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SPORTS | 11-07-2021 00:37

Lionel Scaloni: 'This is a huge title' for Argentina

"We fell short so many times, we dreamt so much about this, fought so hard," says goalscorer Ángel Di María.

"It's a huge title," said Argentina's coach, Lionel Scaloni, after breaking the Albiceleste's title drought going back almost three decades.

Argentina saw off Brazil 1-0 in the final of the Copa América 2021 in the Maracanã on Saturday night, securing their first trophy in 28 years.

"It is a huge title, especially for our people. I hope that the Argentines enjoy it. The fans support the team unconditionally. I think they can identify with this team that never gives up," ​​said Scaloni.

"It was a very difficult Copa América. Luckily it was possible for us this time," he added.

Questioned by some for his inexperience when he took on the job leading the Albiceleste at the end of 2018, Scaloni has now led Argentina to its first trophy since 1993 Copa América in Ecuador.

The 43-year-old took over the reins of a team in need of a generational change. The big question was Messi, and how to build a team around him, after a string of painful final defeats in the 2015 and 2016 Copa Américas and the 2014 World Cup.

With Saturday's 1-0 tight victory over arch-rivals Brazil, Messi won his first title with the senior national side.

"If the [everyday] Argentine knew him like we [Messi], he would love him much more than he loves him [already]," said Scaloni.

The coach highlighted the unity and commitment of his squad.

"When we all move forward, it is difficult for us not to do well. We have a football culture that is difficult to find in other countries. When everyone lines up, great things can be achieved," he said.

"The group understood what it is to play with this shirt (...) commitment and unity takes you forward," he added. 

At the end of the match at the Maracanã, Scaloni held a long emotional embrace with Messi, before being swamped by his players.

"I am happier for the boys than for me," he said.

Argentina edged a brutal and fractious affair thanks to Ángel Di María's goal on 22 minutes.

The 33-year-old winger ran onto Rodrigo De Paul's through ball to lob Brazil goalkeeper Ederson.

"We fell short so many times, we dreamt so much about this, fought so hard," said Di María, who was named man of the match.

"Many people said we wouldn't manage it, we were criticised a lot. But we kept knocking at the door and kept going until today we knocked it down and entered."

– AFP

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