Messi ends trophy drought, Argentina win Copa America
Di Maria scores winning goal as Brazil fall
RIO DE JANEIRO, July 11, (AP): Two long droughts ended on Saturday at the Copa America final: Argentina won their first major title since 1993 after a 1-0 win against Brazil. And Lionel Messi finally lifted his first major trophy for the national team, filling in one of the biggest gaps in his decorated career.
Argentina’s winning goal at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro came in the 22nd minute after Rodrigo de Paul made a long pass to Ángel di Maria. The 33-year-old veteran striker counted on some sloppy defending from left-back Renan Lodi to take control and lob it past goalkeeper Ederson.
When the match ended, a tearful Messi knelt down and put his hands on his face. Then most of his teammates ran in his direction to celebrate and threw him into the air. Once criticized by Argentina fans for his quietness, he went to the few hundred guests chanting his name at the Maracana and chanted with them. Messi kissed the trophy before lifting it into the air during the presentations.
The match at the Maracana started with some surprises. Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni made five changes from the starting lineup that beat Colombia on penalties in the semifinal.
Gonzalo Montiel, Cristian Romero,
Marcos Acuña, Leandro Paredes and Di María took the places of Nahuel Molina, Nicolás Tagliafico, Guido Rodríguez and Nicolás González.
Brazil, a team recognized for their steadiness, did not make any changes from the team that advanced to the final.
The teams were cautious early in the match, barely offering chances. When Argentina opened the scoring in a rare Brazil defensive mistake and Di Maria’s classy finish, the match became more physical and Argentina successfully stopped the ball from getting to Neymar.
Neymar tried hard with dribbles and passes, but the Selecao barely threatened Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in the first half. Argentina sat in the back, hoping for counter-attacks.
Brazil coach Tite tried to change the dynamic of the match by replacing defensive midfielder Fred for Roberto
Firmino, and managed to do so for much of the second half. But though the Selecao had more ball posession there were few real opportunities.