Silver win: Messi-led Argentina’s Copa America win

Sport is a distillation of micro-tragedies and mega-ecstasies enmeshed with whirring limbs, glistening sweat, unabashed tears and booming laughter. And football presents a wider canvas for all these attributes, which were exhibited at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium late on Saturday night. When the Copa America final that pitted eternal rivals Argentina and Brazil wound to a close, it primarily offered redemption to Lionel Messi, of the phlegmatic smile and magical feet fame. One of the greatest ever footballers and fit to join a pantheon headlined by Pele and Diego Maradona, until now Messi had one missing link — a cup triumph for Argentina. After his 34 summers, that aberration was finally erased once his team defeated Brazil 1-0 in a scrappy contest with the odd streaks of brilliance. Messi, miracle-dispenser with FC Barcelona, was seen by his countrymen as the prodigal son, who never delivered, and they embalmed for posterity their affection towards the late Maradona. Messi and his fellow Argentines constituted a dysfunctional family of unspoken hurts. All that anguish could dissipate thanks to the latest victory which came after a 28-year title drought for the Albiceleste. Their 15th Copa America trophy put them on a par with toppers Uruguay, well ahead of Brazil with nine. Incidentally, Copa America with its 1916 inception even predates the FIFA World Cup, which commenced in 1930.

Argentina and Brazil have embellished the championship’s storied history and in South America with its seize-the-day spirit, novels infused with magical realism and samba dance, football is seen as an extension of aesthetic joy. The final though did not live up to that esoteric aim. There were sparks marred by some rough tackles. Messi was not in his elements, marked tightly and weighed down by expectations, he even missed scoring his team’s second goal in the closing minutes. But having drawn the Brazilian defenders towards him all through the game, Messi created spaces that his team-mates could exploit. Even in that missed goal-scoring opportunity, Messi seemed keen on doing an assist rather than performing the deed and this is the mark of a man desperate for affection from his squad and country. The match was by then firmly in Argentina’s grip thanks to the 22nd minute goal slotted by Angel Di Maria, who capitalised on a long-pass from Rodrigo De Paul. A stung Brazil, especially Neymar, mounted rapid sorties on either side of half-time. Two attempts were adroitly foisted by Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and when the Selecao seemingly breached the citadel, it was deemed off-side. Argentina and Messi were destined for their shot at glory in a 10-team intra-continental tournament, which despite other simultaneous global attractions like the Euro and Wimbledon, had its own effervescent charms.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 3:36:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/silver-win-the-hindu-editorial-on-messi-led-argentinas-copa-america-win/article35270214.ece

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