After three weeks of drama, we’re down to two teams as Brazil take on Peru in the 2019 Copa America final, writes Jacob Bentley-York in Rio.
Pitting outright favourites against a spirited collective, we look at the key talking points as this year’s tournament reaches its conclusion.
Win or bust for the hosts as the pressure hits boiling point
In the minds of their own public, Brazil are clear favourites and nothing less than perfection will do.
Aiming to win silverware for the first time since their last visit to the Maracana at the 2013 Confederations Cup, both a good result and performance is needed to quell the growing frustration among their fans.
Their 2-0 win against rivals Argentina would normally be celebrated, but with their rivals running them closer than perhaps some would’ve expected, scrutiny has befallen the national team once again.
This was partly down to Messi’s post-match comments regarding the refereeing decisions and the idea that Argentina might have been unlucky.
This view slowly seeped into the mainstream public opinion meaning Brazil will need to step up come match day.
Of course they will look to their 5-0 group stage victory against Sunday’s opponents as the blueprint, but for the players on the pitch it’s as much about doing it for their supporters as well as for themselves and for the team.
As for manager Tite you could argue the pressure is even bigger as the culmination of his Seleção project thus far comes down to this very game.
When he took over the side after the dismissal of Dunga in 2016, he was heralded as a hero - guiding the national team to an impressive U-turn by qualifying for Russia with ease.
Although the World Cup knockout defeat to Belgium acted as a set-back this, he feels, is his time to shine as he makes his national team Maracana debut.
Speaking after the semi-final victory, he suggested that, after managing in the famed stadium, he would be considered a genuine Brazil coach.
Rightly or wrongly this shows the realities of what it takes to be a Brazil coach and this game could make or break Tite as the manager of Seleção as he bids to show he is the man to continue to take the team forward.
With all the tools in place for victory and the balance of the team now set the tie, on paper at least, suggests this is just a matter of producing the same again.
Will the pressure tell, or will Brazil get the job done?
Peru the surprise package
Not since the 70s have Peru had this much excitement around the national side, but manger Ricardo Gareca has overseen the rise of a side now making waves on the world stage as well as on the continent.
Producing arguably one of their greatest performances against Chile in the semi-final, this will be Peru’s first Copa América final since 1975, concluding an extraordinary spell that has enriched a passionate nation.
In 2015 they reached the semi-finals of the Copa América and a year later they eliminated Sunday’s opponents Brazil before losing to Ecuador on penalties in the quarter-final.
In 2018, they then qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1982, lighting up the tournament off the pitch if not on it.
What’s clear is that this is a side rough around the edges and their bizarre run of form perhaps points to this.
In the past year they have lost at home to Ecuador, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Colombia as well as losing 5-0 to Brazil in the group stage, so it’s understandable why the neutrals may fear the worst.
However, this is a side that has shown it’s suited to tournament football and, having utilised the rather flawed format of the Copa America, they now find themselves in the final with a shot at one of the biggest upsets in the competitions history.
It’s quite clear that whatever kind of Peru turn up, the hosts will still be clear favourites but, if history proves anything about big games for Brazil in the Maracana, anything is possible.