As the final whistle sounded at the Maracana, which confirmed the Copa America for Argentina, superstar Lionel Messi sank to his knees. He couldn’t believe he had finally done it and needed a moment to himself to truly bask in the glory of what he was able to accomplish.
That moment was short-lived, as seconds later, he was swarmed by his teammates. This moment was his, and they recognised it. After 16 years, 150 matches, and four final defeats, Lionel Messi has finally won a major international trophy.
Lionel Messi Overcomes His Argentina Demons and Finally Wins an International Trophy
Messi Wasn’t Man of the Match, But it Was All About Him
When the final ended, many storylines were surrounding the match.
The headline could’ve been Angel Di Maria, who had to face his own demons as well. He wasn’t allowed to start by his old club Real Madrid in the World Cup final in 2014 after their infamous letter threatening legal action.
Argentina lost that final of course, but many believed that with Di Maria playing it could’ve been a different story. There was none of that talk on Saturday night, though, as he scored a beautiful goal that will be etched in Argentine history.
The game could’ve been about Rodrigo De Paul, who was everywhere on the pitch, got the assist for Di Maria, and was the clear Man of the Match. It could’ve also been about Nicolas Otamendi, who put in a world-class display to silence his doubters, or Cristian Romero, who gave it absolutely everything he had while basically playing on one leg.
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, the hero in the semi-finals, also made some excellent key saves in decisive moments. However, the headline was not about any of them, and rightly so. It was about Messi, the man who gave everything he had to his country and to football, and how the sport he loves finally gave him something in return.
A Record-Breaking Copa America for Lionel Messi
While he did not score in the final, sadly slipping on the poorly-maintained pitch after rounding the keeper one-on-one, Messi’s impact on this tournament was immense. As evidenced by the delay in the trophy proceedings for him to collect two separate individual awards, nobody wanted this win more than he did.
The 34-year-old had four goals and five assists, both tournament leaders with the assists a competition record. Argentina scored 12 goals in the cup, and Messi had a direct hand in nine of them.
While it certainly took a team effort to overcome the odds and win the trophy, they couldn’t have asked for a better leader to bring them home. As coach Lionel Scaloni revealed after the game, Messi played the semi-final and the final with a hamstring injury.
Whereas many might’ve quit at this stage, he couldn’t. He was so desperate to finally bring home an international trophy that as long as he could walk, he’d be out there. Even in a relatively irrelevant group stage match against Bolivia, having already guaranteed qualification, Messi not only started, but played the full 90 minutes.
It took everything he had, but at 34 years of age, after all this time, we can finally say it: Lionel Messi has won a trophy for Argentina.
Martinez, no stranger to the spotlight himself, said it best: “I’d rather win it for Messi than for me.” It didn’t just mean something different to him, it meant everything to him, and because of that, it meant everything to his teammates.
The entire team won, but this trophy will forever be remembered as Lionel Messi breaking his duct, and finally, finally, ticking that last empty box on his CV by winning a trophy with Argentina.