RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Argentina’s 28 barren years without a major title will have no bearing on the outcome of their Copa America final against Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil coach Tite said on Friday.
The two South American giants meet on Saturday at the Maracana stadium with Argentina’s long drought once again the major topic of conversation.
The visitors have not won a major title since lifting the Copa America in 1993 and their top player Lionel Messi has never won a major trophy with the national side.
“That’s the past, you can’t look at the past as a guide,” Tite said. “We are unbeaten in the last two Copas America, we have better numbers but I don’t see that has much significance.”
The expectation and banter has ramped up on both sides – Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro told his Argentine opposite number last week he expected Brazil to win 5-0 – but Tite downplayed the mind games.
“It’s a mental marathon we face,” he said. “Our game is different from that of the press and the fans. In terms of preparation and training and concentration. We are focusing on our priorities.”
“It’s sometimes provocations, it’s sometimes banter, it’s sometimes history, it’s sometimes about the club matches players have played against each other.”
“But it’s not the essence, the essence is hard work day to day and preparing to play a good game.”
Brazil will be without suspended Gabriel Jesus and fullback Alex Sandro faces a late fitness test.
Defender Cristian Romero is still a doubt for Argentina after missing the last four games through injury.
Tite was coy when asked if he planned to man-mark Messi.
“I know but I am not telling you,” he told a reporter, before adding, “we don’t neutralise, we reduce their actions.”
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Toby Davis)