Reflecting on Lionel Messi’s Copa America triumph

Lionel Messi wins Copa America 2021

Argentina captain Lionel Messi kisses the Conmebol Copa America trophy after his side defeated host Brazil 2021 in the final. (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

From getting diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency as a boy to being a Copa America 2021 winner, Lionel Messi has defied all odds to become a living legend. His wizardry is not unknown.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane to see how the demigod overcame various struggles and kissed an international trophy for the first time in his career.

Sixteen years of waiting, 28 years of darkness, numerous scars of untouched glory, heartbreaks of lost finals, all forgotten, all unplugged, Lionel Messi led Argentina, at last, to the heights of international football.

Argentina wins Copa America

Argentina defeated Brazil in the final of Copa America 2021 to win their 15th Copa America trophy. It was their first since 1993.

The only and decisive goal of the match came from Angel Di Maria, thanks to a delicious forward pass from Rodrigo de Paul. There were waves and waves of offense from the men in yellow but in the end, the rudeness and stiffness of Argentina’s defense proved to be superior.

What a night! The Earth was shaking, the universe was ecstatic, and why not? It can be answered as “Football won Messi, not vice versa.”

FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi finally added an international trophy to his never-ending list of silverware. Messi single-handedly guided Argentina to the summit. He was involved in every goal scored by Argentina in Copa 2021, except in the final.

His magic throughout the tournament was a reminiscent of what Deigo Maradona did in the 1986 World Cup Mexico.

At the ripe age of 34, Messi’s story is still has a long way to go before it ends. There is a fitting set of lyrics: “When I get older I will be stronger, They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag.”

And on the 11th of July at Maracana Stadium in Rio, the dictum was proven correct once again!

So close yet so far

Messi has lost several finals in his Argentina career. The loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup and then twice against Chile in back-to-back Copa America finals (2015, 2016) were likely the worst days of his career.

Such was the heartache that he briefly retired from international duties in 2016 just after the loss to Chile, especially since he missed a penalty kick. He un-retired soon thereafter with fresh energy and a new vision.

His hat-trick against Ecuador on the last day of World Cup qualification booked the Albicelestes tickets to Russia for the 2018 World Cup. In the thin air of the Andes, after Argentina conceded a goal in the very first minute, Messi’s magic wreaked havoc. He fired three times, enough to save Argentina from an embarrassing exclusion from World Cup for the first time since 1970.

The 2018 World Cup campaign in Russia was a disaster, however. The wait for international glory continued.

The heartbreak at Anfield in 2019 was another lowlight of his career. Barcelona coughed up a three-goal lead and lost the UCL semifinal to Liverpool. Falling short in the UCL for continuous seasons affected his morale significantly.

Then came the trophy-less season of 2019-2020. Post-lockdown times witnessed a harassing 2-8 loss to FC Bayern Munich in the UCL last eight. Tired of being a one-man team, Messi wanted out of Barcelona.

The news that Messi was willing to leave Nou Camp sent ripples of pandemonium across the world. Barcelona was in tumult.

After a lot of tussle and commotion, Messi reconsidered and he will stay in Catalonia.

Messi’s stellar performance in the 20/21 season saw him score 30 times in 35 league games along with nine assists. After a dusty season of 19-20 and another humiliating defeat at the hands of PSG in the UCL round-of-16, the Nou Camp dwellers won the Copa del Rey trophy in 2021, a much-needed relief for the club as well as for Messi.

Woefully, they bottled and gave away crucial points during the last matches of the La Liga season, resulting in a third-place finish.

Messi magic

With the club in a rebuild, a lack of major trophies in recent years, and memories of Kazan Arena still haunting his living memory, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner went into Copa America 2021 with a mission very few believed to be achievable.

He continued his firecracker form by finding the net four times (including two free-kicks) and creating another five for his teammates as the talisman steered his team to the grand finale at the Maracana Stadium. He ended up winning the Best Player Award and the prize for being the top scorer at the event.

His stats were incredible. He recorded four shots per game and around 1.6 shots on target every match. Compared to his number of big chances created which stands at six, he had missed only two goal-scoring opportunities.

And let’s not forget, winning the Copa America amplifies his chances of winning the Ballon d’Or again for 2021.

His free-kicks, his blood-soaked sock, his jubilation during the penalty shoot-out against Colombia, and his radiant smile after winning the final – the four golden souvenirs that every football fan will cherish for millenniums to come.