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Messi Stamps his CLASS on Copa America

By NORMA ASTRID GODINHO
July 12, 2021 12:01 IST
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Argentina's Lionel Messi fights for the ball with Brazil's Thiago Silva during the Copa America final at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, July 10.

IMAGE: Argentina's Lionel Messi and Brazil's Thiago Silva joust for the ball during the Copa America final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, July 10, 2021. Photograph: Wagner Meier/Getty Images
 

On Saturday evening, Lionel Messi finally got what had eluded arguably the finest footballer of his generation throughout his glorious career -- a trophy playing for his country.

Messi-led Argentina edged out Brazil 1-0 to win the Copa America in Rio de Janeiro.

Messi was seven years old when Argentina last lifted the Copa America trophy 27 years ago. Angel Di Maria's strike in the tournament's final gave Messi much-needed validation.

Comparision between Messi and his rival Cristiano Ronaldo have often highlighted how the Argentine did not have an international trophy representing his country. Ronaldo, on the other hand, led Portugal to a Euro 2016 title.

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their third goal with Angel Di Maria during the Copa America semi-final against Colombia. 

IMAGE: Messi celebrates Argentina's third goal with Angel Di Maria during the Copa America semi-final against Colombia, July 3, 2021. Photograph: Diego Vara/Reuters

Messi has won virtually everything at the club level, but missed a major title with Argentina -- the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing being the only highlight.

Other than the title itself, Messi made the 2021 Copa America tournament one to remember.

The champion finished Copa America as the top scorer along with Colombia's Luis Díaz with four goals each.

His first goal in the tournament came from a free kick in the 1-1 draw against Chile, Argentina's first group stage match.

Lionel Messi during the match against Bolivia 

IMAGE: Messi during the match against Bolivia. Photograph: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The 34 year old scored twice in the 4-1 win against Bolivia, one from the spot and another in a gentle lob past goal-keeper Carlos Lampe. He netted his fourth in another free kick in the 3-0 victory against Ecuador in the quarter-final.

Messi also had five assists in the tournament. The only Argentine goal at Copa America which did not involve him was Angel di Maria's in the final against Brazil.

Though Luis Diaz also scored four goals, Messi registered more assists and was named the Golden Boot winner. He played all 630 minutes at the Copa America.

The Barca legend also had a hand in nine of the 12 goals Argentina scored during the tournament and was also named the Best Player of the Tournament along with Brazil's Neymar who scored two goals and registered three assists himself.

Argentina's Lionel Messi is on the ball during their group A match against Paraguay on June 21, 2021

IMAGE: Messi is on the ball during Argentina's group A match against Paraguay, June 21, 2021. Photograph: Pedro Vilela/Getty Images

In 2021, Messi has played 38 games, scoring 33 goals, with 14 assists and receiving 26 Man-of-the-match awards.

He has the most goals, most assists in La Liga as well.

Having won the Copa de Ray and the Copa America, Messi could well be in line for Ballon d'Or number 7!

It would be interesting to see if Argentina carry forward the Copa America momentum to the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

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NORMA ASTRID GODINHO

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