Friendship overshadows rivalry

Messi destroys Neymar’s dream

12 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Messi destroys Neymar’s dream

Argentina skipper Lionel Messi consoles his friend Brazil forward Neymar by giving him a tight hug after the end of Copa America 2021 final match at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday. – COLLECTED PHOTO

RIO DE JANEIRO: Superstar Lionel Messi won his first trophy with his national team as Angel Di Maria's goal gave Argentina a 1-0 win over hosts Brazil in the Copa America final on Sunday, reports AFP.

The victory at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium ended Argentina's 28-year wait for a major trophy, and also ended Brazil's unbeaten home record that stretched back more than 2,500 days.

Argentina had last tasted success at a major tournament in 1993 when the great Gabriel Batistuta's brace gave them a 2-1 win over Mexico in the Copa final in Ecuador.

"It's a great title, especially for our people. The fans support the team unconditionally. I think they can identify with this team that never gives in," said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.

It was the first time in six editions playing at home that Brazil had failed to lift the trophy.

Argentina played with aggression and commitment, but no lack of quality with Di Maria tormenting Brazil's left back Renan Lodi, who probably should have cut out De Paul's pass for the winger'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.

"We fell short so many times, we dreamt so much about this, fought so hard," said Di Maria, who was named man of the match.

Brazil struggled to create anything of note and even when they had a free-kick from shooting range, Neymar couldn't beat the wall.

When the hosts did finally maintain some pressure late in the first half, Everton's deflected strike bobbled though to goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Tite was quick to act, bringing on forward Roberto Firmino for defensive midfielder Fred at half-time.

Richarlison had the ball in the net soon after but he was flagged offside.

And moments later Neymar teed up Richarlison but Martinez parried his near post effort.

Brazil managed to up the pressure again at the end of the half but they lacked a killer touch against some full-blooded defending -- Montiel even finished the game with his white sock soaked in blood.

When Brazil substitute Gabriel Barbosa fired a volley on target, Martinez was equal to it.

Messi slipped embarrassingly late on with a chance to clinch victory but it mattered little as moments later his teammates were tossing him in the air to celebrate their win. "We have to be big enough to recognize (the defeat) regardless of how painful and difficult it is," said Brazil coach Tite.

The final was the first match of the tournament, which was originally due to take place last year, to allow in fans as 7,800 -- a tenth of the Maracana capacity -- took their seats after authorities partially lifted pandemic restrictions.

 


Top