Barcelona legend Lionel Messi surprised fans by pulling off an outrageous sliding tackle during Saturday’s Copa America final between Argentina and Brazil at the Maracana Stadium.
The captain, who is hardly known for his defending, came flying in to dispossess Lucas Paquetá and ended up coming out with the ball and casually laying it off to Lautaro Martinez.
The tackle was the latest eye-catching moment from the Argentine who has been in stunning form at the Copa America. Messi’s tackle also seemed to impress fans who took to social media to offer their thoughts.
Messi started the final after being named the Copa America’s player of the tournament along with former Barcelona teammate Neymar. The Argentine went into the final after scoring four times and picking up five assists for La Albiceleste.
Follow the Heavy on Barcelona Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Messi and Neymar Share Pre-Match Hug
Saturday’s final saw Messi and Neymar put their friendship aside for the match, although there was a warm embrace between the two former Barcelona teammates ahead of kick-off.
Neymar had been angered in the build-up to the final by some Brazil fans supporting Messi and had responded with an angry post on social media. The PSG star had also spoken about his relationship with Messi before the match, as reported by Goal.
“Messi is, as I’ve always said, the best player I’ve ever seen play and he’s a great friend, but now we’re in a final, we’re rivals. I want to win and I really want to win this title, which would be my first Copa America,” he said. “Messi has been looking for his first title with the national team for many years, and every time we [Brazil] are not present at the tournament, I cheered for him. That’s what I’ve been cheering for in the 2014 World Cup final, when he faced Germany. Now Brazil is in the dispute, so our friendship is on the line. The respect between us is still great but only one can win.”
Di Maria Lights Up Final
Argentina took the lead in the final after 22 minutes when Angel Di Maria made it 1-0 to La Albiceleste. A feisty match was livened up when Rodrigo De Paul’s cross from deep found the PSG winger who produced a neat chip to beat Ederson in the Brazil goal.
The goal was Argentina’s first against Brazil in a Copa America match after drawing a blank in their last three matches in a row against the Selecao in the competition, according to Opta.
Brazil looked to have equalized after the break when Richarlison beat Emi Martinez but the goal was correctly ruled out for offisde by VAR. The hosts continued to press in the second half but could not come up with a goal against a determined Argentina side.
Indeed it was Messi who was presented with the best chance in the dying minutes of a scrappy and heated affair but, rather incredibly, the captain could not convert after being sent clean through and stumbled with just Ederson to beat.
The miss did not prove costly, however, as Argentina hung on through five minutes of stoppage time to end a 28-year wait for a trophy. The win also ensures Messi finally wins his first senior international title.