Finally. After 28 years Argentina end trophy drought, wins Copa America 2021
- Argentina defeated Brazil 1-0 in the final at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium
- This Argentina's first trophy since the 1993 Copa America title
- They lost four major finals before Sunday's game
Not winning a major trophy for decades can make even the biggest of teams and the best of players doubt themselves. Liverpool fans can attest to the same. But after 28 years of pain and heartbreak, Argentina have finally conquered the Copa America title after defeating Brazil, thanks in part to a couple of Lionels and an angel among men.
Lionel Scaloni, their 43-year-old coach, was under immense pressure as he led Argentina to the Copa America on the back of consecutive stalemates in the World Cup qualifying. After being held to a 1-1 draw against Chile in the opening encounter, there were fears of another underwhelming exit from the tournament, like in the 2019 edition, when Brazil beat Argentina 2-0 in the semis.
But Scaloni showed tactical flexibility to wriggle out wins in different circumstances, changing his lineup or setup in nearly every match so far. The former Sevilla player used a 4-3-3 formation for the first two games, switching to a 4-2-3-1 set up for the next two, before reverting to the former in the two knockout games.
This yielded results, as ‘La Albiceleste’ defeated Uruguay 1-0 in a hotly-contested affair for their first win of the campaign, before edging Paraguay by the same margin. The final group game saw Argentina run riot against Bolivia in a 4-1 win as the team finally started to click together.
The other Lionel, their talismanic captain Messi, was the standout performer for Argentina throughout the tournament. Showing no signs of slowing down at the not-so-sprightly age of 34, although he failed to score in the final, Messi led in all stats like goals, assist and dribbles – which has three different leaders in the Euros. He scored four goals, provided five assists, directly contributing to nine of Argentina’s 11 goals in the tournament.
Also Read | Copa America 2021: Brazil's road to the final
But on Saturday, it was not Messi, Lautaro Martinez, or Alejandro Gomez, it was an angel, Angel Di Maria, who conquered the trophy for the Argentine side. Although he barely found himself on the starting XI throughout the tournament, on Sunday, handed a start, the winger made the most of the opportunity and scored a goal within the first 22 minutes of the game, which eventually turned out to the winner. With the goal, Di Maria has somewhat buried the ghosts of the 2014 World Cup.
However, Argentina couldn't win on Saturday at the iconic Maracana stadium, it wouldn't have counted for anything. But for once in their modern history, Argentina have finally managed to go all the way, holding their nerves and showcasing their champion mentality.