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.