Sports Mole previews the 2019 Copa America final between Brazil and Peru at the Maracana, including predictions, team news and head to head records.
Brazil and Peru will do battle for the title of South American champions on Sunday when they face off in the final of the 2019 Copa America at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
The contest pits the pre-tournament favourites against the surprise package and is the second time they have played each other in this summer’s competition, with Brazil having run out 5-0 winners during the group stages.
Three weeks after getting the 46th Copa America underway against Bolivia, host nation Brazil will bring it to a close at the world-famous Maracana when they take on Peru.
Those three weeks have seen the Selecao deal with the unparalleled weight of expectation which comes with being the world’s most successful international team playing a major tournament on home soil, and few could begrudge them from taking the title home on Sunday.
Brazil have been the standout team of this summer’s tournament, scoring more goals than anyone else and making it through to the final without conceding once – even against Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and co in the semi-final with Argentina.
It would be misleading to suggest it has all been plain-sailing for Tite‘s side; a 0-0 draw with Venezuela in the group stages raised questions, while they also needed penalties to beat Paraguay in the quarter-finals following another goalless stalemate.
Even that semi-final triumph over Argentina was not entirely straightforward, with the 2-0 scoreline flattering Brazil and official complaints since being directed at the referee – sentiments even Brazil captain Dani Alves seemed to agree with.
For the most part, though, the host nation have lived up to their billing as heavy pre-tournament favourites and it would be a monumental shock if they did not add a ninth Copa America crown – and a first since 2007 – to their trophy cabinet this weekend.
Of course, the scars of their 7-1 defeat to Germany at the 2014 World Cup – the last major tournament they hosted – still haven’t entirely healed, and fans of a certain vintage will still wince at the memory of the Maracanazo – an almost inconceivable defeat to Uruguay in the final of the 1950 World Cup, which was played at the very same stadium as Sunday’s match will be.
However, when it comes to home Copas America, Brazil’s record is unrivalled. The Selecao have won all four editions of the tournament that they have hosted in the past and are overwhelming favourites to make that five out of five this summer.
Evidence that they are once again South America’s best team has been growing in the 12 months since their World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of Belgium, with 13 wins and two draws from their 15 outings in the meantime.
Indeed, that loss to Belgium is their only defeat in 31 matches across all competitions, and one more win to add to that run will finally make their status as South America’s best official for the first time in 12 years.
Whereas previous Brazilian teams have been based on the attacking exploits of a plethora of legends too long to mention, Tite’s crop take particular pride in their defensive record, and their string of shutouts during this tournament mean that they have now kept seven clean sheets in a row and 25 in their last 31 outings.
Even more impressive is their record in competitive matches, where they have kept 17 clean sheets in their 22 such games under Tite, suffering only that defeat to Belgium.
In terms of attackers Neymar is perhaps the only one from the current crop whose name will go down alongside the best of the best in Brazil’s illustrious history, but nowadays they rely on a more collective effort to the extent that they have been able to brush off the enforced absence of a player who has scored 60 goals in 97 games for his country.
Neymar will celebrate as wildly as anyone should Brazil complete the job on Sunday, but what is set to be their finest hour of the past decade will come without the man who has been so talismanic for them over that period.
The ability to add a world-class talent to a team already this impressive bodes well for the future, though, and on the evidence of the past three weeks it may not be long before Brazil are seriously challenging for the title of world champions once again.
Recent Copa America form: WDWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWWW
Not many will have expected Peru to make it all the way to the final of this summer’s tournament, and now the biggest challenge of all awaits the plucky underdogs.
Los Incas have upset the odds on numerous occasions already – most notably in beating Uruguay and Chile during the knockout rounds – and will feel that they have a puncher’s chance of pulling off another almighty shock.
Ricardo Gareca will be the first to admit that his side have had their fair share of luck along the way, but to have beaten two-time defending champions Chile by three clear goals in the semi-finals will have filled them with confidence.
Granted, Chile were largely architects of their own downfall with a string of defensive errors – gifts Peru cannot expect from such a watertight Brazil defence – but it was still an eye-catching result in a tournament which has been wildly unpredictable.
Further improvement is still needed if La Blanquirroja are to make it all the way, though, and their wins against Uruguay and Chile could have easily been different considering Uruguay had three goals disallowed and missed a string of chances, while Chile hit the woodwork and missed a penalty.
Nevertheless, nothing should be taken away from Peru’s progress to the final and it is something they have been threatening for some time, having now made it to at least the semi-finals in three of the last four editions of the tournament.
The victory over Chile was a major breakthrough as they reached the final for the first time since 1975, and one good omen for Gareca’s side is that they have gone on to lift the trophy on both previous occasions that they have made it this far – in 1939 as well as 1975.
Such occasions only come along once every couple of generations for Peru and so Sunday’s match will be a huge moment in their history as they aim to leapfrog Paraguay and Chile as the fourth-most successful team ever in the Copa America.
To do that, though, they will need to find a way past a team that has already beaten them 5-0 at this summer’s tournament, and the psychological impact of that result is one in a long list of obstacles for them to overcome on Sunday.
Recent Copa America form: DWLWW
Recent form (all competitions): LDWLWW
Willian has been ruled out of this match after picking up an injury late in the semi-final against Argentina.
The Chelsea winger was forced to finish the match with Brazil having already made all three subs, and his absence likely confirms that Everton will once again start in the front four.
Richarlison is pushing to be fit in time for the final, but even if he does prove his fitness then Tite is unlikely to sway from the attacking quartet which has started the last three games – particularly considering both Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus bagged a goal and an assist in the semi-final.
Indeed, Everton, Firmino and Philippe Coutinho are three of the 13 players level on two goals at this summer’s tournament and so are in line to challenge for the Golden Boot.
Fernandinho is also in a race against time to recover for this match, although he is in a similar situation to Richarlison in that he has likely lost his starting role during his absence.
One player who could return to the side is Filipe Luis, who missed the match against Argentina but is expected to earn a recall in place of Alex Sandro if he is deemed fit enough.
At the back, Alisson has already secured the Copa America Golden Gloves to go alongside the ones he earned in the Premier League and Champions League, and he will be bidding to keep a ninth consecutive clean sheet between Liverpool and Brazil.
Peru record goalscorer Paolo Guerrero looks to be the chief threat to break that run, with the veteran captain set to lead the line once again.
Guerrero is another of the players on two goals at this summer’s tournament alongside Edison Flores, who is also expected to start again this weekend.
Los Incas are likely to be without their second-highest scorer of all time Jefferson Farfan, though, with the winger still battling against injury.
Brazil possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alves, Marquinhos, Silva, Luis; Arthur, Casemiro; Jesus, Coutinho, Everton; Firmino
Peru possible starting lineup:
Gallese; Advincula, Zambrano, Abram, Trauco; Yotun, Tapia; Carrillo, Cueva, Flores; Guerrero
Head To Head
Brazil have utterly dominated the history between these two nations, winning 32 and losing just four of the past 46 meetings.
Three of those Peru wins have come in the Copa America – including one on Brazilian soil en route to the 1975 title – while their most recent triumph sent the Selecao crashing out of the last edition of the tournament in 2016, albeit courtesy of a hugely controversial handball goal.
The two nations have met twice since then, though, with Brazil scoring seven times without reply in those games to make it 12 wins and just that one defeat in the last 19 meetings across all competitions.
We say: Brazil 3-0 Peru
It is unlikely that Peru will be on the end of as big a scoreline as they suffered in the group stages, particularly as they have kept back-to-back clean sheets since then, but it is hard to look past a relatively routine win for Brazil in this final. That said, Peru have surprised many to make it this far and stranger things than them pulling off another shock have happened in football.