SAO PAULO (AP) After producing some uninspiring soccer in the group stage and quarterfinals Mallory Pugh Jersey , the Copa América reaches the last four with a blockbuster matchup between host Brazil and Lionel Messis Argentina.It will be the Superclásico de las Américas deciding one of the finalists, and the Clásico del Pacífico the other as two-time defending champion Chile takes on surprising Peru, which on Saturday ousted continental powerhouse Uruguay from the decisive stage of the South American competition.Peru eliminated Uruguay in a lackluster quarterfinal round in which three of the four matches ended in penalty shootouts after scoreless draws, with the exception being Argentinas 2-0 win over Venezuela.The quality of soccer in the group stage also disappointed, with a series of poor performances even by the favorites. Brazil struggled and was booed by the home crowd in a couple of matches, while Argentina barely escaped early elimination. Uruguay and Colombia were among the teams that impressed the most, but both failed to advance past the last eight.Bad field conditions at several of the stadiums in Brazil also didnt help, with Messi and several other players and coaches loudly complaining.The ball looks like a rabbit, Messi said.With expensive tickets and uninteresting matchups early on, many games had extremely low attendances. The smallest crowd came to the match between Ecuador and guest team Japan at the 62,000-capacity Mineirão Stadium, when only about 2,100 fans paid for tickets. The final attendance was 7,623 because of gratuity entrances.There were no tickets left for Tuesdays much-anticipated game between Brazil and Argentina, the longtime South American rivals who will arrive in Belo Horizonte under heavy pressure to succeed. Playing at home, only the title will satisfy Brazil fans and ease the pressure on coach Tite https://www.thetopsoccer.com/uswnt/mallory-pugh-jersey , while failure for Argentina will extend the teams winless run without a trophy with Messi in the squad.Argentina will always be Argentina, even if its not going through a good moment, Brazil defender Thiago Silva said. We have a lot of respect for them.The high-profile match will take place at the Mineirão, the same venue where Brazil was stunned 7-1 by Germany in the World Cup semifinals in 2014.Nobody will forget what happened then. That match against Germany was horrible for us, Silva said. But that was a different situation. Now we are facing Argentina and we need to focus on playing our game. We will need to be careful because its a team that has the best player in the world.Brazils last match at the Mineirão was against Messi and Argentina in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, and that time the hosts easily won 3-0 with one of the goals scored by Neymar, who missed this years Copa América because of an ankle injury.Brazil, seeking its first South American title since 2007, is unbeaten against Argentina in official matches at home.They have players who can make the difference up front, Messi said of Brazil after Argentina defeated Venezuela to reach the semifinals. We thought we would finish first in the group and be on the other side of the draw, but we are in semifinals and only the best teams are here.Argentina needs to get past Brazil to keep alive its hopes of ending a 26-year title drought forthe senior squad. It lost the last two Copa América finals on penalty shootouts against Chile, which will face Peru on Wednesday at the Arena Grêmio in Porto Alegre.Led by Manchester United forward Alexis Sánchez, Chile will be trying to reach its third straight Copa América final and win its third continental title. It can become the first nation to win three consecutive Copa titles since Argentina in the late 1940s.Peru, led by veteran striker Paolo Guerrero, also is a two-time South American champion, but its last title was in 1975. It reached the semifinals in two of the last three tournaments Becky Sauerbrunn Jersey , finishing third both in 2011 and 2015.We are used to being the underdogs, Guerrero said. Weve showed that we have heart and courage.Guerrero and Chiles Eduardo Vargas are the Copa Américas all-time leading scorers among active players with 12 goals each. BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Diego Simeone has long been considered one of the top coaches in Europe for his transformation of Atlético Madrid from the unimpressive second team of the Spanish capital into a multiple-title winner and Champions League finalist.But following a profound overhaul of his squad, this season is proving to be his biggest challenge yet.Atlético entered this week with some of its most demanding fans criticizing the team after it had just two wins in eight games across all competitions. To complicate matters, Atlético lost summer signing João Félix its expensive replacement for Antoine Griezmann to a right ankle injury last weekend in a 1-1 draw with Valencia.Simone has responded to the signs of crisis by guiding his team to back-to-back victories.We have been able to deal with the absence of João Félix and that shows that our team is stronger, Simeone said. We dont know any other way, not only when we win, than to stay united. We have a new team, young players. We know our path and we need for the club officials, the players, and all the rest of us to be looking forward.Atlético is being sustained by goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who made another excellent save to swat away a goal-bound header by Bilbaos Iñigo Martínez in the first half of Saturdays 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish league.The Slovenia goalkeeper anchors a defensive four which has been almost completely redone with the exits of Diego Godín, Lucas Hernández, Filipe Luís and Juanfran Torres. In their place Felipe Monteiro, Kieran Trippier and Renan Lodi have quickly adapted to Simeones basic tenet of defend first, score second. Its defense has conceded a league-low five goals.The exit of Griezmann Crystal Dunn Jersey , however, has turned out to be harder to handle.With Deigo Costa and other forwards struggling, Atlético has scored 10 goals in 10 rounds, the lowest of the top seven teams. Barcelona has 23 goals with a game to play. Villarreal leads the league with 24 goals.The teams toothless attack has led to some supporters jeering captain Jorge Koke Resurrección.Álvaro Morata alleviated his teams troubles this week. The former Real Madrid and Chelsea striker came off the bench to head in Atléticos late goal in a 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League on Tuesday. Morata then scored a second goal to seal the victory over Bilbao that ended a run of three straight draws in the Spanish league and kept his side in the thick of the early title race after 10 rounds.The wins come before Atlético goes on the road for five of its next six matches, including a trip to Juventus in Europe. It then hosts Barcelona in early December.Now we need to rest up because we have an extremely hard week ahead, Simeone said referring to upcoming matches at Alavés, Sevilla and Leverkusen.CLÁSICO CRUNCHPostponing the clásico between Barcelona and Real Madrid to prevent it from coinciding with a large separatist protest in Barcelona may not isolate it from the political tensions wracking Spain.The Spanish league urged its marquee match to be moved after Barcelona and nearby towns were rocked during the past two weeks. Catalan separatists are angered by the sentencing of nine leaders of their movement to lengthy prison terms by the Supreme Court.Separatists had called for a massive rally in Barcelona on Saturday, when the clásico was originally scheduled to be played at Camp Nou. The rally drew 350,000 people. It proceeded peacefully, but after it concluded a few thousand separatists clashed with police in the city center. Forty-four people were injured, according to regional health authorities.But it appears that the new date of Dec. 18 for the clásico could also be a protest target.A separatist group called Tsunami Democratic has called on its supporters to reserve a set of dates for protests. These include Dec. 18 when, the group says, we play at home in reference to Barcelonas home game against Madrid.Spains Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska has said the match can be played under secure conditions on any date.
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