Lionel Messi and Argentina emerged victorious by a 1-0 scoreline against Brazil in the final of the 2021 Copa America at the Maracana Stadium to win their first international trophy since 1993, ending a run of 28 years without a title. The manner of their victory is reminiscent of the 2008 Olympics final against Nigeria, which they won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Angel Di Maria.
Coming into the final, both teams had everything going for them. Argentina was undefeated in 18 matches since losing to Brazil in the semifinal of the 2019 Copa America, and Brazil was on a 13-match unbeaten run since they lost to Argentina in a friendly. Playing on their home ground, the Selecao were clear favourites to pick up the title for a 10th time. From kickoff, both sides slugged it out ferociously, with players flying into tackles and fouls being committed by either side. The game’s only goal came in a fleeting moment of Argentine brilliance in the first half as Rodrigo De Paul sent Angel Di Maria through over the top, and the PSG man calmly dinked the ball over the onrushing Brazilian goalkeeper in the 22nd minute. Brazil thought they equalised through Richarlison in the second half when a ricochet fell kindly for the Everton forward in the Argentine penalty area, but the goal was chalked off for offside. Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez had to make two big saves; first from Richarlison and then from a Gabriel Barbosa volley, to maintain his side’s lead in the game. Once the referee’s whistle went to signify the end of the game, Messi and the Argentine players sunk to their knees, shedding tears of joy before celebrating their triumph over their greatest rival on their own turf.
Di Maria’s strike ultimately gave Argentina the win, but it was their doggedness and willingness to defend stoutly that set the platform for their win. La Albiceleste have won their 15th Copa America title, tying Uruguay for most Copa titles in history. Lionel Messi has now gotten his elusive international title, and his greatness can no longer be questioned.