It took 16 years and more than 150 appearances, but Lionel Messi is a champion with Argentina at last.
Messi and Argentina were crowned the champions of Copa America 2021 on Saturday night after defeating arch-rival Brazil in the tournament final by a 1-0 mark. The lone goal in the cagey affair at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro came in the 22nd minute via a lofted shot from Angel Di Maria, who beat Brazil’s back line to a long ball from Rodrigo De Paul before finishing over Ederson.
DI MARIA GIVES ARGENTINA THE LEAD 🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/UnX9ao34ZP
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 11, 2021
The narrow victory ended a trophy-less drought of 28 years for Argentina, and gave Messi his first piece of silverware at the international level in his fifth appearance in a final. Messi had previously lost three Copa America championship games with La Albiceleste as well as a World Cup decider.
The 34-year-old superstar had a golden chance to put the game away late, but he slipped when trying to dribble past Ederson on a counterattack and wasted the opportunity.
Brazil never found an equalizer, though, and its Copa America title defense came up short. La Verde-amarela thought it scored in the second half when Richarlison’s outstretched effort from a tight angle on the right found the back of the net, but he was instantly whistled for offside and the goal was annulled.
🇦🇷🙌🏆 ¡Maracanazo consumado!
¡Argentina es CAMPEÓN de la Copa América 2021! 🇦🇷🙌🏆
¡Primer título OFICIAL de Messi con la selección mayor @Argentina!
— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) July 11, 2021
The tournament host had another pair of decent chances in the second half, the team’s only two looks on goal out of the 13 shots it took vs. Argentina’s resolute defense, but goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez came up with a pair of saves to deny Richarlison and Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa.
The victory saw Argentina finish the Copa America undefeated with a 5-0-2 record and gave the nation its 15th continental title, tying Uruguay for the most in the competition’s history.
Messi and Neymar were both named the tournament’s best players earlier in the day, with the Argentina attacker also winning the Golden Boot alongside Colombia winger Luis Diaz.
Good for Messi.
Di Maria has had the same history as Messi, but Di Maria scored and while he was on, he helped keep Brazil honest defensively. To my mind, he was the star of the game not Messi or Neymar (and both did offer some defensive help). Sure Di Maria may not have the cute tricks of those two, but he provided a constant threat up the left for
Argentina and scored the game winner from a solo run that beat both the defense and the keeper.