Masterful Messi emulates Maradona, leads Argentina to Finalissima win

Argentina retain Finalissima title in first edition since 1993

Lionel Messi was the star of the Finalissima as Argentina thrashed Italy 3-0 to win a second international title in 12 months. Lionel Scaloni’s La Albiceleste secured a second successive Artemio Franchi Cup after winning the last edition in 1993.

Reigning Copa America champions Argentina faced the Euro 2020 winners Italy at Wembley Stadium for the Finalissima title.

Italy manager Roberto Mancini started veteran duo Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci for the last time in their international careers. Argentina started the match on the front foot, showing a good intensity in the opening minutes. They duly went in front after 28 minutes following a sweeping attacking move.

After losing the ball deep in Italy’s half, Argentina’s forwards triggered a counter-press and Italian midfielder Jorginho was dispossessed. The ball was played to Messi’s feet and the mercurial forward swiveled past Italy defender Giovani Di Lorenzo before squaring the ball to striker Lautaro Martinez to score the simplest tap-in from close range.

Argentina continued to dominate proceedings in the match, keeping Italy at bay as the first half wore on before delivering a sucker punch on the cusp of half-time. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez played a long pass to namesake Lautaro, who turned past Bonucci inside Italy’s half before sending Angel Di Maria through on goal. The experienced attacker applied a delicate chip over the onrushing Gianluigi Donnarumma in the first minute of added time to make it 2-0.

Italy captain Chiellini was substituted at half-time, drawing the curtain on what has been an illustrious international career after 18 years and 117 caps. The defender was replaced by Manuel Lazzari.

Argentina turned on the style in the second half, with Italy goalkeeper Donnarumma putting up a brilliant performance between the sticks to repeatedly deny Messi, who seemed bent on scoring a goal, and Di Maria. With the match drawing to its conclusion, substitute Paulo Dybala added a third for La Albiceleste in second-half added time.

Argentina broke with Messi in the closing moments and the PSG man drove through the heart of a ragged Italy defense before he was thwarted by a defender. He managed to touch the ball onto the path of Dybala, who slammed an effort past Donnarumma to round off the scoring in the Finalissima.

Messi has now won his second international trophy and 40th overall in a glittering career. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has now emulated Argentine great Diego Maradona, who lifted the last Artemio Franchi Cup for the side in 1993, incidentally his last international title. Argentina have now gone 32 matches without a loss, with their last loss coming in the 2019 Copa America semi-final against Brazil.

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