Good morning! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
in the early hours of Wednesday for a match which is very much worth getting up - or staying up - for!
It is the first of the Copa America semi-finals, and it could not be more enticing as hosts Brazil take on perennial runners-up Argentina in Belo Horizonte! This was the scene of arguably Brazil's worst-ever hour when they lost 7-1 to Germany in the World Cup semi-finals five years ago, and they will be desperate to avoid another humbling on home soil at the hands of Lionel Messi and co here.
We have just five minutes until kickoff, so let's have a quick look at the team news before we get underway...
BRAZIL STARTING XI:
Alisson; Alvesm Silva, Marquinhos, Sandro; Arthur, Casemiro, Coutinho; Jesus, Firmino, Everton
Subs: Cassio, Ederson, Fagner, Miranda, Militao, Luis, Allan, Fernandinho, Paqueta, Willian, Neres, Richarlison
ARGENTINA STARTING XI:
Armani; Foyth, Pezzella, Otamendi, Tagliafico; Acuna, Paredes, De Paul; Messi, Aguero, Martinez
Subs: Marchesin, Musso, Saravia, Pereyra, Di Maria, Funes Mori, Casco, Pizarro, Rodriguez, Suarez, Lo Celso, Dybala
KICKOFF: Here we go! Argentina get us underway amidst a cracking atmosphere in Belo Horizonte!
Almost a dream start for Brazil as Firmino collects the ball in a good position and sees his effort denied by Armani, but the Liverpool man was clearly offside and the linesman eventually raised his flag after the ball had gone behind for a corner.
Brazil have started this match on top and they win an early corner here, but Argentina deal with the danger well. Quick start from the hosts, though.
Argentina concede two fouls in quick succession as they try to get their foot on the ball for an extended period, which they have not managed to do yet. Messi is yet to have a kick in these opening exchanges.
This time the referee does not blow following a heavy challenge from Paredes on Jesus, and the home fans are not happy at all. The Argentina midfielder dived in to that one, but the ref deems it a fair challenge.
YELLOW CARD! This one is bubbling under the surface already and Tagliafico picks up an early booking for a heavy challenge on Jesus, who has been in for some heavy treatment already tonight.
Jesus already needs a bit of treatment on the sidelines having been on the end of a few big tackles in the opening 10 minutes here. Pep Guardiola will not have enjoyed things so far!
CLOSE! This would have been some way to break the deadlock, and Paredes is not far away either! The midfielder tries his luck from all of 35 yards and his swerving effort flies narrowly over the crossbar. Alisson would not have got there had it been on target!
Messi's touch has just been a little off on a few occasions already tonight, which is something we don't say often. He still keeps the ball on this occasion, but he couldn't make the most of a potential counter-attack.
Better from Argentina now as they win the ball back inside the Brazil half and Martinez plays a one-two with Messi. The striker is forced out wide and has to make do with a corner, but it is more encouraging from the visitors now.
Almost a gift for Brazil as Foyth is caught in possession inside his own half and that allows the hosts to thread the ball through for Jesus. The Man City striker's first touch is a little loose, though, and that allows time for the Argentina defence to get back and snuff out the chance.
GOAL! BRAZIL 1-0 ARGENTINA (GABRIEL JESUS)
First blood goes to Brazil as Gabriel Jesus
finally ends his wait for a first tournament goal in that famous yellow shirt!
Dani Alves is heavily involved as he drives forward, beats one man and then plays in Firmino down the right, with the Liverpool forward then firing a low ball into the middle. Jesus is unmarked in the middle, and he cannot miss as he sweeps the ball home from close range!
Brazil have enjoyed 61% possession in this match and they have certainly been the better side during the opening 20 minutes here. Argentina's only real sight of goal has been that long-range effort from Paredes.
All eyes will now be back on Messi, who always seems to be the man Argentina end up relying on. The Barcelona talisman is of course capable of the spectacular, but he needs help from those around him.
Speaking of Messi magic - Argentina have a free kick a long way out but Brazil feel the need to put in a two-man wall. Remember his goal against Alisson in the Champions League...
...this is too far out even for him, though, and his floated delivery into the box is easily collected by Alisson.
Messi almost has space to embark on one of his trademark runs forward before being felled by Casemiro - a challenge the referee eventually deems worthy of a free kick but no card.
OFF THE BAR! Brazil survive the resulting free kick by the skin of their teeth! This time Messi's cross from deep is right on the money and Aguero flicks it towards goal, but it comes off the underside of the crossbar with Alisson beaten all ends up. Casemiro eventually hacks it clear and Argentina are left to curse their luck.
Concern for Brazil and Liverpool fans here as Alisson requires treatment after that, although it looks as though he will be fine to continue.
Now it is Dani Alves who goes down and needs to be attended to. Call me cynical but that may well be gamesmanship from the free agent full-back just as Argentina were beginning to be encouraged.
CHANCE! Another chance for Argentina to level things up as Messi drives forward before picking out a pass to Aguero, who finds space due to a slip from Sandro. Aguero pulls the trigger, but Marquinhos gets across to make an important stop before Alisson is tested.
SHOT! Ominous signs for Brazil as Messi is beginning to warm up here! He skips away from two players, win the ball in a 50-50 with another and then goes for goal, although he slipped when shooting and his effort ended up high and wide of the target.
YELLOW CARD! A cheap yellow card for Acuna here as he reacts angrily to what he felt was an elbow by Dani Alves, although in truth there isn't much in it. Alves also picks up a booking for his role in the scuffle, though.
Everton almost finds space to dart into the box after being picked out on the edge of the area, but Pezzella is across to hack the ball behind for a corner.
SAVE! The resulting corner eventually drops to Arthur on the edge of his box, but his shot lacks the power or direction to truly trouble Armani.
Brazil are putting most of the pressure on in the closing stages of this first half. Argentina have been slowly growing into the game as the half has wore on, but a second goal for the hosts would leave them with a mountain to climb against a team that is yet to concede in this year's tournament.
There will be two minutes of added time at the end of this first half.
HALF TIME: BRAZIL 1-0 ARGENTINA
The first half comes to an end in Belo Horizonte, then, and it is Brazil who lead at the interval following an engrossing opening 45 minutes between these two great rivals.
There has not been a huge amount to separate the two sides, with both enjoying spells on top during that half, and it remains very finely poised ahead of the second 45 minutes.
The only goal of the game so far came after 19 minutes as Gabriel Jesus finally ended his wait for a tournament goal in the yellow of Brazil, sweeping his finish home after being found unmarked inside the area.
In truth it was a simple finish for Jesus in the end, with the hard work being done by Dani Alves and Firmino in the buildup. Alves skipped past two Argentine defenders before playing a no-look pass to Firmino, whose low cross from the right left the ball on a plate for Jesus to score.
Brazil have not threatened Armani's goal too often aside from that, though, and Argentina came within inches of levelling things up when they hit the bar on the half-hour mark.
Messi was the creator with a pinpoint cross from a deep free kick, and Aguero's glancing head beat Alisson all ends up. However, the woodwork came to Brazil's rescue, with the ball hitting the underside of the crossbar before being hacked away.
Paredes has also come close with a long-range piledriver which also had Alisson beaten, although this time the ball flew narrowly over the crossbar.
Argentina will certainly feel that they can still win this match after that first half, but the next goal could be crucial considering Brazil's fearsome defensive record under Tite.
KICKOFF: Brazil get us back underway for the second half here, and the hosts have made a change at the break with Willian replacing Everton.
Good spell of possession for Argentina at the start of this second half and it ends with Tagliafico bursting down the left and whipping a cross into the box which is just too high for Aguero.
CHANCE! This has been a bright start to this second half for the visitors and they force Alisson into his first save here. The ball drops kindly for Martinez on the edge of the box and he hits it first time on the turn, drawing a low stop from the Brazil keeper.
CHANCE! Another shooting chance for Argentina as Aguero, Martinez and Messi all combine to tee up De Paul. The midfielder has time to line up his effort, but he blazes it well over from the edge of the box when he should have done better.
Brazil just have not got going in this second half yet, and Argentina may need to make the most of this spell on top. You don't get many chances against this Brazil side so they need to start taking them.
CHANCE! Much better from Brazil as Jesus wriggles his way away from a crowd of Argentine defenders before smuggling the ball through for Coutinho. The Barcelona man finds himself breaking into the box, but he skews his effort off target under pressure from the last defender.
OFF THE POST! Argentina are denied by the woodwork again as this time Messi comes close! The Argentina number 10 collects a loose ball after Martinez's shot was blocked into his path, and his half-volley crashed against the near post. The danger is not yet over for Brazil, though, and Messi then flashes a low cross right across the face of goal.
YELLOW CARD! Martinez is the latest name in the book following a foul on Alex Sandro.
ARGENTINA SUB: Argentina make their first change of the match as Angel di Maria replaces Acuna.
Brazil may be forced into another change here as Marquinhos goes down and Miranda quickly begins to warm up. He would be a big miss if the hosts do make it through to the final.
Argentina come forward again here as De Paul clips a pass over the top for Di Maria, whose first touch lets him down inside the box and allows the defence to scramble back.
BRAZIL SUB: Sure enough there is the chance as Miranda replaces Marquinhos.
Lovely football between Messi and Martinez on the edge of the box and Alves then trips Messi to give Argentina a free kick in a very dangerous position...
SAVE! Alisson knows exactly what Messi can do from a free kick and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner again gets it on target, but Alisson gets across to pluck the ball out of the air.
ARGENTINA SUB: Another change for Argentina here as Giovani Lo Celso replaces De Paul.
Just over 20 minutes for Argentina to salvage something from this match now, and you'd have to say that they deserve an equaliser right now. The visitors have been the better team in this second half and can consider themselves unfortunate to have hit the woodwork twice tonight.
GOAL! BRAZIL 2-0 ARGENTINA (ROBERTO FIRMINO)
Huge, huge goal for Brazil as they double their lead against Argentina in a role reversal of the opener as Jesus assists Firmino!
Argentina had committed men forward and suddenly a Brazilian break left Jesus advancing through on goal. Pezzella lost a 50-50 with the Man City man, who then held off a challenge from Otamendi before cutting back and laying the ball across for an unmarked Firmino to apply a simple finish.
Is there any way back for Argentina now? You can never count out a team boasting the likes of Messi and Aguero, but Brazil have not conceded a single goal in this summer's tournament so far so it would take a huge effort from the visitors to drag themselves back from this one.
Martinez is not happy with Coutinho here as he feels the Brazilian is making the most of a challenge. He is probably right in truth, but he is running the risk of earning himself a stupid second yellow card. Lionel Scaloni
is not exactly setting the best example of the sidelines and he does pick up a booking for his protests.
A lifeline for Argentina perhaps? Messi is standing over another free kick in a dangerous position! They need something sooner rather than later from the maestro...
Messi's free kick hits the wall and goes behind for a corner, which falls to Di Maria but is then fired well off target from rage.
BRAZIL SUB: A third and final change for Brazil sees Gabriel Jesus limp off to be replaced by Allan.
Now Willian is down injured - a fourth Brazilian player to be stricken tonight. If this is to be a Brazilian victory then it will come at a cost ahead of the final.
Willian will try to soldier on here, but he is not moving freely at all. Just six minutes now separate the hosts from a place in the final of the Copa America!
ARGENTINA SUB: One final throw of the dice for the visitors as Paulo Dybala replaces Tagliafico.
The Brazil fans are revelling in this now - they are giving their side the 'Ole!' treatment as they edge towards a cathartic victory at the scene of their worst ever defeat.
There will be four minutes of stoppage time at the end of this match.
Brazil are just going through the motions now, keeping the ball and seeing the game out expertly as Argentina's frustration continues to grow.
FULL TIME: BRAZIL 2-0 ARGENTINA
FULL TIME: BRAZIL BOOK THEIR PLACE IN THE FINAL OF THE 2019 COPA AMERICA!
It is jubilation for Brazil as they book their place in the final of the Copa America on home soil, but yet more international heartbreak for Argentina and Lionel Messi.
Ironically, it was probably Argentina's best performance of the entire competition to datem but Brazil took their chances through Jesus and Firmino and that ultimately proved to be the difference in the end.
The hosts will face either Chile or Peru in Sunday's final, while this may well be the last we see of Messi in an Argentina shirt.
Right, that is all we have time for this morning!
Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for the opening Copa America semi-final as host nation Brazil become the first team to book their place in the final of the competition at the expense of their great rivals Argentina. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for any fallout from this contest.
From me, though, it is goodbye for now!