Villaflor: Italy and Argentina

With a capacity of close to 80,000, the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has seen many great football tournaments, including a couple of World Cup and Copa America finals.

But with pandemic lockdowns in place, the historic stadium will most likely be near empty when it hosts the 2021 Copa America final between Brazil and Argentina this Sunday, July 11, 2021 (PH time).

In contrast, the European Championship Final between England and Italy in Wembley Stadium, London on Monday, July 12, will probably exceed the allowed attendance of two-thirds of its 90,000 capacity.

In the semifinal between England and Denmark Thursday, July 8, Wembley drew more than 60,000 spectators, most of whom supported the hosts who advanced by the narrowest of margins.

With its 2-1 win in extra time, England has advanced to a major final for the first time since 1966, and that is why the English are understandably ecstatic and optimistic as they sing “football is coming home” without letup.

But not everyone agrees.

“It’s coming to Rome,” chant those who can’t stand the English squad.

While England feels it’s entitled to win, it’s Italy that’s actually the sentimental favorite to lift the Euro trophy on July 12, its first since winning the title in 1968.

Italy has sentiment on its side as the underdogs in need of a redemption story after failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, the first time since 1958.

This Italian side doesn’t have names as big as what England boasts of, but it has the tenacity to win, the way it did in outlasting Spain in a semifinal shootout and extending its unbeaten run to 33 matches.

Similarly, from across another continent, Argentina is the sentimental favorite as underdogs, but also for another reason that has more to do with an individual.

The individual’s name is Lionel Messi, considered as one of the greatest of all time but has yet to win a major trophy with his national team.

Neutrals love Brazil, but this time, they just love Argentina a bit more, thanks to one man.

May both underdogs find the glory that they seek.


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