Sunday, 11 July 2021

COPA America 2021: Argentina beat Brazil in Copa America final

 


Lionel Messi ended his wait for a first major international title as Argentina beat Brazil in the Copa America final in Rio's Maracana stadium.

Messi, 34, dropped to the ground in joy at the full-time whistle and was swiftly mobbed by his team-mates, before being hurled in the air in celebration, as he finally claimed top-level honours with his country in his 10th major tournament.

He also helped end Argentina's 28-year spell since they last won the competition and was named player of the tournament after his four goals in the competition.

Angel di Maria proved the matchwinner with his superb lob, after taking down Rodrigo de Paul's lofted pass.

Messi had a chance to sign off the win but slipped with the goal at his mercy, in what would have been the perfect finale for the Argentine captain.

"The happiness is immense," said Messi after the game as he also praised the attitude of the Argentina squad. "Many times I dreamed of this.

"I had a lot of confidence in this group that became very strong since the last Copa America. It is a group of very good people, who always push forward, who never complain about anything."

Defending champions Brazil were disappointing, with their only chances of note coming when Richarlison and Gabriel Barbosa forced saves from Emi Martinez.

In a contrast of emotions, Messi's opposite number 10 and former Barcelona team-mate Neymar sank to his knees in tears at the final whistle, as his own personal pursuit of international success continues, having missed Brazil's 2019 Copa win through injury.

The pair, who played together at the Nou Camp between 2013 and 2017 before the Brazilian's move to Paris St-Germain, embraced in a long-lasting hug while they waited for the trophy ceremony.

"If you knew the way that he [Messi] played in the Copa America you'd love him even more," said Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni.

"You can never do without a player like him, even when he is not fully fit like in this game and the previous one."

The game was watched by a small crowd of 7,000 invited guests, because of Covid-19 restrictions, but was the first of the tournament to have spectators in attendance.

The sparse home supporters made their voices heard, though, particularly every time Messi touched the ball, booing and jeering the forward.

The tournament, delayed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic and moved from initial co-hosts Colombia and Argentina, was switched to Brazil in a last-minute decision which received criticism in light of a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.





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