In a tense night of football, Argentia beat Colombia 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 to qualify for the 2021 Copa America final.
They will now face old rivals Brazil at the Maracana on Saturday in the final of finals. We were denied a Superclasico World Cup final in 2014 when Brazil imploded against Germany in the semis. This time both nations did their job, and for one man in particular that means a chance to purge some demons and fulfill some dreams.
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In 2007, Leo Messi started for Argentina as they lost the Copa America final 3-0 to Brazil.
In 2015, Leo Messi started for Argentina as they lost the Copa America final 4-1 on penalties to Chile.
In 2016, Leo Messi started for Argentina as they lost the Copa America final 4-2 on penalties to Chile again.
In 2021, Leo Messi will start for Argentina in the Copa America final against Brazil.
Will it be fourth time lucky?
The Copa America one of two dreams Messi has been chasing his whole life, the other being the World Cup. But while he has played in three World Cups as a starter, he has only reached the final once, where he suffered heartbreak in 2014 against Germany. In the Copa he has had to face that heartbreak on three separate occasions. He has gotten so close to glory only to see it ripped away.
The Copa America holds a special meaning for Argentina, as it’s a tournament where they have been historically dominant (unlike the World Cup, which obviously is Brazil’s domain). In fact when Argentina won the Copa for the 14th time in 1993, they set a new record for most wins.
Who would have thought that 28 years later they would still be stuck on 14 wins, and Uruguay would have overtaken them to move onto 15 thanks to their triumphs in 1995 and 2011? Argentina want their Copa supremacy back, Messi wants it back. Having come so close on three occasions and then for all his magical talent to have been unable to lift his team over the line has been heartbreaking.
Now, thanks to the win over Colombia, he has yet another chance. And the win owes much to Messi’s genius as it was his perfectly weighted assist that allowed Lautaro Martinez to open the scoring. That was his fifth assist of the tournament, the most, to go with his four goals, also the most. He has been the best player at the Copa so far, directly involved in nine out of Argentina’s 11 goals and playing big roles in the build-up to the other two.
🏆#CopaAmérica 🎙️ Lionel Messi: "La copa pasada el grupo ya se había hecho fuerte y había dejado una buena imagen. Ahora vamos por la final".
— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) July 7, 2021
Messi has been Argentina’s Mr. Everything, as he proved by stepping up first to rattle home his penalty in the shootout and give Argentina the early edge. None of this waiting around for the hero shot that has begun to infect football lately, Messi is first out the gate every time, showing his leadership and composure.
From there Messi became an observer to the Emiliano Martinez show as the colossal goalkeeper saved three Colombian penalties to guide Argentina through. Finally, a little help for Messi. Something he didn’t have to do himself! To be honest keeping goal is probably the only thing he can’t do; he’s been simply sensational this summer and a Copa win would be a fitting finale for him.
— Emi Martínez (@emimartinezz1) July 7, 2021
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On a personal level, winning the Copa America would strengthen Messi’s already rock solid case to win the 2021 Ballon d’Or (his case so far being that he is just obviously better than everyone else). It would also finally give him a men’s senior international trophy, meaning that Pelé and Maradona fans will no longer be able to claim that advantage in fan debates over who the greatest of all-time is.
But Messi being Messi won’t care about those things. Sure stepping out of Maradona’s shadow will be nice, but what he will really enjoy will be delivering a trophy for his beloved Argentina; Ending their 28 year drought, putting them level with Uruguay atop the Copa standings, and giving this young(ish) squad a taste for silverware ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
That World Cup will surely be Messi’s last dance with his national team overall, but this tournament is likely to be his last Copa America. He will be 37 in 2024 and probably off in semi-retirement in the MLS; and how could he enjoy that if he knew he had failed to deliver a Copa for Argentina?
Messi has won everything there is to win for his club Barcelona, multiple times in fact. He has shown his love for the Blaugrana by showering them in trophies. But if there’s one thing he loves more than Barcelona, it’s Argentina, and that is why winning on the international stage is a dream beyond compare, and why those defeats in 2007, 2014, 2015 and 2016 hurt so much.
Leo Messi’s dream is to win for his country, to win with his country; and taking Argentina to Copa America glory against Brazil in Brazil would be the most perfect way to exorcise the demons of his past heartbreaks and to make that impossible dream come true.