Angel di Maria’s 22nd-minute goal has propelled Argentina to a 1-0 win over Brazil as The Albiceleste capture their 15th Copa América title, moving level with Uruguay for the most ever. Di Maria got the winner midway through the first half when he lobbed Ederson after full-back Renan Lodi failed to cut out a long through ball.
Lionel Messi’s international title drought has finally come to an end and Argentina teammates surrounded him by the touchline as a chorus of boos cascade down from the Maracanã stood.
But he was quiet throughout and uncharacteristically missed a golden opportunity to wrap the game up with two minutes remaining.
When the final whistle went, Argentina TV declared “Argentina Champions, Lionel Messi Champion!”
When the match ended, a tearful Messi was thrown into the air by some of his joyous teammates.
It was only the third goal Brazil conceded in the tournament. Neymar tried hard with dribbles and passes, but the Selecao barely threatened Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. The team of coach Tite had won its previous five matches in the Copa America and scored goals in all of them.
Messi’s performance in the final was not as impressive as in previous matches of the tournament, during which he scored four goals and had five assists. He had a clear opportunity in the 88th minute, tried to dribble Ederson, but the Brazilian goalkeeper stopped him.
The title, however, provides the superstar some relief after all the questions throughout his career on his effectiveness playing for the national team.
Messi had a quiet game by his own standards and missed a golden chance with two minutes remaining when he appeared to stutter with only the keeper to beat.
But the record books will record he finished the tournament’s top goalscorer with four goals and was elected joint best player along with Neymar.
More importantly Messi is finally a winner at international level after finishing on the losing side in four previous finals – three times in the Copa America and once in the 2014 World Cup.
People took to the streets in Argentina to celebrate the win, Argentina’s first major title since 1993. Argentine TV celebrated the title as Messi’s.
The 34-year-old has been in superb form over the last few weeks, scoring four times including two trademark free kicks – and setting up five goals, a tournament high.
The win brings his dismal run to an end and also caps a remarkable comeback.