Argentina beat rivals Brazil at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro to record their first Copa America triumph after 1993.

Leo Messi - Copa America
Leo Messi kisses the Copa America trophy after winning it for the first time with the Argentinean national team, in Rio de Janeiro, against rivals Brazil. (Image: Twitter/CopaAmerica)

Messi won his first major tournament at senior level with the Argentinean national team after previously losing three Copa America finals (2007, 2015, 2016) and a World Cup final (2014). Bookies now have Messi as the frontrunner for another win in the ‘Ballon d’Or’ race. Leo already won it six times, an unmatched performance in the history of football.

Di Maria’s ‘Di Magia’

PSG star Angel Di Maria scored the goal which proved to be enough to settle a heated final between Brazil and Argentina. The creative midfielder received a fantastic long-range pass from De Paul and chipped Ederson after 22 minutes. Brazil tried to assault the opposite box, but rarely troubled goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, who was only forced into a decisive save late in the game.

Messi could have made it 2-0 to Argentina but he slipped in front of goal with two minutes left in the match.

Messi and Neymar, the best players at Copa America

Before the final, Messi and Neymar were announced as the best individuals at Copa America. Messi dominated the stats in this year’s edition, with four goas to his name and another five assists. Leo is the player who attempted the most dribbles and completed the most passes in the final third, while also creating the highest number of chances and sending the most shots. He won the man of the match award on four occasions in the tournament. Neymar seconded him in the stats battle, having himself netted three and assisted another three.

After the final whistle in the game at Maracana, Argentina’s players and staff hugged Messi and threw him in the air. Their gesture basically suggested they dedicated him the success he’s been waiting for during his entire career. Now 34, Messi is expected to retire from the national team after the World Cup in Qatar, in 2022.

Another ‘Ballon d’Or’ for Messi?

Leo Messi’s goals in 2021 at club level with Barcelona helped him recover momentum in front of his ‘Ballon d’Or’ rivals Kylian Mbappe (PSG and France), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern and Germany), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal), or N’Golo Kante (Chelsea and France).

Barcelona’s early elimination from the Champions League last season, added to the dismal domestic form in 2020 put Messi in doubt for a seventh ‘Ballon d’Or’. The Copa America win might just be enough to put him above everyone else. The bookies now have him as the main favorite, at +200. England and Tottenham’s skipper Harry Kane is second, at +450, with Mbappe and Lewandowski third, at +600. Ronaldo is fourth at +800, the same as Kante.