Lionel Messi ended his wait for a first major international title as Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 in the Copa America final in Rio’s Maracana stadium on Saturday evening.
The 34-year-old, who is currently a free agent, dropped to the ground in joy at the full-time whistle and was swiftly mobbed by his team-mates, before being tossed in the air in celebration. Messi finally claimed top-level honours at international level in his 10th major tournament.
He also helped end Argentina’s 28-year spell since they last won the competition. His four goals also saw him named player of the tournament.
Angel di Maria proved the matchwinner with his superb lob in the 22nd minute, after controlling Rodrigo de Paul’s lofted pass.
Messi had a chance to sign off the win but slipped with the goal at his mercy. It would have been the perfect finale for the Argentine captain.
Defending champions Brazil were largely disappointing throughout. Their best chances came when Richarlison and Gabriel Barbosa forced saves from Aston Villa stopped Emi Martinez.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@Spurs_India) July 11, 2021
In complete contrast to Messi, former Barcelona team-mate Neymar sank to his knees in tears at the final whistle. The PSG superstar continues to search for his own international glory after missing Brazil’s 2019 Copa win through injury.
Messi’s long wait finally over
Speaking after the game, Messi, via journalist Roy Nemer, said: “It’s crazy, the happiness I am feeling is not something that could be explained. I’ve left sad before but I knew that at one point it was going to happen.
“I had a lot of confidence in this group which got stronger since the last Copa America. It’s a group of very good people, that always pushes forward, that never complains about anything.
“It was a lot [of] days where we were closed but the goal was clear and we were able to become champions. The happiness is immense. I’ve dreamed of this many times.
“We are still not aware that we are champions, of what we have achieved. But I think it will be a match that will last in history, not just because we are champions of America but because we beat Brazil in their country.”