BUENOS AIRES (AP) – Argentina finally made Lionel Messi cry with joy.
After losing four times in the final, exiting early in major tournaments and even a decision to withdraw from the national team, the superstar celebrated a highly anticipated title with Argentina in Saturday’s 1-0 win against Brazil at the Maracana Stadium. .
The title ended Argentina’s 28-year drought in big trophies, with Messi the best player with four goals and five passes. The captain also broke the team record for international appearances and 151 appearances.
“I had to remove the thorn in my head to achieve something with the national team,” Messi said after celebrating with his teammates.
When Uruguayan referee Esteban Ostojich blew the final whistle, Messi knelt on the field and covered his face with his hands.
After lifting the Copa America trophy, Messi said on the field and spoke to his family by phone. He wrapped the gold medal around his neck and shouted, “I won, I won!”
The next challenge is to win the World Cup in Qatar next year, the first since Maradona took the team to the title in 1986.
Until Saturday, Messi’s title with Argentina included only the U-20 World Cup title in 2005 and a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
His first frustration at the senior team level began at the age of 19 in the quarter-final World Cup elimination against Germany in 2006. A year later, he saw Brazil beat Argentina 3-0 in the Copa America final.
His next big chance to win with Argentina was in the 2014 World Cup final against Germany. The 1-0 defeat at the Maracana Stadium in Rio frustrated the star, who was named best player of the tournament, although his form was not as impressive as at his club.
Chile would break Messi’s hopes of two Copa America finals, in 2015 and 2016, both with penalties.
After Chile’s second defeat, Messi told reporters that the national team was finished for him.
“It’s not for me. I tried, I think it’s,” he said.
But he returned for South America’s World Cup qualifiers where Argentina struggled. He took the team to Russia, but the 16th defeat in France came at a turbulent time for the team.
Messi became more aggressive in the Copa America 2019, much to the delight of Argentine fans who thought he was too cold, too European. Under an inexperienced coach, Lionel Scaloni, he was surrounded by young players who brought out the best in him.
On Saturday, Messi kissed the Copa America trophy and lifted it at the age of 34. The biggest hole in his decorating career was closed now.
Her first public words after the title showed how excited and relieved she was.
“What a beautiful madness!” said Messi in an Instagram post showing him the Copa America trophy shirt in the Maracana’s dressing room. “This is incredible! Thank God! We are the champions!”
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, one of Argentina’s key players in the tournament, says Messi is “the one who deserves the most” to win the South American title.
Later at a press conference, Messi said early on he was “inexplicable”.
“I was sad before, but I knew it would happen at some point,” he said. “I feel like God saved the moment for me, against Brazil in a final and in their country.”
AP reporter Mauricio Savarese contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro.
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