The moment he had been dreaming of, the one he wasn't sure would ever arrive while, finally happened on Saturday night. Lionel Messi led Argentina to Copa America glory as Angel Di Maria scored the winning goal to beat Brazil 1-0 in the final. It was an improbable victory as it had been nearly two years since Brazil were held without a goal and six years since they lost on home soil. The defense stepped up like it hasn't in a long time and withstood a late charge from Brazil's attack to become champions of the continent for the first time since 1993.
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Messi had lost the 2007 final, the 2015 final, the 2016 final and the 2014 World Cup final, overturning that 0-4 record with an unforgettable display by the underdogs. Messi spoke to reporters after the match and didn't hold back.
"The truth is, it's crazy," Messi said. "The happiness cannot be explained. So many times I've had to leave sad, but I knew at some point it would happen. I don't think there was a better moment than this. This group truly deserved it.
"I believed a lot in this group, in this group that showed a lot since the last Copa America. You could see a lot of good things. It's a group of very good people that always looks to improve. They don't complain about anything. A lot of days inside without being able to see their families ... Thank God we are the champions, and the happiness is immense."
Messi said that it was a huge moment for his family, who had been with them through all the final losses.
"My family. My wife, my kids, my dad, my brothers. A lot of times when I've suffered, they experienced the same or worse. We always went on vacation, and the first days or many days, we were sad," Messi said.
"I don't think we quite understand what we accomplished. More than just being champions. We were happy, celebrating, but I think it is a game that will go down in history. Not just because we are the champions of [South] America, but because we won the final against Brazil in Brazil."
The free agent, who is expected to re-sign with Barcelona, felt that he needed to win something with Argentina to cement his legacy.
"I needed to win something with the national team. I've been close many years. I knew at some point it would change," Messi said.
With the win, Argentina's stock rises big time with World Cup qualifying continuing later this year. The team is well on track to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which could be Messi's last. For many, it was viewed ahead of his time as potentially his last chance to win a trophy, thinking that Argentina winning the Copa in Brazil was unlikely to happen. This national team, a young one that has benefited from the leadership and display of veterans, had other plans.
"I thank God for giving me this moment in Brazil, beating Brazil. I feel like he was saving this moment for me," Messi said.