Copa America: Lionel Messi wins maiden international trophy, led Argentina beat Brazil in final, end after 28-years wait

Superstar Lionel Messi won his first trophy with his national team as a goal from Angel Di Maria gave Argentina a 1-0 win over hosts Brazil in the Copa America final on Saturday.

The victory at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium ended Argentina’s 28-year long wait for a major trophy and also ended Brazil’s unbeaten domestic record that stretched back more than 2,500 days.

Argentina last tasted victory in a major tournament in 1993 when the great Gabriel Batistuta’s thrill led them to a 2-1 win over Mexico in the Copa final in Ecuador.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said: “It’s a great title, especially for our people. The fans support the team unconditionally. I think they can identify with this team that never gives in.”

It was the first time Brazil had failed to lift the trophy in six editions playing at home.

And while the 34-year-old Messi’s Odyssey has come to an end, Brazil’s Neymar, his junior for five years, is still not won any major title at international honors since losing to Selecao’s win on home soil two years ago due to injury.

Di Maria’s goal in the 22nd minutes created a cruel and immobile situation for Argentina.

The 33-year-old winger reached out to Rodrigo De Paul’s superb team through ball and lobbied Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson for the first time finish.

Di Maria, who was named man of the match said: “We fell short so many times, we dreamt so much about this, fought so hard.”

“Many people said we wouldn’t manage it, we were criticized a lot. But we kept knocking at the door and kept going until today we knocked it down and entered.”

Messi could have wrapped up the won in two minutes from time, but it slipped when he was out he just beat Ederson.

In an early start, Argentina’s burial enforcer Nicolas Otamendi was quickly with his first foul, while Brazilian midfielder Fred got the first booking just three minutes later for a stand-up lunge at Gonzalo Montiel.

Brazil made no changes to their squad from Peru in the semi-finals, while Scaloni made five changes, most notably to Di Maria – who last made a strong and decisive entry on the bench against Colombia.

The final was the first match of the tournament, was originally scheduled to take place last year, so that fans took their seats after becoming one-tenth of Maracana’s capacity of 7,800 when authorities partially lifted the restrictions of epidemic.

The first clear chance came in the 13th minutes when Richardlison dropped a long ball from Marquinhos to Neymar but the Brazilian star was crowded by a pair of defenders.

The brutal nature of the initial challenges can be seen in the player’s kits, when Neymar sport looted the sharp shorts and Lucas Paqueta was left with a hole in his sock after Otamendi’s intervention.

Argentina played with aggression and determination, but no lack of quality with Di Maria hurt Brazil’s left-back Renan Lodi, who probably should have ended De Paul’s pass for Winger’s goal.

Di Maria had shot from 20 yards blocked, while Messi fired just wide after a 40-yard run.

Brazil struggled to create anything of note and even when they got a free kick from the shooting range, Neymar could not beat the wall.

When the hosts finally kept up some pressure at the end of the first half, Everton’s defensive strike beat though to goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Brazil coach Tite promoted forward Roberto Firmino to defensive midfielder Fred at half-time, and he was quick to act.

Shortly afterwards, Richarlison had a ball in the net, but he was flagged abroad.

Moments later, Neymar overthrew Richarlison, but Martinez parried his near post effort.

Quickly it descended into a delicacy, niggly affair with a little fluid play between the fouls and the abundance of theatrics and petulant bickering.

It was playing into the hands of the Argentina when they looked to run down under the clock and to stop their slim lead.

At the end of the half, Brazil managed to keep the pressure on again but they lacked killer touch against some full blooded defending–Montiel even finished the game with his white socks soaked in blood.

When Brazilian substitute Gabriel Barbosa fired at the volley target, Martinez was equal to it.

Messi slipped to an embarrassingly late on with a chance to clinch win, but it mattered little as moments later as his teammates tossed him into the air to celebrate their victory.


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