Messi finally wins with Argentina after Copa glory
Lionel Messi’s long wait for a major trophy with Argentina is over after a 1-0 win over Brazil in the Copa America final.
The 34-year-old, currently a free agent after his contract at Barcelona expired, fell to the ground full-time in relief, while his former team-mate Neymar was in tears after being unable to inspire Brazil . to victory.
This was a huge hurdle for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, who has been a four-time defeated finalist with Argentina – three times in the Copa America and once in the World Cup.
The game was decided by a goal midway through the first half from Angel Di Maria, who lobbed Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson after a perfect pass from Rodrigo De Paul.
Brazil were poor throughout the game and struggled to test Emiliano Martinez on the other end. Everton forward Richarlison had Brazil’s best luck when he forced the Aston Villa keeper to make a save.
Messi, who was named co-player of the tournament – an award he shared with Neymar – after his four goals helped Argentina lift the trophy, should have found the net himself at the Maracana, but with goal at his mercy, he slipped when through head-to-head against Ederson.
It didn’t matter and, 16 years after making his Argentina debut, Messi finally got his hands on an international title.
In the process, he silenced critics who had always pointed out his lack of success with his country as a reason why he shouldn’t be considered the best player ever, despite his talent at club level.
The victory, Argentina’s first in the competition in 28 years, places them tied with Uruguay on a joint record of 15 Copa titles.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni paid tribute to Messi on Saturday, congratulating his team captain and revealing that he played in the final with an injury.
“If you knew how he played in Copa America you would love him even more,” said Scaloni.
“You can never do without a player like him, even if he is not in great shape like in this game and the previous one.”
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Messi took full club and individual honors with Barcelona, but success had eluded him with Argentina.
The 34-year-old had shown his frustration with defeats, retiring after losing the 2016 Copa America to Chile to return to the international fold a few weeks later.
“In the end, he didn’t throw in the towel and he got it,” Scaloni said.
“We are talking about the best footballer of all time and everyone knew how important it was for him to win a title with the national team.”
“I have a different relationship from the (usual) coach-player relationship,” Scaloni added. “It’s closer.
“We say hello, we kiss and I am eternally grateful to him and his teammates.”
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