Copa final 'not war'
Argentina star Javier Mascherano called for calm on Wednesday as the countdown to this weekend's Copa America final against fierce rivals Chile got under way.
Two teams desperate to succeed will collide in Santiago on Saturday with hosts Chile aiming to end nearly a century of failure by winning a major tournament for the first time in front of an expectant home crowd.
Argentina meanwhile are burning with desire to win a first title in 22 years, determined that one of the most talented generations of players the country has ever produced does not suffer another disappointment.
The high stakes will carry an additional edge thanks to the historical rivalry between the neighbouring nations, who in the past have been at loggerheads over various territorial and diplomatic disputes.
But Mascherano was adamant that politics should not poison what is expected to be a highly charged sporting encounter.
"I hope that people can understand that football is a sport, not war," Mascherano said.
"The past is the past. We must not put sport in the middle of politics. Chile and Argentina are brother countries, we have to show mutual respect," the defensive midfielder added.
"If we stoop to aggression and violence, we lose that message of respect. Sport is about trying to be healthy and having fun, not a war."
Mascherano's words were echoed by Chile defender Eugenio Mena.
"Everyone's going to be watching this final so it's important that the two teams show respect," Mena said.