Climbs his highest peak yet with a major title for his country
Argentina finally made Lionel Messi cry with joy.
After losing four times in finals, early exits in major tournaments and even a decision to retire from the national team, the superstar celebrated a much-awaited title with Argentina on Saturday.
“I needed to remove from myself the thorn of achieving something with the national team,” Messi said after celebrating with his teammates.
When Uruguayan referee Esteban Ostojich blew the final whistle, Messi knelt down on the pitch and covered his face with his hands.
After he lifted the Copa America trophy, Messi spoke to his family on the phone. He flicked the golden medal around his neck and shouted “I won, I won!”
The next challenge is to win the World Cup in Qatar next year, which would be the first since Maradona took the team to the title in 1986.
Until Saturday, Messi’s titles with Argentina were only the U-20 World Cup title in 2005 and a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
On Saturday Messi kissed the Copa America trophy and lifted it at age 34. The biggest gap in his decorated career is now closed.
His first public words after the title showed how thrilled and relieved he felt.
“What a beautiful madness!,” Messi said in an Instagram post showing him shirtless holding the Copa America trophy at the Maracana’s dressing room. “This is unbelievable! Thank you, God! We are the champions!”
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, one of Argentina’s key players in the tournament, said Messi “is the one who most deserved” to win the South American title.
Later at a news conference Messi said his happiness was “unexplainable.”
“I was sad before, but I knew that at some point it was going to happen,” he said. “I feel that God was saving this moment for me, against Brazil in a final and in their country.”
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