Argentina have won the Copa America after a 1-0 win over Brazil at the Maracana Stadium in Rio.
Angel Di Maria scored the only goal of the game with a fine lob in the first half, with most of the game’s best chances thereafter coming in a late flurry during the closing stages. The opening goal, when it came, was simplicity itself: a direct, diagonal pass toward Angel Di Maria, missed entirely by Renan Lodi - and then beautifully lofted over Ederson’s head and into the net from the PSG attacker.
Gabriel did force one smart save from Martinez, who tipped over his fierce half-volley, but the game’s best late chance fell at the other end moments later - but Lionel Messi failed to finish from close range.
In the end, it mattered not at all and served to wind down more precious seconds on the clock, as the resolute Albiceleste continued to cling on until they heard the most anticipated of all final whistles in almost 30 years: the one which signalled their first Copa America triumph since the Gabriel Batistuta-inspired triumph of 1993, and the end of the long wait of Messi to add major international honours to his long line of successes.
Follow live updates, analysis and reaction to the Copa America final below:
10 minutes to kick-off in the Copa America final
Since Argentina last won a Copa, Brazil have racked up no fewer than five - which brings their overall total to nine. Only Argentina (14) and Uruguay (15) have won the competition more times.
Messi and Neymar, Argentina and Brazil
Let’s be entirely honest: pre-game, the expectations will always be that one of these two will prove the match-winner.
Messi and Argentina or Neymar and Brazil: where’s your money going this evening?!
Argentina heroes en route to Copa final
Unsurprisingly, Messi has played a key role in his nation’s run to the final.
The No10 has scored four times so far and assisted several more - while Lautaro Martinez has three and netted in both the quarters and semis.
At the other end of the pitch, Emi Martinez has emerged as a giant in goal, the hero of the penalty shootout against Colombia and, for the first time in a long time, a serious No1 to rely on for the national team.
Just as vitally, Cristian Romero has been passed fit to play at centre-back, after missing the last few games.
Fans in attendance at the Copa America final
The entire tournament has been played behind closed doors until now - but after a special request, it’s estimated around 7,000 fans should be there tonight.
Around 2,000 Argentina fans who live in Brazil, a further 3,700 Brazil supporters and then 1,400 distributed among the national teams’ personnel should hopefully provide plenty of atmosphere.
And a night to remember for the fortunate few!
Argentina chasing record Copa America title
A victory tonight for Argentina would of course be huge for Messi, a national team title he has chased for so long, but it would be big in South American football history, too.
Argentina would move to 15 Copa America victories, putting them level with Uruguay for the highest all-time number of wins in the competition.
It wouldn’t be before time, either: they haven’t tasted success in the competition since 1993, when two goals from Gabriel Batistuta earned a 2-1 win over Mexico.
Confirmed Argentina XI
Huge boost for Argentina as Romero is fit to start. Angel Di Maria gets the start in attack.
Argentina XI: E Martínez; Montiel, Romero, Otamendi, Acuña; De Paul, Paredes, Lo Celso; Messi, Di María, L Martínez
Confirmed Brazil XI
Brazil go with Ederson over Alisson in goal and Lucas Paqueta gets the nod in midfield.
Confirmed XI: Ederson; Danilo, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Renan Lodi; Casemiro, Paqueta, Fred; Everton, Neymar, Richarlison
Copa America final starts in one hour
We’re just 60 minutes from kick-off and crowning the kings of the continent in South America. Lionel Messi is seeking his first major international victory with Argentina; Neymar and Brazil are hoping to land their 10th Copa America win and retain the title they won in 2019.
Copa America final: Reasons for a Brazil win
STEADINESS: Brazil won five matches and drew against Ecuador when it fielded a team with six substitutes. So far, the Selecao has scored in every match and conceded only two goals in the group stage. It usually plays better in the second half, when most of its opponents are fatigued. Substitutes have managed to keep the team’s intensity high when they join in.
NEYMAR: His dribbles, passes and shots add to Brazil’s steadiness. Neymar scored two goals and had three assists in five matches — he was rested against Ecuador. His exchanges with midfielder Lucas Paqueta made Brazil more fluid up front. As Neymar showed against Peru in the semifinal, he can still come up with tricks that result in goals.
TITE: Brazil’s coach has used the tournament to test playing alternatives, eyeing the World Cup in Qatar. As a result, his team depends less on Neymar and adapts well to different situations. By using Gabriel Jesus as a winger, he created opportunities for new players to step up as target men, including Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Barbosa. Tite has also found Paqueta as a promising box-to-box player.
DEFENDERS: Veteran Thiago Silva is still in top form, Marquinhos is as quick as most strikers and Eder Militao has proven to be a potential Brazil starter in the long run. The two goals Brazil conceded at Copa America came on an unstoppable volley by Luis Diaz against Colombia and by Angel Mena in a rare mistake against Ecuador.
Copa America final: Reasons for an Argentina win
MESSI: the team captain is playing his best tournament with Argentina since his debut in 2005. He’s scored four goals and has five assists so far. Beyond his playmaking virtues, the 34-year-old is looking comfortable as a leader on the pitch — in a contrast with the shy Messi of past tournaments.EMILIANO
MARTINEZ: he is the first goalkeeper to stop three penalties in a shootout in Argentina’s history. Against Colombia, he trash-talked his opponents before each shot, which apparently worked. He looks safe in the position, has a good footwork and blocks crosses with precision.
LIONEL SCALONI: The young coach took over as an intern in 2018 to leave behind Argentina’s meltdown in the 2018 World Cup when the team lost to France in the round of 16. Now he is responsible for a renewal to team players like defender Cristian Romero, winger Nicolas Gonzalez and goalkeeper Martinez.
LAUTARO MARTINEZ: The striker nearly lost his position to veteran Sergio Aguero after a slow start in the tournament, but he has now scored in the last three matches. He tires opponents with his runs, opens gaps for Messi and still scores some goals.
PROTECTION TO MESSI: Rodrigo de Paul and Giovani Lo Celso are not the most creative midfielders in the world. But they are still high-level passers who will sacrifice defending so Messi can shine in the final third. Leandro Paredes and Guido Rodriguez also take that responsibility in the center, no matter who is playing.
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