•Elsewhere, Brazil coach Tite hit out at the South American Football Confederation on Saturday, criticising the organisation and singling out the president just moments after Brazil lost in the final to Argentina.
•“You can never do without a player like him, even when he is not fully fit like in this game and the previous one.”—coach Lionel Scaloni
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni paid tribute to Lionel Messi on Saturday, praising his team captain and revealing he played in the Copa America win over Brazil with an injury.
“If you knew the way that he played in the Copa America you’d love him even more,” Scaloni told reporters after Argentina’s 1-0 win at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
“You can never do without a player like him, even when he is not fully fit like in this game and the previous one.”
Scaloni did not say what the injury was but he showered Messi with praise on a night Argentines took to the streets in huge numbers to celebrate their first international title in 28 years and Messi’s first victory with the national side.
Messi, winner of the Fifa Player of the Year award a record six times, has won every club and individual honour with Barcelona but he had lost all four of his previous finals with Argentina.
The 34-year old had shown his frustration with the defeats, retiring after losing the 2016 Copa America to Chile only to return to the international fold a few weeks later. “In the end he did not throw in the towel and he succeeded,” Scaloni said.
“We are talking about the best footballer of all time and everyone knew how important it was for him to win a title with the national team.”
“I have a relationship that is different than the (usual) coach-player relationship,” Scaloni added. “It’s closer. We greet each other, we hug each other, and I am eternally grateful to him and his team mates.”
Elsewhere, Brazil coach Tite hit out at the South American Football Confederation on Saturday, criticising the organisation and singling out the president just moments after Brazil lost in the final to Argentina.
Tite critised the pitches used in the tournament and said players were put at risk because the tournament was thrown together with just two weeks notice. This year’s Copa America was supposed to be held in Colombia and Argentina but was moved after civil unrest in the former and a surge in COVID-19 cases in the latter.
Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro stepped in and agreed to host all 28 games but planning was hurried and, Tite said, problematic for the teams and players involved.
“The organisation left a lot to be desired,” Tite said. “The pitches were poor. The players were put at an excessive risk. This shouldn’t happen in a big tournament such as this one.”
“I am talking specifically about the man responsible, Alejandro (Dominguez), who is the president of Conmebol,” Tite added. “I am talking about him, for organising the tournament in such a short space of time.”
Tite made similar criticisms about the pitches earlier in the tournament and was fined $5,000. The Brazilian players also criticised CONMEBOL on the eve of the opening match, saying the organisation was “inadequate”.
Tite’s criticisms came moments after Argentina won 1-0 to end a 28-year trophy drought and win the Copa America for a record-equalling 15th time.