Lionel Messi finally wins the Copa America as Argentine beat Brazil 1-0, largely thanks to a heroic display from Rodrigo De Paul.
Lionel Messi’s frustrating search for a trophy with the Argentina national team met its end on Saturday, as Argentina beat Brazil 1-0, at the iconic Maracana stadium.
It was a historic win for La Albiceleste, that broke their 28-year trophy drought, levelling them with Uruguay as the joint all-time record winners of Copa America. It was also the first time Argentine managed to defeat Brazil in their home territory in the first 21st century.
It was far from a perfect game, however, as the two sides collectively committed 41 fouls. Although it was an entertaining watch, the game had to be stopped on several occasions due to the rather hostile nature of the proceedings as both sides tried their best to disrupt the flow of the opposition.
However, Argentina were the cleverer of the two, using their first half opener from Angel Di Maria to sit deeper and frustrate their opposition. They remained resilient at the back, forcing the opposition to mainly rely on crosses while also breaking up the play on several occasions in midfield.
The method worked out perfectly for Lionel Scaloni and his men, as they managed to hold Brazil after 90 minutes of fierce footballing action. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over both these teams and how the players performed individually in this action-packed Copa America final in Rio de Janeiro.
Emiliano Martinez: 8.5/10
It was a reliable goalkeeping performance from Emiliano Martinez, who has been one of the heroes of the tournament for Argentina. He made some vital saves, especially during the final ten minutes of the game, keeping Brazil out of the game. A deserved clean sheet for the Aston Villa shot-stopper, who now becomes the first-ever Argentine to win the Golden Glove award in Copa America history.
• 𝗙𝗢𝗨𝗥 penalty saves, including three in the semi-final.
• 𝗙𝗢𝗨𝗥 clean sheets, including one in the final.
• The Golden Glove winner.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) July 11, 2021
Gonzalo Montiel: 8/10
Lionel Scaloni’s gamble to start with Gonzalo Montiel ahead of Nahuel Molina paid off rather well. The right-back remained strong defensively for the most part of the game, remaining in formation with the rest of the defenders. He made some sensible tactical fouls to disrupt the flow of the opposition.
Cristian Romero: 8/10
Cristian Romero returned from a three-game absence to start ahead of German Pezzella. It was another gamble by Scaloni that paid off, as the Atalanta centre-back looked solid at the heart of the four-man backline. He made strong tackles while also chipping in with multiple clearances before eventually making way for Pezzella late in the game.
Nicolas Otamendi: 8.5/10
Nicolas Otamendi was the beating heart of the Argentine defence that remained solid against Brazil. It was his leadership, aggression and experience that helped La Albiceleste to keep the Selecao out of the game. Indeed, the former Manchester City defender made several key challenges, disrupting the flow of Brazil with well-calculated risks.
Marcos Acuna: 7.5/10
Marcos Acuna was not as defensively effective as his fellow teammates at the back. However, the attack-minded full-back offered good assurance in possession, which became useful especially in transition. He was later allowed to play in a more natural attacking role after the introduction of Nicolas Tagliafico.
Angel Di Maria: 7.5/10
Angel Di Maria’s start in this game was surprising, to say the least. But the PSG star did not disappoint, producing an excellent finish to score the all-important winner in the first half. Apart from the goal, he tried his best to probe the Brazilian defence, making life difficult for Renan Lodi.
Rodrigo De Paul: 10/10
Rodrigo De Paul was indubitably the best player for Argentina in this final. Starting out as a midfielder, he was one of his nation’s major sources of creativity, notably producing an accurate long ball to assist Di Maria’s opener. He was useful even in transition, playing little one-twos with the likes of Di Maria and Giovani Lo Celso in the middle of the park or out wide.
Rodrigo De Paul's Copa América final by numbers:
100% shot accuracy
11 duels won
6 fouls won
4 tackles made
1 Big Chance created
He covered every blade of grass. 👏 pic.twitter.com/BNK7487oVe
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 11, 2021
Apart from his work on the ball, De Paul was just as good off it. The midfielder played his socks off, covering every blade of grass to run down the opposition ball carrier. Also showed excellent resilience, persistence and strength to wear off challenges from the Brazil defenders. A performance for the ages!
Leandro Paredes: 7.5/10
Leandro Paredes was not as useful as De Paul in the Argentine midfield. However, he was a crucial outlet in the second line of press, as he constantly hurried and hassled the opposition ball-carriers. Made a host of fouls and received a yellow card, thus becoming the first Argentine to make way, just ten minutes into the second half.
Giovani Lo Celso: 7.5/10
Giovani Lo Celso’s place in the starting eleven was justified as the Tottenham midfielder was extremely useful in transition. His ability to pick the ball up and move forward helped the visitors create potential counter-attacking opportunities. But much like Paredes, he had to make way around the hour mark, after being booked.
Lionel Messi: 6/10
This game was all about Lionel Messi. He was the star of Argentina heading into the game with four Man of the Match performances in six matches. However, it was an odd game for the 34-year-old attacker, who did not enjoy much freedom in possession. He was often hurried by Brazil, barely allowing him time to spill his magic on the pitch.
Five years ago, a devastated Lionel Messi said he would retire from international football.
Now? He's a Copa America champion.
What a story 👏 pic.twitter.com/dAxSQV0UZB
— Goal (@goal) July 11, 2021
Rather than being the game-changer for Argentina, Messi often appeared as a liability, even missing one great opportunity to seal the win late in the game. He is, nonetheless, the driving force behind Argentina’s collective success in Copa America 2021.
Lautaro Martinez: 5/10
Lautaro Martinez was one of few Argentina players who had a difficult night. Starting as the leading frontman for the visitors, the Inter Milan forward did not provide anything to the table. He was sloppy even in possession, eventually making way for the final ten minutes of the game. Not the best of performances from the number nine.
Guido Rodriguez: 7/10
Guido Rodriguez was brought in around the 54th minute mark to add more defensive resilience in the Argentina midfield. It was a smart move by Scaloni, but the midfielder was almost caught off guard when he failed to clear the ball inside the box, leading to a potential penalty incident with Gabrigol.
Nicolas Tagliafico: 6.5/10
Nicolas Tagliafico replaced Lo Celso just after the hour mark. He occupied the left-back role, allowing Acuna to operate further forward. Did not look very polished, but did enough to help his team retain the clean sheet.
German Pezzella: 7.5/10
German Pezzella made a couple of important defensive contributions after coming on for Romero in the 79th minute. He does indeed deserve a lot of credit for settling in quickly to the pace of the game.
Nico Gonzalez: 7/10
Nico Gonzalez offered the fresh legs in the Argentine attack during the final ten minutes. His contributions led to two great counter-attacking opportunities for the visitors.
Exequiel Palacios: 6/10
Offered more freshness in midfield after coming on for Di Maria in the 79th minute.
Ederson was way too easily beaten for Di Maria’s goal, especially for a goalkeeper of his calibre. He did not have to do anything much other than a great save to deny the second goal late in the game. An unfortunate evening for the Manchester City shot-stopper.
— Daily Fresh ZA (@DailyFresh_ZA) July 11, 2021
Danilo looked quite resilient on the right side of the Brazil defence. He was disciplined enough to prevent any of the Argentine forwards from making any impact on the game from his end. Did not provide any creativity going forward, though.
Marquinhos looked solid as ever, at the heart of the Brazil defence. He marshalled the backline well, making some important blocks and tackles to prevent the opposition from doubling their tally in the proceedings.
Thiago Silva: 7/10
Thiago Silva partnered Marquinhos in the Brazil backline, using his experience to keep the opposition quiet for the most part of the game. He could have done a bit better in terms of his contributions from set-pieces, though.
Renan Lodi: 5/10
Renan Lodi was the major culprit behind Argentina’s opener in the first half. He played Di Maria onside, struggling to keep up with his run and also failing to clear the ball out. Not a good look for the Atletico Madrid left-back, who did not provide much going forward either.
Lucas Paqueta: 4/10
Lucas Paqueta was one of the major finds for Brazil in this Copa America. Unfortunately, the midfielder disappeared completely in this vital fixture, struggling to offer any kind of creativity in the final third.
Casemiro had the job of marking Messi out of the game. He did his job remarkably well, often hurrying the Argentine superstar in possession. However, the Real Madrid star simply did not receive enough support around him or the creativity from his teammates that could have been useful in offering variety to the Brazil midfield.
Fred had to walk on a tightrope after a very early booking. It affected his performance throughout the remainder of the first half, with the Manchester United star eventually getting replaced during the break.
Replacing the suspended Gabriel Jesus, Everton did not provide anything to the table. He failed to trouble Acuna even though he was the weakest link in the Argentine backline. It is, therefore, fair to say that Everton was the weakest link in the Brazil attack.
Despite his shenanigans, Neymar actually played rather well and was Brazil’s best player by a mile. He looked determined to make a difference, but the PSG superstar was often stopped in his tracks with some murder tackles from the Argentine defenders. His set-piece delivers were excellent as well, but he was lacking a proper finisher to support him in the final third.
Friends first, opponents second 👏
Messi, Neymar and Paredes together in the tunnel after the match 💙 pic.twitter.com/rklixPE50a
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 11, 2021
Richarlison had a difficult game, even though he did score a goal that was ruled out due to offside. The Everton attacker was very clumsy with his runs in behind the backline and simply did not have the quality to change the game on its head.
Roberto Firmino: 6/10
Roberto Firmino was Tite’s biggest trick as he replaced Fred at half-time. However, the Liverpool forward did not offer anything to the table, struggling to find the back of the net.
Vinicius Junior: 5/10
Vinicius Junior replaced the ineffective Everton around the hour mark. But he was involved in brawls much more than the actual game.
Gabriel Barbosa: 6.5/10
A late replacement for Paqueta, Gabigol came close to winning a potential penalty but to his misfortune, Guido Rodriguez managed to shield the ball enough to avoid making a foul.
Emerson Royal: 6/10
A late replacement for Lodi, who was on a booking and did not look very disciplined at left-back.