Lionel Messi wins first Copa America as Argentina beat Brazil in final

Messi was thrown in the air by his team-mates at full-timeLionel 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.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.Neymar reacts after Brazil lose to Argentina in the 2021 Copa America finalThe 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.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 2019 hosts Brazil in a last-minute decision which received criticism in light of a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.Messi finally shines on international stageIt was clear from the ecstatic Argentina celebrations at full-time, with Messi the focal point, that this squad’s drive to triumph against their old rival was as much for their legendary forward as it was the nation.It has been 15 years since Messi first represented Argentina at a major tournament and after four World Cups and six Copa America appearances, taking in 53 matches, he finally has the major international title he – and his country – has craved.Despite being one of the most decorated and brilliant players of the modern era – and arguably all time – with 10 La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and six Ballons d’Or, questions over his lack of impact on the international stage have hung over his legacy.CountryPlayedWonLostMinutesGoalsStage20063201211Quarter-final20105414500Quarter-final20147516934Runners-up20184123601Last 16TOTALS1912416246Figures provided by Stats PerformAnd while many will say his greatness has been cemented, regardless of what he achieves with Argentina, this lengthy wait for a maiden senior trophy with his country will go a long way to silencing any doubters.Repeated failures with Argentina have been painful for the forward, who went as far as announcing his retirement after losing a second consecutive Copa America final in 2016, his third defeat in the final of the competition and coming just two years after suffering a loss in the 2014 World Cup final.He was not explosive against Brazil, with few opportunities to get on the ball after Argentina showed defensive resolve once taking the lead in a niggly game disrupted by 41 fouls, but he carried the ball well, particularly in the latter stages, to help relieve pressure.CountryPlayedWonLostMinutesGoalsStage20076514562Runners-up20114103900Quarter-final20156305701Runners-up20165403745Runners-up20196324871Semi-final20217506304WinnersTOTALS342132,90713Figures provided by Stats PerformQuestions about his immediate future will now continue to be asked, with Messi now a free agent after his Barcelona contract ended two weeks ago – although Barca have stepped up their attempts to keep hold of their star man with negotiations continuing.There also remains the prospect of Messi going for what would likely be his last chance of winning the World Cup – something Argentina have not done since 1986 – should he lead his country out in Qatar at the age of 35 in December 2022.Line-upsArgentinaFormation 4-4-223Martínez4Montiel13Romero19Otamendi8Acuña11Di María7de Paul5Paredes20Lo Celso10Messi22Martínez23Martínez4MontielBooked at 89mins13RomeroSubstituted forPezzellaat 79’minutes19OtamendiBooked at 81mins8Acuña11Di MaríaSubstituted forPalaciosat 79’minutes7de PaulBooked at 68mins5ParedesBooked at 33minsSubstituted forRodríguezat 54’minutes20Lo CelsoBooked at 51minsSubstituted forTagliaficoat 63’minutes10Messi22MartínezSubstituted forGonzálezat 79’minutesSubstitutes1Armani3Tagliafico6Pezzella9Agüero12Marchesín14Palacios15González18Rodríguez21Correa24Gómez25Martínez26MolinaBrazilFormation 4-3-323Ederson2Danilo4Marquinhos3Thiago Silva16Lodi dos Santos17Tolentino Coelho de Lima5Casemiro8Fred19Sousa Soares10Neymar7Richarlison23Ederson2Danilo4MarquinhosBooked at 82mins3Thiago Silva16Lodi dos SantosBooked at 70minsSubstituted forLeite de Souza Juniorat 76’minutes17Tolentino Coelho de LimaBooked at 72minsSubstituted forBarbosa Almeidaat 76’minutes5Casemiro8FredBooked at 3minsSubstituted forFirminoat 45’minutes19Sousa SoaresSubstituted forVinícius Júniorat 63’minutes10Neymar7RicharlisonSubstitutes1Alisson6Lobo Silva11de Barros Ribeiro12Pereira da Silva13Leite de Souza Junior14Militão15Fabinho18Vinícius Júnior20Firmino21Barbosa Almeida22Rech Ortiz25Douglas LuizLive TextMatch ends, Argentina 1, Brazil 0.Second Half ends, Argentina 1, Brazil 0.Foul by Casemiro (Brazil).Marcos Acuña (Argentina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.Attempt saved. Rodrigo de Paul (Argentina) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.Hand ball by Roberto Firmino (Brazil).Gonzalo Montiel (Argentina) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.Corner, Brazil. Conceded by Guido Rodríguez.Attempt blocked. Gabi (Brazil) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.Vinícius Júnior (Brazil) wins a free kick on the left wing.Foul by Gonzalo Montiel (Argentina).Attempt missed. Thiago Silva (Brazil) header from the centre of the box misses to the left following a corner.Corner, Brazil. Conceded by Nicolás Otamendi.Hand ball by Rodrigo de Paul (Argentina).Attempt missed. Danilo (Brazil) right footed shot from outside the box is too high following a corner.Corner, Brazil. Conceded by Germán Pezzella.Attempt blocked. Gabi (Brazil) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Vinícius Júnior.Marquinhos (Brazil) is shown the yellow card.Nicolás Otamendi (Argentina) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.Neymar (Brazil) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

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