ITALY 0-3 ARGENTINA: The Paris Saint-Germain superstar was in sparkling form as he inspired his nation to a comfortably victory over European champions Italy at Wembley on Wednesday
Lionel Messi inspired Argentina to their second international trophy within the space of 12 months after ending their 18-year drought with silverware.
Last summer, the superstar playmaker played an inspirational role as his nation won the Copa America title – their first trophy since 1993. That title ensured their participation in the 2022 Finalissima on Wednesday night against Italy, the European champions, at Wembley.
Messi was, as usual, the main man for Lionel Scaloni’s side as they secured a comfortable three-goal victory over the Azzurri – whose slump in form since their remarkable Euro 2020 title at this venue a year ago has been alarming, causing them to miss out on a place at this year’s World Cup finals.
Paris Saint-Germain star Messi rolled back the years as he provided the sumptuous assist for striker Lautaro Martinez two minutes before the half-hour mark. Martinez provided a suitably classy finish as he fired past Messi’s club teammate Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Argentina were firmly in the ascendancy and in first half stoppage time they doubled their lead, with Martinez this time turning provider. The Inter striker provided the assist for Angel Di Maria – another PSG star, albeit one who is exiting the Parc des Princes this summer at the end of his contract – whose burst of pace took him past Giorgio Chiellini before providing a wonderful dinked finish.
It was a painful moment for Chiellini and it turned out to be his last action in an Italy shirt – the veteran defender is retiring from international football and was substituted off at half time at the ground where his best moment for Italy had arrived, when he lifted the European Championships last summer.
After the break, Argentina continued to assert their authority over a beleaguered Italian side. This was a game which was more in-line with Roberto Mancini’s side form over the past year rather than their glorious few weeks last summer, when they were deservedly crowned European champions before a huge drop-off in form caused them to miss their second successive World Cup. Substitute Paulo Dybala added a deserved third late on after a Messi effort on goal was blocked.
The South American champions bossed the second half with Messi visibly enjoying himself; continually floating into space before either firing off an accurate pass into the feet of a teammate or driving directly at a shaken, uncertain Italy back-line. Twice he tested his club teammate Donnarumma, who played a key role in helping his side avoid what would have been a truly humbling loss.
This was just the third time that such a match had been held between the European and South American champions, following editions in 1985 and 1993 – when Argentina also won, defeating Denmark in a penalty shootout.
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