Lionel Messi finally ended his wait for a major international trophy with Argentina when his team beat Brazil 1-0 to lift the Copa America 2021 on Saturday night.
Speaking to reporters after leading his team to the Copa America 2021 success, as relayed by ESPN, Argentina captain Lionel Messi couldn’t hide his joy and relief after finally ending his wait for a trophy with the national team.
The 34-year-old has come close on four occasions in the past, only to fall at the final hurdle. However, there was no repeat of that on Saturday night at the Maracana as a goal from Angel Di Maria led Argentina to a historic victory over arch-rivals Brazil, in the process ending the nation’s 28-year-old trophyless run.
Messi, who had become so frustrated with his failure to lead Argentina to success at one point that he almost retired from international football, was brimming with various emotions when he addressed the media after having lifted the Copa America.
“I was close many times. I knew it would happen eventually. I am grateful to God for giving me this moment in Brazil against Brazil. I think He was saving this moment for me. I still don’t think we are aware of what we have done, beyond becoming champions. Now we’re really happy, celebrating, but this is a game for the history books, beating Brazil in a final in Brazil,” the Argentina captain said.
“It’s crazy. I can’t explain how happy I feel. I’ve been sad many times [with Argentina after tournaments] but I knew it would happen and there’s no better moment. This team deserved it.”
Messi also won the Golden Boot award at the tournament after finishing with four goals and five assists, while he was also named the Player of the Tournament, along with Brazil superstar Neymar. The 34-year-old, who is currently a free agent after his contract expired with Barcelona, also paid tribute to manager Lionel Scaloni for the triumph.
“It’s to the merit of [Scaloni] because of everything he’s done and what he’s built. The process with him started three years ago and it’s been constant growth. He knew how to build a spectacular group, a winning group. He deserves the recognition. It’s been a long time since Argentina were champions of South America, and we’ve won it again under him,” Messi said.
Having won the Copa America, Messi will not rest on his laurels, as he has his sights set on the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. “When you win, you have to take advantage of that momentum. It’s easier when results accompany you. We must take advantage of this [win] and this selection of players,” he added.
Messi will now be off on holiday after what has been a gruelling season with club and country. The Argentina skipper, though, is expected to re-sign with Barcelona imminently after La Liga have authorised his registration as a Barca player.