Lionel Messi's long wait for a major trophy with Argentina is over after a 1-0 win against Brazil in the Copa America final.
The 34-year-old, currently a free agent after his contract at Barcelona expired, fell to the floor at full-time in a sign of huge relief, while his former team-mate Neymar was in tears after he was unable to inspire Brazil to victory.
It was a huge hurdle crossed for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, who has been a beaten finalist on four separate occasions with Argentina – three times in the Copa America and once in the World Cup.
The match was decided by a goal midway through the first half from Angel Di Maria, who lobbed Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson following a perfect Rodrigo De Paul pass.
Brazil were poor throughout the contest and struggled to test Emiliano Martinez at the other end. Everton forward Richarlison had Brazil’s best chance when he forced the Aston Villa keeper into a save.
Messi, who was named joint-player of the tournament – a prize he shared with Neymar – after his four goals helped Argentina lift the trophy, should have found the net himself at the Maracana, but with the goal at his mercy he slipped when through one-on-one against Ederson.
It mattered not and, 16 years after making his debut for Argentina, Messi finally got his hands on an international title.
In the process, he silenced critics who had always pointed to his lack of success with his country as a reason why he should not be considered the best player of all time, despite his brilliance at club level.
The victory, Argentina's first in the competition in 28 years, takes them level with Uruguay on a joint record 15 Copa titles.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni paid tribute to Messi on Saturday, praising his team captain and revealing he played in the final with an injury.
"If you knew the way that he played in the Copa America you'd love him even more," Scaloni said.
"You can never do without a player like him, even when he is not fully fit like in this game and the previous one."
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Messi has won every club and individual honour with Barcelona but success had eluded him with Argentina.
The 34-year old had shown his frustration with the defeats, retiring after losing the 2016 Copa America to Chile only to return to the international fold a few weeks later.
"In the end he did not throw in the towel and he succeeded," Scaloni said.
"We are talking about the best footballer of all time and everyone knew how important it was for him to win a title with the national team."
"I have a relationship that is different than the (usual) coach-player relationship," Scaloni added. "It's closer.
"We greet each other, we hug each other, and I am eternally grateful to him and his team mates."
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