Argentina won their first major title in 28 years on Saturday, and Lionel Messi received his first medal in a blue-and-white shirt when Angel Di Maria’s goal gave them a 1-0 win over Brazil and a record-tying 15th Copa America.
Di Maria, who was making his Copa debut, justified his selection by scoring the game’s first goal midway through the first half.
Renan Lodi was unable to cut out Rodrigo De Paul’s long ball forward, and Di Maria lobbed the stranded Ederson with ease.
In an exciting second half, Brazil piled on the pressure, but despite having five strikers on the field, they were unable to find an equalizer against an Argentine defense led by Rodrigo De Paul.
“First we have to congratulate our opponents especially for the first half when they neutralized us,” said Brazilian defender Thiago Silva.
“In the second half there was no contest – only one team tried to play football, the other just wasted time as we knew they would. It’s not an excuse, we didn’t do what we had to, principally in the first half.”
After more than a decade of club and individual honors, Argentina’s victory was especially sweet for Barcelona striker Lionel Messi, who won his first title in a blue-and-white shirt.
At the final whistle, the Argentine players surrounded their captain. Emilian Martinez, the goalkeeper, called it a Maracanazo, a remarkable victory at the famous Rio stadium.
He said, “I’m speechless.” “I knew my dream would come true, and where better than the Maracanazo and giving the title to the best in the world and fulfilling his dream.”
With four goals, Messi tied for the tournament’s top goalscorer and was named joint best player alongside Neymar.
However, he was deafeningly quiet throughout the game at Maracana Stadium, and he squandered a golden opportunity to end the game with two minutes left.
Argentina TV declared “Argentina Champions, Lionel Messi Champion!” after the final whistle.
The match itself was a letdown, with Argentina coming out on top in a tense first half that saw 21 fouls.
Brazil, on the other hand, came out more aggressively in the second half, and as the game progressed, they threw more people forward, with five recognized strikers on the field at one point.
Richarlison had a goal disallowed for offside seven minutes into the second half, but two minutes later forced Emiliano Martinez into a good save.
As Brazil poured forward, however, gaps opened up, and Argentina missed two clear scoring opportunities in the final minutes of the game.
Argentina won the Copa America for the 15th time, tying Uruguay for the most wins in the tournament’s history.
“This is a very big title,” said Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni. “I hope that Argentines can enjoy it. The fans love the team unconditionally and I think they identify with this side that never drops its guard.”
Their win extended their unbeaten streak to 20 games under Scaloni, and it was Brazil’s first competitive loss since losing to Belgium in the 2018 World Cup quarterfinals.