Lionel Messi and Neymar rely on Aston Villa stars to deliver
Emiliano Martinez and Douglas Luiz of Aston Villa will both be involved in their respective country’s bid for Copa America glory on Sunday morning (1:00 UK time).
Dubbed Messi against Neymar, the 2020 Copa America final will see former Barcelona teammates line up head-to-head as Brazil and Argentina face off at Rio’s Maracana Stadium.
Both will also seek to end a hoodoo that has affected some of their country’s biggest players. Like Brazilian Pelé and Argentinian Diego Maradona before them, neither Messi nor Neymar have won the Copa, nor any major international trophy for that matter.
Villa Argentina’s international goalkeeper Martinez believes this summer’s delayed tournament could be the one where six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi makes his “dreams” come true.
After a sensational first season at Villa Park, Martinez entered great form in the Copa America and continued to put on performances highlighting his world-class abilities between the sticks.
He was the hero of Lionel Scaloni’s side in the penalty shootout that saw Argentina reach the Copa America final. After Tuesday’s last four games against Colombia ended 1-1 after 90 minutes, Martinez saved shots on goal from Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona to secure the team’s progress.
“I am speechless,” Martínez said later. “They took us on penalties and it’s a matter of luck, and today it was my turn for the glory.”
In fact, it was his words as much as the three Colombian penalties saved by Martínez that caught everyone’s attention.
With no one at the Estadio Nacional in Brazil, cameras and field-side microphones picked up everything the Villa man said to Everton Mina’s center-back ahead of the Colombian’s crucial lack. .
Martinez reminded the defender of his nervousness, insisted he knew where the penalty was going and shouted “I eat you” just at the last second before guessing correctly and saving the shot on goal.
“You’re nervous, aren’t you? You’re laughing but you’re nervous, ”he shouted as Mina put the ball in place, before Boca Juniors’ Cardona also collapsed in front of Martinez.
Argentina are now looking to win their first major international title since lifting the Copa America in 1993.
This year’s final will be Messi’s fourth and possibly his last chance to finish on the winning side. And he was once again the best player on his team, scoring four goals and creating five more to become the tournament leader in both categories.
But at 34, this could well be his last Copa, with next year’s World Cup possibly also his last major international tournament.
Having lost in 2007, 2015 and 2016 in the Copa, and seeing his team beaten 1-0 by Germany in the 2014 World Cup, Messi certainly has a monkey to shake.
And he’ll count on Martinez to help keep Neymar and Richarlison at bay on Sunday.
Note Emi Martinez’s first year at Aston Villa. Give your opinion in the comments section …
The Villa Luiz midfielder has also played his part in Brazil’s Copa efforts. He has so far achieved 92% of his 50 assists at the tournament in a team that aims to secure glory for his national treasure, Neymar.
Luiz won the Brazilian national team under head coach Tite in 2020 and has played an important role ever since. One of three South American residents of Villa Park, Luiz remains undefeated in the matches he has played for his country.
He regularly played in a midfield duo alongside Real Madrid’s Casemiro. With Casemiro doing much of the dirty work, Luiz is seen by Tite as the player capable of turning defense into offense, while also making the most of PSG superstar Neymar.
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“What does Douglas bring? », The Brazilian the national boss told Jovem Pan. “(He) brings more creativity to the left side with Neymar, who isn’t just open, but comes in. He’s the bow and arrow. He’s the assist player, the pass, from the penultimate pass, then you have a player behind that triangle to feed you, in addition to the support.
“Now he confirms this development at Aston Villa and we hope he can continue in this direction.”
After playing at the Copa America, Luiz and his compatriots will be tasked with defending the gold medal won by Brazil at the 2016 Olympics after being drawn in Group D alongside Germany’s Coast. Ivory and Saudi Arabia, Luiz will not return to Bodymoor Heath until at least early August.