.

In the last couple of decades, however, a succession of national teams have followed a far more pragmatic approach, with just as much emphasis on defence as attack.

And that is certainly true of the current crop, with Tite’s team basing their challenge on a highly organised defensive unit which has not conceded a single goal so far.

The central defensive partnership of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, backed up by Liverpool keeper Alisson and Real Madrid’s midfield destroyer Casemiro have formed a formidable spine, keeping clean sheets in seven consecutive games including pre-tournament friendlies.

So it might not be traditionally Brazilian, but don’t be surprised if the hosts lift the trophy by grinding out a 1-0 victory – because this particular team is defined far more by rigid defensive organisation than by joyous attacking flair, and they will be more inclined to protect a narrow lead than take any risks by chasing a bigger margin.


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The most compelling tactical question ahead of the contest is how Peru will approach the game, because their tactics have differed markedly in the two previous knockout ties.

In the quarter-final against Uruguay, Ricardo Gareca’s men were happy to defend their penalty area, limiting their attacking ambitions and forcing their opponents to play their way through. The ploy worked, with a goalless draw after 90 minutes being followed by a ruthless display of penalty-taking in a shoot-out triumph.

The semi-final against Chile, however, was a very different matter as Peru got onto the front foot from the opening whistle, exploiting the wily movement of veteran forward Paolo Guerrero, the penetration of skilful wingers Andre Carrillo and Edison Flores, and the creative passing of playmaker Christian Cueva.

Whether Gareca dares to employ such a bold strategy in the daunting surroundings of a final against Brazil in the Maracana remains to be seen, but the vitality and dynamism of Peru’s semi-final performance suggests they are determined not to go down on the back foot, and the hosts cannot simply assume they will spend the whole game attempting to pick their way through massed ranks of red and white shirts camped inside their own penalty area.

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