Lionel Messi has struggled for Argentina against Brazil in the past - could that now change?

Ahead of the 2019 Copa America semi-final we take a look at the Argentina captain's record against hosts Brazil

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There are very few teams that Lionel Messi hasn't destroyed over the years.

From the likes of Barcelona's arch-rivals Real Madrid to Champions League stalwarts such as Manchester United and Liverpool, the mercurial Barcelona forward has conjured every trick to defeat Europe's top clubs.

But it has been a rather different experience on the international stage, amid his well-documented difficulties with Argentina, for whom he is yet to win a major tournament with.

Though he is his country's record goalscorer with 68 goals, there has been much disappointment against South America's other illustrious footballing nation - Brazil.

Ahead of Tuesday's (4.30am Wednesday UAE) Copa America semi-final between the two teams in Belo Horizonte, Messi's record against Brazil is hardly anything to write home about.

His early experiences against the Selecao were a harsh introduction to the international scene. The first encounter came at the Emirates Stadium in London in 2006 in a friendly. Brazil won 3-0.

Next up was the Copa America final in 2007, in which Messi was marked out of the game as Brazil again ran out 3-0 winners.

His struggles continued in the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup when he fired blanks in a goalless draw in June 2008, and was on the receiving end of a 3-1 defeat in Rosario in September 2009.

 

Finally, at the fifth attempt, Messi was able to leave the pitch against Brazil as a winner, having claimed a 1-0 victory in a friendly in Doha in 2010. It was also the occasion of Messi's first goal against Brazil - a typical burst through the centre of the pitch and clever, low finish from the edge of the penalty area.

Next, in 2012, came the only occasion Messi has truly dominated Brazil. Argentina won the friendly 4-3 and Messi came away with the match ball after a stunning hat-trick in New Jersey in front of a crowd of 82,000.

Lionel Messi, Argentina, celebrates after scoring his second goal during the Brazil V Argentina International Football Friendly match at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA. 9th June 2012. Photo Tim Clayton (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

He was played in behind the Brazil defence and finished one-on-one situations calmly for his first two goals, while the third was a Messi special, as he embarked on a 40-yard dribble and then unleashed a banger from outside the box into the top corner. His reaction and that of his teammates and the Argentina staff showed that this was far from a "friendly" game.

"No one in the world has found a solution [to playing against him]," Brazil's manager at the time Mano Menezes said. "He had four chances and scored three goals ... Against some players you cannot give any space and perhaps we gave him too much."

Messi meanwhile told reporters "it's always beautiful to beat Brazil".

This was the high point of the Messi versus Brazil story. From here it was downhill and back to that losing feeling.

A 2-0 defeat in a friendly in China in 2014 was followed by a 3-0 World Cup qualifying defeat in Brazil in 2016 in which Messi was largely anonymous.

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 11:  Neymar of Brazil (2nd Left) competes the ball with Lionel Messi of Argentina (Right) during Super Clasico de las Americas between Argentina and Brazil at Beijing National Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***  sp11no-messi-neymar.jpg

The Argentina media labelled the result "a catastrophe" as their qualification hung in the balance, and Messi admitted his side struggled and had "a lot to change".

Brazil manager Tite revealed his masterplan for nullifying Messi . He said his team forced their way into the Argentina half more to the left so Messi, on the right, wouldn't be near the ball.

"When he was forced to move it became better for us because that other side was already crowded," he said.

At least Messi and Argentina go into their Copa America semi-final knowing that they were victorious the last time the two teams met - a 1-0 win at the MCG in Australia in 2017.

But Messi's record against Brazil stands at: played 9, won 3, drawn 1, lost 5. He's scored four times in those nine matches. Disappointing by his standards, but could it be about to improve?

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