Lionel Messi wins first international trophy as Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 to win Copa America 2021

Angel Di Maria's first-half strike earned Argentina their first Copa America since 1993 and star Lionel Messi's first in his career.

Agency News Contributor

Updated - 11 July 2021 12:13 pm

Argentina have ended their 28-year wait to lift the Copa America after Angel Di Maria's first-half goal clinched a 1-0 victory over Brazil in Saturday's final at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana. The triumph also marks Lionel Messi's maiden piece of major silverware with Argentina, with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner dominant throughout the tournament, finishing with most goals (four) and most assists (five).

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Di Maria, who was promoted to the starting line-up for the final, coolly lobbed over Brazil goalkeeper Ederson for the 22nd-minute winner.

Argentina had been Copa runners-up at four of the past seven tournaments, losing to rivals Brazil in 2004 and 2007, but finally claimed the country's 15th continental crown.

In a physical encounter, Brazil superstar Neymar received plenty of attention while Messi was unable to exude his normal influence for La Albiceleste.

Brazil started the better but could only manage scuffed efforts on goal from Everton and Richarlison before Argentina struck against the run of play.

The outstanding Rodrigo De Paul's hopeful ball forward eluded Selecao left-back Renan Lodi, allowing Di Maria in behind and he calmly poked over the onrushing Ederson.

Di Maria was a constant threat in the first half, with a left-foot effort blocked by Marquinhos before Messi flashed wide.

With the half-time injection of Roberto Firmino, Brazil pressed and thought they had equalised in the 52nd minute when Richarlison hit the back of the net but was offside in the lead-up.

The Everton forward tested Argentina keeper Emiliano Martinez at his near post shortly after, with the Aston Villa man saving smartly.

Brazil substitute Gabriel Barbosa had a late volley brilliantly thwarted by Martinez before an exhausted Messi spurned a golden opportunity to seal the win from De Paul's through ball.

What does it mean?

Argentina finally tastes glory after their last Copa triumph in 1993. La Albiceleste had lost four continental finals since that victory, as well as the 2014 World Cup decider against Germany at the same venue, the Maracana.

It is Argentina's 15th Copa title and Lionel Scaloni's side are now also undefeated across 20 games, offering plenty of reason for optimism on the road to Qatar.

Brazil, who were unbeaten in 13 games, had been Copa winners six times since Argentina's last triumph but the holders miss out on their 10th title. Neymar was absent for the Selecao's 2019 victory due to injury, thus is yet to lift the trophy.

Messi wins elusive international trophy

Lionel Messi was not at his best in the final but he breaks his international trophy duck, enhancing his legacy. The superstar had retired from international football after the Copa America Centenario in 2016 when he missed a penalty in the shootout loss to Chile in the final, before reversing his decision a few months later.

Next up the 2022 World Cup for the 34-year-old, with a huge weight off his shoulders.

Di Maria and De Paul step up

It may have been Messi's tournament but it was not his final, with Di Maria and De Paul stepping up with stellar displays in the decider. The PSG winger was a threat throughout, reiterating his big-game status, while Udinese midfielder De Paul orchestrated attacks and was defensively sound.

What's next?

Scaloni's Argentina will celebrate for a long time but are next in action in 2022 World Cup qualifying against Venezuela in September. Brazil's next qualifier is also in September away to Chile.