One of international football's greatest rivalries will be on show this evening in the Copa America, with Brazil facing Argentina in Belo Horizonte. Here, UCFB Masters graduate Conor Walsh, who has been in South America enjoying the tournament, analyses the two teams and addresses Lionel Messi's ongoing search for a major international trophy...

Tuesday night in the Estadio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte sees the first of the 2019 Copa America semi-finals when hosts Brazil meet old foes Argentina. Not too long ago this very fixture represented the pinnacle of the international game. Now, these two neighbours hold well-substantiated fears they are quickly becoming cannon fodder to their European compatriots. Their paths to the semi-final have been as unremarkable yet predictable as their recent decline. Devoid of drama coupled with reoccurring inadequacies both sides have only added weight to the notion that they are both trailing in the distance of their European foes. Worse still they have both become parodies of each other. As Europe sleeps well into the bowels of early Wednesday morning what reason if any do football fans have to tune in?

The sub-narrative to Tuesday's clash is that it will more than likely signal the final sojourn for one of the two opposing coaches; Tite or Lionel Scaloni. Tite has tentatively tip-toed his way to this stage sacrificing youth and potential utilizing the vast experience the Selecao have to offer all while his inexperienced opponent Scaloni has tinkered and disposed of all his limited Arsenal for a place in the last four. Yet if it was a test of "cojones" it's the former who would likely come out on top. Given his already precarious standing the decision to omit Marcelo, Fabinho and Vinicius among others from the squad were quite valiant in the extreme. "Futebol D'Arte" and Samba Soccer has been sacrificed for "Futebol de Resultados". There are well-substantiated fears that the 58-year old's tenure will be earmarked by failure in Russia and an inability to get the most out of his injured superstar, Neymar. Considering their plethora of Champions League winners, experienced internationals and world-renowned stars such criticism is perhaps deserved. Thus accordingly it is all the more surprising it is a local hero who has carried the gauntlet for Tite and Brazil's hopes thus far.

Everton the Gremio wing wizard has been a welcome breath of fresh air to the Neymar-less Brazil attack. So far other replacements for the PSG man have proved somewhat inferior. Richarlison the gangly Everton forward noted for his combative approach is very un-Brazilian like indeed. While Willian and David Neres are noted for their ability to beat defenders on the outside. Yet despite his lack of European exploits and big game experience Everton can do all the above and so much more. Carrying much of the superstar looks akin to Neymar, the Gremio man's performances and attitude have been anything but. Dancing, weaving before cutting his way in to score a screamer against Bolivia in the opener he has improved with each game and fast become the focal point of everything good the Selecao has done to date. In this Brazilian side, he best represents a throwback to the past remaining the only player to provide something different and playoff sheer instinct. His performances against Venezuela and Peru only elevated his status among potential suitors while his presence was the high point of a largely turgid team display against Paraguay.

"Cebolinha" (the little onion) at 23 stands out in a rather aging and pragmatic Brazilian side. Adhering to his usual conservative style Tite has been dogmatic in his approach and has not veered away from the preferred albeit outdated 4-2-3-1. To date they have struggled to sustain long periods of pressure and string meaningful pieces of play all too reminiscent of last summer in Russia. Crucial to its function is the role of Philippe Coutinho. Hailing from the Rocha suburb of northern Rio he has certainly been in quite indifferent form since his move to Barcelona in early 2018. Notwithstanding this, in addition to his shy subdued character, it is he who is largely tasked with implementing Tite's game plan. Behind him more than likely Casemiro will be joined by Fernandinho in the double pivot. Neither acknowledged for their ball playing or carrying expertise they will nonetheless be tasked with launching Brazil attacks. Tite's insistence on playing the two holders almost parallel to each other with his hesitancy to change formation is somewhat similar to a chefs vacillating over tampering with the recipe. The ever long full-back duo of Dani Alves and Felipe Luis are instructed with adding pace and width to the Brazilian attack.

Indeed, leading with care is maybe in the Selecao's best interest given their last semi-final on Mineirão soil. That night the 7-1 abomination to Germany left a permanent scar on Brazilian football and perhaps the epitaph of Samba Soccer.  For this among many reasons Tite was appointed. Patience must replace the misguided passion on show that very night. Exuberance and flamboyancy have been temporarily stored to soothe the Brazilian psyche. They have turned to the very "anti futebol" which saw their rivals rise to prominence all those years ago. Argentina fans have already stoked the fire with their timely reminders to the Cariocas last Friday in the hallowed Maracana. However, for Lionel Scaloni's men it maybe a case of right place wrong time. Since Tite has taken the reigns there have been no less than four Argentina bosses, the latest being the former West Ham full back. Where Brazil chiefs have been castigated for their inability to extract the most from a host of players Argentina bosses have been disposed of for the failings of individual talent.

Their tournament thus far has been engulfed once more by the mass hysteria surrounding Lionel Messi and how best to accommodate the 5 time Ballon d'Or winner. The little magicians finest form in an Argentina shirt perhaps occurred on Brazilian soil in 2014 however sadly such form in an Argentine shirt has proven a rarity. In all four games of this year’s Copa he has been the antitheses of Argentina struggles. For decades in Argentina society and sport, the hard working man was held in the highest esteem and entitled mass respect. Individuals were not tolerated at the expense of the group. Suddenly the same very nation was bestowed upon a batch of freakishly talented individuals over consecutive eras in Diego Maradona, Gabriel Batitstuta, Juan Roman Riquelme and Pablo Aimar. A fervent insistence to accommodate all these has long been to the nation's detriment. Their captain Lionel Messi has only served as an extension to the problem. Maradona and Messi were exceptions and not the rule. In this respect Argentina and Scaloni have proved more Brazilian than they dare be tagged. Metaphysical beliefs had shrowded their judgment. This definitely offers context as to how an Argentinian TV reporter cut short an interview with the less glamorous Rodrigo de Paul for a chance to catch a glimpse of the illusive Sergio Aguero in the Maracana mixed zone last Friday. Indeed, water carriers like De Paul are not given full appreciation by media or fans alike for their inability to conjure up "magic" or play on mere instinct as if they devalue Argentinian football. Moreover, Juan Foyth's recent comments regarding his use of Wyscout to study and prepare for opponents was met with indignation and borderline humiliation from the Argentine public. For reasons like this, the golden handcuffs have long restricted Argentina since the cult of Diego Maradona.

For all of his brilliance, it is fair to say Lionel Messi's career maybe tarnished by a proclivity to stump up short on the international stage. Indeed, Argentina's golden generation in Messi and to a lesser extent Aguero will be best remembered for their club success and not international. No Argentine boss has been lucky enough to accommodate both as more of a holistic group ethos. Argentina have failed to name a back to back lineup in any of the four games so far. Regardless of Messi's presence, Scaloni is cognizant that they are less than the sum of their parts.  Unfashionable and non-household players such as Paredes, De Paul and Lauturo Martinez have proved the ever reliables thus far. Martinez direct running and hold up play up front has injected bite into the Argentinian attack amidst the largely apathetic outings from Messi and Aguero. Meanwhile in midfield Parades has the perfect blend of bite and calm. Tasked with offering " la pausa" the PSG midfielder has been the fulcrum of all good play stemming from "La Albiceleste". He has the range and technique to break through the Brazilian lines and feed his captain. To his right, Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul has impressed coming in off the right wing. Covering two of his teammates at any given time, consistently his direct running and hustle allows Messi and Aguero to eliminate themselves from defensive duties. He has been favoured to the talented Giovanni Lo Celso who quite simply without Lionel Messi's presence would be a first choice name on the teamsheet.

Scaloni and his staff may just be granted a temporary stay of execution should they somehow triumph on Brazilian soil. Yet they have shown little of the tactical nous required to succeed in their relative brief residency to date. Scaloni may have rolled the dice correctly so far albeit on a table he could not lose. Brazil away will give a fairer and truer indicator of where they exactly lie. His selection choices much akin to his touchline gesticulations have been unpredictable. Therefore, would there be much surprise should he do the unthinkable and pick open the Messi sized handcuffs? Disposing of the bearded number 10 would represent a major shift in tide and more than likely signal an end to the Argentine's international career.  Substitutes such as Di Maria, Pizarro and Acuna are willing runners and would undoubtedly shore up the Argentinian spine. However, the Albiceleste faithful would prefer to ignore the cold hard truth rather than retreat on enemy territory. Argentina much like their opponents on Tuesday cannot rest their laurels on mere legend any further and could do worse than choose fact over fiction.

2019 will forever be remembered as the year Bolsonoro took the reins in Brazil. Copa America success will do little to remove that from the history books nor appease little of the Brazilian public. However, whereas Argentina remain in sheer disconnect with their own weaknesses in a sporting sense, Brazil under the pragmatic Tite are only too aware. Copa America success won't quench the public thirst for national reform or cure the country's existential problems. The public and national team are only too nascent of the red herring tag Copa America success may invite. For Brazil it's certainly a case the enemy it knows may be well-preferred than the one it does not. The hard cold facts of the current sporting regime may evoke enough hunger to dispel the myth of Argentina and it's non-plussed number 10. On Tuesday night in Belo Horizonte expect pragmatism to triumph over idealism.