Football legend Lionel Messi ended his international trophy drought as Argentina defeated Brazil 1-0 in the Copa America final at Maracana. Veteran Angel Di Maria scored in the 22nd minute of the game to give the champions claim a record-equaling 15th Copa America title.
With the victory, Argentina won their first major title in 28 years, while Messi avoided the unflattering scenario of retiring without winning a major title for the country.
Brazil Slips Up
Brazil, the steadier team in the tournament, were the favorites to win the title at the home ground, but slipped up as de Maria took advantage of a slight defensive failure. Though Brazil stepped up pressure after Argentina scored, the defensive might Rodrigo De Paul stood between them and a goal.
"First we have to congratulate our opponents especially for the first half when they neutralised us ... 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," said Brazilian defender Thiago Silva.
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Argentina's win was a particular triumph for Barcelona striker Messi, who picked up his first ever title in a blue-and-white shirt after more than a decade of club and individual honours.
The Argentine players surrounded their captain at the final whistle. Goalkeeper Emilian Martinez celebrated what he called a Maracanazo, a remarkable win at the famous Rio stadium.
"I'm speechless," he said. "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."
Messi finished the tournament's joint top goalscorer with four goals and was elected joint best player along with Neymar.
Messi Misses Golden Chance
But he was quiet throughout the game at the Maracana stadium and uncharacteristically missed a golden opportunity to wrap the game up with two minutes remaining.
When the final whistle went, Argentina TV declared "Argentina Champions, Lionel Messi Champion!"
The match itself was a disappointing one, with Argentina the better side in a cagey first half that featured 21 fouls.
However, Brazil came out more aggressively in the second period and as the time ticked on they threw more people forward - and at one point having five recognised strikers on the field.
Richarlison had a goal chalked off for offside seven minutes into the second half and then forced Emiliano Martinez into a good stop two minutes later.
But as Brazil poured forward gaps, opened up and Argentina missed two clear chances to score in the dying moments of the match.
The victory was Argentina's 15th Copa America triumph and means they draw level with Uruguay as the all-time leading winners.
"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 sequence of undefeated matches to 20 under Scaloni and handed Brazil their first competitive defeat since they lost to Belgium in the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup.