Lionel Messi has finally got his hand on a senior national title with Argentina as the Albiceleste beat hosts Brazil 1-0 in the 2021 Copa America final.
Angel Di Maria scored the only goal of the game in the first half after Ronan Lodi poorly controlled a long diagonal pass from Rodrigo de Paul. Di Maria steadied himself before successfully lobbing an onrushing Emerson.
The win was Messi’s first after nine senior national team tournaments and four finals. The Copa has been especially cruel to Argentina, having lost in three of the last four finals. For Brazil, it was the first loss since they lost to Argentina in a friendly match 1-0-a match that was played in Saudi Arabia in November 2019.
Messi, having become the Argentine with the most caps and most goals, has finally added a title to his list of endless accolades after having success in the U-20 World Cup and winning a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In a match littered with fouls – 41 – Argentina were the better team in the first half, as they denied Brazil any rhythm – fouling at every possible moment, thereby slowing down the game.
Rodrigo de Paul was the midfield orchestrator and he succeeded in finding space around Fred and Casemiro. It was his long diagonal that caused the goal as Argentina led into the interval.
Tite made a change at the start of the second half-replacing a midfielder in Fred with another forward in Roberto Firmino.
It has to be mentioned that referee Esteban Ostojich from Uruguay had his hands full throughout the encounter, especially in the second half as Argentina resorted to crude tackles to preserve their lead.
Richarlison thought he had poached Brazil’s equaliser in the 52nd minute but he was a yard offside when he was released by Firmino. He had another goal scoring chance three minutes later but Emiliano Martinez parried the shot for a corner kick.
Luis Scaloni made tactical substitutions-replacing his two starting midfielders, who were on yellow cards -Leandro Paredes and Giovanni Lo Celso – with Guido Rodriguez and Nicolas Tagliafico. He also made three substitutions in the 79th minute-sending on German Pezzella, Nicolas Gonzalez, and Exequiel Palacios for Cristian Romero, Lautaro Martinez, and Angel Di Maria.
Lucas Paqueta went close in the 71st minute but again, Martinez parried over the crossbar as Brazil became more desperate. Otamendi produced a red-card foul on Neymar, who had cut through the midfield but he was shown a yellow card. Gabriel Barbosa, who had come on for Paqueta, had a shot blocked in the 88th minute.
Messi had the chance to double his team’s lead one minute from time but he dallied and Emerson claimed the ball at his feet. Five minutes were added on but no one could deny Messi and Argentina a first title after 28 years.
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