Messi, Argentina snap major title drought

·2-min read

Argentina have won their first major title in 28 years and Lionel Messi finally has his first medal in a blue-and-white shirt after an Angel Di Maria goal gave them a 1-0 win over Brazil and a record-equalling 15th Copa America crown.

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Di Maria, starting for just the second time in the Copa, justified his selection by scoring the opener midway through the first half of Saturday's final in Rio de Janeiro.

Renan Lodi failed to cut out a long ball forward from Rodrigo De Paul and Di Maria lobbed stranded goalkeeper Ederson with aplomb.

Brazil piled on the pressure in an exciting second half but even with five strikers on the field they could not get an equaliser against an Argentine defence marshalled by the outstanding De Paul.

The victory means Argentina draw level with Uruguay as all-time leading winners of Copa America.

It was a particular triumph for six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi, who picked up his first title in a blue-and-white shirt after more than a decade packed with club and individual honours.

Argentina had won its last major title at the 1993 Copa America when 34-year-old Messi was only six.

Messi 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.

The Argentine players surrounded their tearful captain at the final whistle.

"I can't cry yet," Di Maria said. "We dreamed of getting this, and we fought. Many people criticised us and asked us not to come back (to the national team)."

Messi finished the tournament's joint top goalscorer with four goals and was elected joint best player along with Brazil superstar Neymar.

But in a physical final neither Messi nor Neymar was able to exert their usual influence.

Messi was quiet throughout the game at the Maracana stadium and uncharacteristically missed a golden opportunity to wrap the game up with two minutes remaining.

"This is a very big title," said Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni. "I hope that Argentines can enjoy it. The fans love the team unconditionally and I think they identify with this side that never drops its guard."

Their win extended their sequence of undefeated matches to 20 under Scaloni and handed Brazil their first competitive defeat since they lost to Belgium in the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

"First we have to congratulate our opponents especially for the first half when they neutralised us," said Brazilian defender Thiago Silva.

"In the second half there was no contest - only one team tried to play football, the other just wasted time as we knew they would. It's not an excuse, we didn't do what we had to, principally in the first half."

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