Lionel Messi and Argentina ended their decades-long title drought as they defeated Brazil in the final of the Copa America thanks to a goal from Angel di Maria.
The final whistle blew at the Maracana stadium. Lionel Messi sunk to his knees. The entire Argentina team were in tears and they converged on the greatest player of all time. The Argentine section of the stadium was in raptures. The world’s greatest player finally, finally had secured an international trophy. The heartaches of 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 were all blown away in that one moment. Lionel Messi and Argentina finally ended their international jinx. Angel di Maria’s goal in the 22nd minute gave Argentina their first major trophy since 1993 as La Albiceleste won 1-0 in the final against Brazil.
This was Argentina’s 15th Copa America title and it put them level with Uruguay for the most titles. Even before the match, the contest was dubbed between the master and the emerging apprentice. Messi vs Neymar was going to be the show-stopper in the marquee event. More importantly, the match between Argentina and Brazil lived up to all the expectations. It was tense, unpredictable with many mistakes and one crucial off-side which denied Brazil.
The first 15 minutes of the contest was attritional with both sides fighting for ball possession. In one particular instance, both Neymar and Messi were down for the count. Messi broke through the Brazilian defence but he was tackled outside the penalty box. He lost possession and Neymar had it. But, Neymar was also tackled. Both players were on the ground with injuries.
However, Argentina got the opening they wanted. Rodrigo de Paul kicked a long ball forward. Brazil defender Renan Lodi failed to intercept it cleanly and Angel di Maria was waiting for the chance. Di Maria calmly lobbed the ball over Ederson and Argentina had scored the crucial goal that they wanted.
Thoroughly jolted by the goal, Brazil went on the offensive. They had five strikers on the field as they tried to breach the Argentina defence. But, Rodrigo De Paul was having an outstanding day in the defence and he denied Brazil consistently.
In the 52nd minute, Richarlison burst through the defences and netted a goal to equalize. Unfortunately, the goal was ruled offside. As far as the game was concerned, Lionel Messi had a very quiet night. Brazil tried to go for the goal but Argentina was simply too solid on the day. Messi, in fact, missed a chance for a goal in the dying minutes of normal time.
Messi was clear and some good play by the Argentina players gave him the chance to score. However, he could not get a clean kick and his chance for goal was denied. Five minutes off added time piled on the pressure. But, Argentina were not to be denied. When the final whistle blew, Messi and Argentina had finally ended their pain and jinx.
After a decade of club honours, international trophies eluded Messi. He was denied twice through penalties in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals to Chile. In 2014, at the same venue, he witnessed Argentina being beaten by a goal from Mario Goetze in the final of the FIFA World Cup. Seven years later, Messi has finally achieved his dream from where it all began.
Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez called this another Maracanazo. Messi ended the tournament as the highest goal-scorer with four goals. He was declared the best player along with Neymar. But, in 2021, years of international pain has finally ended for Lionel Messi.