Brazil-Argentina games often raise concerns, but one in particular sticks out ahead of Saturday’s Copa America final in Rio de Janeiro: can Lionel Messi win an international trophy for the first time?
The Barcelona player has won every imaginable honor at club and individual levels, and is widely regarded as the finest of the twenty-first century, as well as a serious contender for the title of greatest of all time, alongside Pele and Diego Maradona.
But he has never won a trophy with Argentina, leaving the 34-year-old with the question: If not now, when?
“Messi still has two chances,” Tostao, a 1970 World Cup winner with Brazil, remarked. “He has the Copa and the World Cup (both in 2022), but the World Cup is a difficult competition.”
Although Brazil has a little better record over the last four weeks and enjoys home advantage, there is no clear favorite for Saturday’s game at the Maracana stadium.
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Messi, on the other hand, is on fire, leading the competition in goals and assists. Messi has four goals and five assists in Argentina’s eleven goals.
In an Argentine sports daily, Antonio Mohamed, a former Argentina player who is currently the coach of Monterrey, remarked, “We are seeing a better version of Messi.”
“Three guys would be on top of him every time he touched the ball, in the way of Maradona at his best.”
Messi has spoken openly about his desire to win a title with Argentina, and his countrymen understand how important an international trophy is to him.
His colleagues have been chastised in the past for letting him down by missing finals chances or failing to match his superhuman levels of brilliance or focus.
Now, however, he is surrounded by Argentina’s strongest team in years, and he has less excuses.
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Argentina is not the Argentina of 1978 or 1986, but the team has gone undefeated in 19 games under Lionel Scaloni since the last Copa America in 2019.
The more experienced players, such as Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, are well aware that winning the World Cup is a long shot, and Saturday’s final may be their last chance.
The seasoned players and the young players who grew up idolizing the guy who would become their teammate understand that they are playing not just for Argentina, but also for Messi and the opportunity to honor him with the title his achievements deserve.
“We are all thrilled that Argentina has a chance to win the trophy, and that it will be presented to Leo,” Mohamed remarked.