Messi finally tasted Copa glory after near misses in the final in 2007, 2015 and 2016
Lionel Messi silenced his haters one more time by finally leading Argentina to silverware in a major international competition for the first time in 28 years, after conquering eternal enemy Brazil at the esteemed Maracanã stadium, where they hadn’t lost competitively in 71 years.
Even with an astoundingly decorated career, no achievement could quite fulfill the gap of winning an international trophy for his nation; a feeling that drove Messi as he went on to have a brilliant campaign and finally lifted the Copa America trophy with his comrades in blue and white.
Lionel Scaloni’s Albiceleste have had a remarkable campaign in this year’s edition of the Conmebol Copa América, preserving a 20-game unbeaten streak since the last edition.
After a draw in the first group stage match against Chile, they went on to win the rest of the four matches to secure a place at the top of the table, and face Ecuador in the quarter-finals, which they won handsomely 3-0.
After a difficult 90 minutes in the semi-finals against Colombia, the game was dragged to penalties, where the brilliant performance from goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez allowed the team a shot at the big title.
The odds were stacked against the Argentines in the final, where they faced an immensely talented and sturdy Brazilian side, in Rio de Janeiro, where the majority of the small population of fans allowed, would have been dressed in yellow, cheering a streak of unbeaten home run in competitive games for 71 years.
Thanks to big performances from the likes of Rodrigo de Paul, Cristian Romero, Martinez, and Angel di Maria, alongside the inspiring captain Messi, silverware was coming back to Buenos Aires after so many years.
Messi was in sublime form in this year’s tournament.
Scoring four goals and assisting five more, he had the most goal contributions in the tournament, and took home the Golden Boot.
Messi had the most key passes (22), most chances created (26), most successful dribbles (36), most goal creating actions (eight), most shot creating actions (46), most shots and shots on target (28 and 11), most passes in the final third (133), and most number of accurate through balls (four), all in this Copa.
Following an agonizing string of failures in finals with Argentina, success was finally achieved by Messi.
The now 34-year old left-winger had participated and ultimately fell short in three Copa América finals, in 2007, 2015 and 2016.
He came closest to international triumph in the biggest stage of them all, the 2014 World Cup, where Messi, arguably, carried Argentina to the finals.
However, their burdening dependence on him proved fatal as they lost to Germany after a neck-and-neck match in the final.
The match ended in heartbreak and tears all across the globe for fans, deeming it to be the best chance for Messi to have lifted the iconic golden prize.
Even through a career filled to the brim with records and honors, there was always a void that had been nagging at Messi.
But that grief is over.
Seeing him rise to the occasion and ultimately bring home the Copa América, has been seen by football lovers across the world, including legends and stars of the game as something of an inevitable and warranted accomplishment for the history of football.
* The writer is an A level student who is doing internship at Dhaka Tribune