Thiago Silva believes fine margins will decide tonight’s Copa America final in Brazil…
Chelsea’s English and Italian contingent are not the only ones going for international glory this weekend as Thiago Silva and Brazil hope to retain their Copa America crown in the capital Rio de Janeiro.
Standing between them and victory at the Maracana are Argentina, old foes who have not won a major honour for 28 years. With the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar on opposing sides of the contest, it promises to be a fascinating encounter, with a small number of supporters welcomed back to the iconic stadium for the first time in the tournament.
For Thiago Silva, the return of fans in his homeland is welcome but will not alter the team’s focus as they seek to hold on to the trophy they lifted two years ago at the same stadium in front of almost 70,000 supporters.
‘For those who haven’t had it for a while, it’s an extra motivation,’ said the Chelsea defender this week at a press conference to preview the final.
‘It will be an environment returning to normal. We know it’s not ideal but it has to happen like in Europe, to come back little by little.
‘We will do our best, as we have always done, to celebrate at the Maracana with this 10 per cent capacity but regardless of the crowd or not, the most important thing is that we are super prepared.’
Preparation is key when facing Messi, even more so given the Barcelona star is likely to be especially motivated to win a first international trophy with Argentina. The 34-year-old has won La Liga 10 times and the Champions League on four occasions, as well as the Ballon d’Or six times, but has lost four finals with his national side, three of which came in the Copa America.
Along with Inter’s Lautaro Martinez, who won Serie A last term and has scored in each of the past three Copa matches, Thiago Silva is sure to have his work cut out but he believes the key will be cutting off the supply to Argentina's forwards.
‘Messi is an indispensable player who makes a difference,’ he explained. ‘He’s a guy who unbalances and is very complicated to face because the recipe for stopping him doesn’t exist.
‘You have to minimise his offensive actions so that he has few spaces and then take care of the players who pass the ball to him. I will just try to do my job, make the ball rotate, believe in our game and in what the coach gives us.’
Representing the Selecao still means a huge amount to Thiago Silva, who will lead the side out as captain tonight. The Copa America triumph of 2019 was his first major international silverware and he has been open about his ambitions of continuing through to the 2022 World Cup.
That remains his longer-term target, with a new one-year contract at Stamford Bridge sure to keep him on course for Qatar, but the more immediate focus is on edging what is likely to be a tight contest in Rio.
‘We play together at clubs and it’s very difficult to say who is the favourite,’ he added. ‘It’s always a very balanced game and decided on the details. We will do our best to try to be better than the opponent during the game.
‘Brazil versus Argentina is always very special and it is the two teams that in my view are the best in South America at this moment. It’s only fair that we face each other in this final.
‘We are responsible for this and what I say to the group now is to keep this joy, don’t do anything different and continue to believe that we are capable of playing a great game and becoming champions.’
The Copa America final takes place at 1am Sunday morning (UK time) and viewers in the UK can watch live on BBC One.