Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. spent some memorable years together in the FC Barcelona locker room. However, on Sunday, the former teammates will be facing each other from opposite sides of the pitch as Brazil faces Argentina in the Copa America final.
Neymar and Messi are both seeking their first Copa America titles. It is a bizarre coincidence that legends of a previous generation, Brazil's Pele and Argentina's Diego Maradona, both failed to lift the Copa America in their illustrious careers. On Sunday, one of the two current stars will put one foot over the other.
Brazil will head into the final as slight favourites, owing to the fact that they are hosting the match at their legendary Maracana stadium. Home advantage aside, Brazil will do well not to underestimate Argentina. Messi is always a threat, and he will be eager to shake off his reputation of being a "pecho frio," or someone who lacks passion and chokes on the important matches.
The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has proven his abilities massively on the club level, but he is still on the hunt for a major trophy with his national team side. The 34-year-old Argentine will have extra motivation, considering the fact that he may be playing in his last Copa America depending on how his career pans out in the next few years. He will likely still play for Argentina in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next year, but anything can happen beyond that.
Messi is no stranger to the Copa America final though, having lost in all three of his previous finals appearances in 2007, 2015 and 2016. He was also part of the Argentine squad that was defeated by Germany in the World Cup final in 2014.
Meanwhile, Brazil is determined to stop Messi from finally lifting a continental trophy. Neymar is also just as fired up about the opportunity, after having lost out on the title by being injured when Brazil won the title two years ago.
Apart from the personal significance of the title to both players, this is also a match between two old rivals. Not many other national team rivalries are as big as the one between Brazil and Argentina.
In their head-to-head Copa America finals record, Brazil is on top with two recent wins in 2004 and 2007. Meanwhile, Argentina last defeated Brazil in a Copa final way back in 1937.