Messi bags the Copa America Title for Argentina

Argentina defeated Brazil in the Copa America final in Rio’s Maracana stadium, ending Lionel Messi’s wait for his first major international title.

At the full-time whistle, Messi, 34, dropped to the ground in excitement and was quickly swarmed by his teammates before being thrown in the air in celebration, as he finally achieved top-level honours with his country in his 10th major tournament.

He also helped Argentina win the competition for the first time in 28 years, and he was awarded player of the tournament after scoring four goals in the competition.

Messi had a chance to seal the victory with a goal at his mercy, but he slipped with the game on the line. It would have been the perfect ending for the Argentine captain.
“The happiness is great,” Messi stated after the game, praising the Argentina team’s mentality. “I had a lot of faith in this group, which had grown in strength since the last Copa America. “I had a lot of faith in this group, which had grown in strength since the last Copa America. It’s a collection of wonderful people that are continually striving to improve and never complain.”

Brazil, the defending champions, were lacklustre, with their only notable chances coming when Richarlison and Gabriel Barbosa forced Emi Martinez into saves.

Messi’s opposing number 10 and former Barcelona teammate Neymar went to his knees in tears at the final whistle, as he continues his own personal pursuit of international triumph after missing Brazil’s 2019 Copa win due to injury.

While waiting for the trophy ceremony, the pair, who played together at the Nou Camp between 2013 and 2017 before the Brazilian’s departure to Paris St-Germain, reunited after the match.

“You’d adore him even more if you knew how he [Messi] played at the Copa America,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said.

“You can never have enough of a player like him, even when he isn’t entirely fit, as he was in this and the prior game.”

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the game was only viewed by a small crowd of 7,000 invited guests, although it was the first of the tournament to draw spectators.

The tiny home crowd made their presence felt, especially when Messi touched the ball, booing and jeering the forward.

The tournament, which had been postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic and relocated from initial co-hosts Colombia and Argentina, was transferred to Brazil at the last minute, drawing controversy due to a spike in coronavirus cases in the country.

Messi’s opposing number 10 and former Barcelona teammate Neymar went to his knees in tears at the final whistle, as he continues his own personal pursuit of international triumph after missing Brazil’s 2019 Copa win due to injury.

It was clear from the ecstatic Argentina celebrations at full-time, with Messi the focal point, that this squad’s drive to triumph against their old rival was as much for their legendary forward as it was the nation.

It has been 15 years since Messi first represented Argentina at a major tournament and after four World Cups and six Copa America appearances, taking in 53 matches, he finally has the major international title he – and his country – has craved.

Despite being one of the most decorated and brilliant players of the modern era – and arguably all time – with 10 La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and six Ballons d’Or, questions over his lack of impact on the international stage have hung over his legacy.

Messi at the World Cup
CountryPlayedWonLostMinutesGoalsStage
20063201211Quarter-final
20105414500Quarter-final
20147516934Runners-up
20184123601Last 16
TOTALS1912416246
Figures provided by Stats Perform

Questions about his immediate future will now continue to be asked, with Messi now a free agent after his Barcelona contract ended two weeks ago – although Barca have stepped up their attempts to keep hold of their star man with negotiations continuing.

There also remains the prospect of Messi going for what would likely be his last chance of winning the World Cup – something Argentina have not done since 1986 – should he lead his country out in Qatar at the age of 35 in December 2022.

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