Lionel Messi and Argentina’s long wait for a major trophy final came to a close as hosts Brazil were defeated on Saturday 1-0 in title clash of Copa America at the Maracana Stadium.
The victory at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium ended Argentina’s 28-year wait for a major trophy, and ended Brazil’s unbeaten home record that stretched back more than 2,500 days.
Last 10 winners of the Copa America following Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Brazil at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium on Saturday:
Most Copa America victories:
1. Uruguay, Argentina 15
3. Brazil 9
4. Chile, Paraguay, Peru 2
Argentina edged a brutal and fractious affair thanks to Di Maria’s goal on 22 minutes.
The 33-year-old winger ran onto Rodrigo De Paul’s sumptuous through ball to lob Brazil goalkeeper Ederson with a first time finish.
Messi could have wrapped up the win two minutes from time but slipped when clean through with only Ederson to beat. But it didn’t prove costly for his side as a resolute defensive display, led by an impressive Emiliano Martinez in goal once again, led Argentina to their moment of triumph.
Former Barcelona teammates Messi and Neymar lined up opposite each other in the final, with both looking to end a hoodoo that has also affected some of their countries’ greatest players.
Like Brazil’s Pele and Diego Maradona of Argentina before them, neither Messi nor Neymar had ever won the Copa before. As it turned out, that statistic changed for one of them in the dream final at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium with Messi’s team emerging victorious.
For Messi, this was his fourth Copa final and perhaps was the last chance to finish on the winning side. He had been his team’s standout performer, as ever, scoring four goals and creating five more – the tournament leader in both categories but had to depend on di Maria’s brilliance in the 22nd minute to win the final.
Previous finals had led only to disappointment for Messi having lost in 2007, 2015 and 2016 at the Copa, and seen his side beaten 1-0 by Germany at the 2014 World Cup.
In what is the 47th edition of the Copa, this was also just the fourth time these two had met in the final, with Argentina triumphing the first time in 1937 and Brazil coming out on top in 2004 and 2007.
And that is despite having faced each other more than 100 times in their history.
They had been by far the strongest two sides in the competition, even if Argentina rode their luck a touch in their semi-final penalty shoot-out win over Colombia.
(With AFP inputs)