GENERAL NEWS

Lionel Messi wins 1st title with Argentina after winning Copa America

Jul 10, 2021, 8:31 PM
Argentina's Lionel Messi holds the trophy as he celebrates with the team after beating 1-0 Brazil i...
Argentina's Lionel Messi holds the trophy as he celebrates with the team after beating 1-0 Brazil in the Copa America final soccer match at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
(AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Two long droughts ended on Saturday at the Copa America final: Argentina won its first major title since 1993 after a 1-0 win against Brazil. And Lionel Messi finally lifted his first major trophy for the national team, filling in one of the biggest gaps in his decorated career.

Argentina’s winning goal at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro came in the 22nd minute after Rodrigo de Paul made a long pass to Ángel di Maria. The 33-year-old veteran striker counted on some sloppy defending from left-back Renan Lodi to take control and lob it past goalkeeper Ederson.

When the match ended, a tearful Mess i knelt down and put his hands on his face. Then most of his teammates ran in his direction to celebrate and threw him into the air. Once criticized by Argentina fans for his quietness, he went to the few hundred guests chanting his name at the Maracana and chanted with them. Messi kissed the trophy before lifting it into the air during the presentations.

The match at the Maracana started with some surprises. Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni made five changes from the starting lineup that beat Colombia on penalties in the semifinal.

Gonzalo Montiel, Cristian Romero, Marcos Acuña, Leandro Paredes and Di María took the places of Nahuel Molina, Nicolás Tagliafico, Guido Rodríguez and Nicolás González.

Brazil, a team recognized for its steadiness, did not make any changes from the team that advanced to the final.

The teams were cautious early in the match, barely offering chances. When Argentina opened the scoring in a rare Brazil defensive mistake and Di Maria’s classy finish, the match became more physical and Argentina successfully stopped the ball from getting to Neymar.

Neymar tried hard with dribbles and passes, but the Selecao barely threatened Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in the first half. Argentina sat in the back, hoping for counter-attacks.

Brazil coach Tite tried to change the dynamic of the match by replacing defensive midfielder Fred for Roberto Firmino, and managed to do so for much of the second half. But though the Selecao had more ball posession there were few real opportunities.

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.

“I can’t cry yet,” Di Maria said after the match. “We dreamed of getting this, and we fought. Many people criticized us and asked us not to come back (to the national team).”

The title, however, provides the superstar some relief after all the questions throughout his career on his effectiveness playing for the national team.

The South American trophy is a relief for Argentina, which won its last major title when Messi was only 6 years old. Saturday’s victory in Rio gave the team its 15th Copa America title, this time unbeaten, equaling Uruguay’s total. Brazil has won the South American title nine times.

Messi, who has several titles with Barcelona, had reached the final of Copa America three times and lost all of them in 2007, 2015 and 2016. Now, he will have good memories at the Maracana, where Argentina lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany.

Brazil became last-minute hosts of Copa America two weeks before kick off after original organizers Colombia and Argentina withdrew. Many players protested against the tournament taking place as the COVID-19 pandemic causes thousands of deaths a day in South America, even more so in Brazil where 532,000 have died.

Officials allowed a few thousand fans into the Maracana for the decider, the only match in the tournament to have spectators. There was very little social distancing in celebrations, and some fans removed their masks.

General News

Team USA's Jordan Spieth hits a shot on the 11th hole during a foursome match the Ryder Cup at the ...
Haboob Blog

Ryder Cup: Jordan Spieth almost fell off the planet after insane chip shot

The closeup shot of Jordan Spieth's chip-shot on the 17th hole at Whistling Straits during the Ryder Cup looked very difficult.
19 hours ago
President & Chief Executive Officer Derrick Hall and Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick celebrat...
Wills Rice

D-backs’ Derrick Hall looks around the league for inspiration on future

The Arizona Diamondbacks lost their eighth game in nine attempts on Wednesday, begging the question, what direction is the team heading in?
2 days ago
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, left, and guard Chris Paul (3) walk on the court during the second...
Wills Rice

Suns’ Chris Paul, Devin Booker crack Sports Illustrated’s top 20 players of 2021-22

After an NBA Finals run this offseason, Chris Paul and Devin Booker were named in Sports Illustrated's top 20 players of 2022.
2 days ago
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates in the end zone after scoring a rus...
Tyler Drake

It’s a trap? Undefeated Cardinals not overlooking winless Jaguars

The Cardinals may be opposite the Jaguars in the NFL standings through two games, but that doesn't mean it's an off week for Arizona.
3 days ago
Head coach Jedd Fisch of the Arizona Wildcats reacts on the sidelines during the Arizona Spring gam...
Wills Rice

Arizona Wildcats to host New Mexico Lobos in 2024 football season

Arizona football will host the New Mexico Lobos in 2024 for the first matchup since the 2015 New Mexico Bowl.
3 days ago
Anquan Boldin wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals breaks a tackle by #27 Walt Harris in a game ...
Wills Rice

Pro Football Hall of Fame names Anquan Boldin, Antonio Cromartie eligible for class of 2022

Two former Arizona Cardinals were named eligible for the NFL's list of Hall of Famers for 2022.
3 days ago
Lionel Messi wins 1st title with Argentina after winning Copa America