RIO DE JANEIRO: At last, Argentina have their hands on a trophy.
Lionel Messi and Co, by defeating Brazil 1-0 in the hosts’ fortress of Maracana on Saturday night, won the Copa America and thus their first major title in 28 years.
Captain Messi secured his first national team prize since Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008 courtesy of a goal from Angel Di Maria which secured a record-equalling 15th Copa.
Di Maria, the other survivor from Beijing in 2008, started for only the second time in the Copa but justified his selection by scoring midway through the first half and Renan Lodi failed to cut out a long ball forward from Rodrigo De Paul.
Brazil, led by Neymar, exerted heavy pressure in an exciting second half but all in vain.
Messi finished the tournament’s joint top goalscorer with four goals and was elected joint best player along with Neymar.
But he was quiet throughout the game at the Maracana and missed a golden opportunity to wrap up the game with two minutes remaining.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni revealed after the game that Messi had played despite an unspecified injury.
Scaloni said: “If you knew the way how he played in the Copa America you’d love him even more. You can never do without a player like him, even when he is not fully fit like in this game and the previous one.”
Brazil defender Thiago Silva said: “First we have to congratulate our opponents especially for the first half. 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.”
** Colombia beat Peru 3-2 in the third place play-off.