Lionel Messi was an understandably happy man when speaking to the press after his Argentina team beat Brazil 1-0 in the final of the Copa America on Saturday night.
He’s lost more finals with his national team than he would have liked down through the years, and revealed, in comments carried by Marca, that success had lifted a weight from his shoulders. “I needed to get the thorn out [from my side] of not being able to achieve something with the national team,” Messi said.
“I was close for many years, I knew at some point it was going to happen. I’m grateful to God for giving me this moment against Brazil in the final, and in this country.
“I think he was saving this moment for me. The happiness I feel is crazy, inexplicable. Many times I’ve had to leave [a tournament] sad. I knew that once it would happen to me, there’d be no better moment. This group really deserved it, it’s something impressive.
“Many times I’ve dreamed of this. I want to dedicate it to my family, my wife, my children, my parents, my brothers, who many times had to suffer, just like me or even worse. We’d always go on vacation and spend the first few days sad as we hadn’t won anything. This time is different.”
The decisive goal came in the 22nd minute; Rodrigo de Paul, close to joining Atletico Madrid according to the rumour mill, threaded through an excellent ball to find ex-Real Madrid man Angel di Maria, who finished coolly past Ederson.
Messi, a free-agent following the expiration of his contract with Barcelona, squandered a gilt-edged chance to make it 2-0 late on, but he won’t mind. He’s landed his holy grail.
Messi didn’t shine in the final but certainly did before it. He played 100% of Argentina’s minutes throughout the Copa America, earning himself the accolade of player-of-the-tournament. The Argentine scored four goals and contributed five assists in seven appearances, directly participating in 60% of their goals.