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When Argentina won its last title, its star was Lionel Messi at the age of six. Since the 1993 Copa America in Ecuador, Argentina and the best player in the world have reaped six disappointments after another, hoping that they will be relieved in the next edition of the Copa America, which begins Sunday in Brazil.
Messi is racing against time, as he will turn 34 in the heat of the competition (June 27). He also has his eyes set on the World Cup, scheduled for the end of 2022 in Qatar, for the first time in the Middle East, with the hope of achieving the first major title in his rich career with Barcelona.
A major title in the World Cup, which may raise him in the eyes of many to the ranks of his late compatriot Diego Maradona, the 1986 world champion.
Messi won the World Cup with his country, but with the under-20 squad in 1995. He also won the Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, but his closest distance from the World Cup was in the 2014 World Cup final against Germany (0-1) in Brazil, on the Maracana stadium, which will host the next edition of the Copa America.
He won 35 titles with Barcelona, collecting glory after another, but the son of Rosario is still doomed with his country.
Three times he failed in the final of the continental competition, in 2007 against Brazil (0-3) and twice against Chile on penalties in 2015 and 2016. Will he succeed in untangling him in 2021?
Who is supporting him offensively? –
As usual, Argentina begins the tournament as a candidate for the title with the giant Brazil led by its star Neymar, the former teammate of Messi in Barcelona, before his move to Paris Saint-Germain, France, with a record deal amounting to 222 million euros.
The two teams are currently at the top of the unified group standings in the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup.
If Brazil is flying with six victories in a row, Argentina faced difficulties after two recent draws, but they retained second place, and their qualification to Doha seems easy.
Coach Lionel Scaloni comforted the fans, saying, “In our six matches, Argentina were better than their opponents.”
The former player continued, “We deserved to win it all. But a well-deserved victory cannot be spent in football.”
In the last confrontation against Colombia, Argentina advanced with two goals after only eight minutes, and dominated an opponent who resorted to physical play, to which the brawlers Nicholas Otmani, Leandro Paredes and the young Christian Romero, who became a necessary element in the squad, responded.
Messi got several chances to kill the match, from a free kick and then a peeled pass from Lautaro Martins or a half-volleyball inside the area, but the Colombian goalkeeper denied him achieving his goal, before “Los Cafeteros” snatched the equalizing point in the last breath.
Once again, the Argentine national team needs the goals of Messi, who finally won the top scorer title for the fifth time in a row in the Spanish League, knowing that he was also crowned in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
And if Messi has been since June 21, 2016 the best scorer in the history of Argentina (he has 72 goals in 144 games), but he was satisfied with nine goals in 27 matches in the Copa America.
He did not enjoy his last matches with Argentina with perfect support, as he had in Barcelona with Uruguayan Luis Suarez before his departure last season to Atletico Madrid.
And if Lautaro Martinis is the most ready to play this role, coach Scaloni may count on two experienced cadres: Sergio Aguero, who is finally coming to Barcelona after a long period with Manchester City, and Angel Di Maria, star of Paris Saint-Germain.
It is true that Aguero packed his bags coming to Barcelona, but Messi’s stay has not yet been confirmed, given that his contract with the Catalan has not been extended. The Argentines will reveal their first face in the finals, when the two meet their Chilean rivals, who brought them down in two finals in a row.
© 2021 AFP