With the last kick of the game, Damano Solomon gave Portmore United a 1-0 win over Molynes United in the first Jamaica Premier League at the Stadium East field on Saturday.

Solomon latched onto a free-kick by Ricardo Morris six minutes into stoppage time and snatched victory in a game that seemed destined for a draw. It was a heartbreaking loss for a Molynes United team whose spirited display deserved a share of the points.

In the end, Portmore United secured their second win from three games and jumped to the top of the league with six points in the first match of the third round.

Molynes United remained in eighth on one point from two games.

Winning coach Ricardo Gardner was more than happy to take all three points.

“Football is like this sometimes. We would love to have put our chances away but, unfortunately, it wasn’t like that,” he said.

“I think our keeper made a very good save to keep us in the game. We left ourselves a little bit too open at times and gave our opponents (the chance) to go through on our keeper but we just have to improve on this.”

Molynes United’s coach Calvert Fitzgerald said the manner of the loss was disappointing.

 “It’s a heartbreaker because we lost with the last kick of the game,” he said. “I thought Portmore played well, we countered and with the ebb and flow of the game, if I had gotten a point I would have been satisfied,” he said.

Portmore United created many opportunities but was thwarted by outstanding goalkeeping by Roje Williams and poor finishing.

In the 17th minute, Shante James whipped in a vicious shot that goalkeeper Williams blocked. A mad scramble ensued inside the box a Portmore United attacker committed a foul that ended any goalscoring opportunity.

As Portmore continued to dominate, Demario Phillips long-range free-kick took a deflection that forced goalkeeper Williams to save low to his left after initially going to his right.

A minute later, Portmore’s captain Ricardo Morris was on the end of a defence-splitting pass but smashed the ball into the side netting with his weaker right foot. Morris kicked over the bar in minute 30.

The lively Demario Phillips unleashed a powerful shot at goal that was parried for a corner, and from the resulting kick, Phillips teed up Seigle Knight, who crashed his shot onto the crossbar in the 40th minute. Molynes goalkeeper Williams would again come to the rescue of his team in true sweeper-keeper fashion, racing off his line to nullify Javick McFarlane, who was clean through on goal.

Morris would later kick high with Williams badly out of position.

Molynes United came out firing in the second half and former National Under-20 striker Nicholas Nelson, was through on goal on a couple of occasions, but good goalkeeping by Kemar Foster negated his chances.

In minute 52, Portmore came close to opening the scoring when Revaldo Mitchell slotted past the onrushing Williams but the ball was cleared off the line by Damion Thomas.

In the 65th minute, Nelson latched onto a ball over the top but Foster advanced to block with his feet. Then Foster again saved well to his left with another fantastic effort from Nelson.

Another good build-up play by Molynes involving three players was thwarted by a last-ditch tackle.

Portmore United’s Alvinus Myers was named Man of the Match.

Lionel Messi's long wait for major international honours with Argentina is finally over after playing a starring role in their Copa America triumph, winning the Player of the Tournament prize before the final was even played.

In the age-old – and some might say tiresome – 'greatest of all time' debate, the stick usually used to beat Messi with revolved around his lack of titles with Argentina, but that is no longer relevant and he also played a vital role for La Albiceleste.

It was also an important barrier that Argentina broke down as a team, winning their first major international title since 1993.

Messi's performances see him lead Stats Perform's Opta data-driven Team of the Tournament, and he is joined by some familiar names as well as those who enjoyed breakthroughs over the past month.

 

Goalkeeper – Emiliano Martinez (Argentina)

Aston Villa keeper Martinez has enjoyed a remarkable 18 months or so and it's fair to say his form at the Copa America has helped truly cement his place as Argentina's first choice between the posts. His personality proved vital in the penalty shoot-out win over Colombia in the semi-finals as he psyched out Yerry Mina, but he also showed his excellence by finishing with an 85.7 per cent save ratio that was the second best in the tournament, while his four clean sheets was the best tally.

 

Right-back – Juan Cuadrado (Colombia)

Cuadrado can always be relied upon to provide some attacking impetus on the right flank and he certainly didn't disappoint in the Copa, his 18 chances created being the most for Colombia and among the top five of all players. The same could be said of his 22 open-play crosses, while Cuadrado also made 45 recoveries, the second most in Los Cafeteros' squad, highlighting how he was often in the right place to sweep up danger as well.

 

Centre-back – Marquinhos (Brazil)

While Brazil ultimately fell short at the Maracana on Saturday, Marquinhos can leave the tournament with his head held high. His ability to bring the ball out from the back was routinely notable, as highlighted by the fact his 110 carries was bettered by only four players, all of whom are forwards, but he was also a commanding presence at the back, with his 2.8 aerial the most among Brazil players.

Centre-back – Piero Hincapie (Ecuador)

Still only 19, Hincapie showed real promise here. Granted, there were signs that he remains quite raw and naive, as demonstrated by some of his struggles against Argentina in the quarter-finals when he was sent off late on for tugging back Angel Di Maria. Nevertheless, the Lazio-linked talent averaged the most passes per game for Ecuador (52.2) and showed real positivity when in possession, carrying the ball 600.7 metres upfield over the course of the tournament, at least 44m more than any other centre-back.

Left-back – Pervis Estupinan (Ecuador)

Estupinan endured a somewhat underwhelming first season with Villarreal in 2020-21, but in the Copa he showed glimpses of the player that had impressed so regularly with Osasuna the season before. He was consistently a useful outlet on the left and his eagerness to create saw him average more crosses per 90 minutes (9.6) than any other player in the tournament, while his 2.4 key passes each game was the most of all defenders.

Central midfield – Wilmar Barrios (Colombia)

The all-action midfielder performed an important function as Colombia ultimately finished third in the Copa. Barrios was tidy in possession as he looked to keep Reinaldo Rueda's men ticking, completing 88 per cent of his passes, but he was also effective at regaining possession and recovering the ball as he started 76 open play sequences, which only Yoshimar Yotun and Casemiro could better.

Central midfield – Rodrigo De Paul (Argentina)

Get ready to hear a bit more about De Paul over the next few years. While he's by no means an unknown given he's had a strong few years with Udinese, the midfielder is set to join Atletico Madrid and offers the blend of off-the-ball nous and technical ability that should see him thrive under Diego Simeone. His 32 ball recoveries led the way for Argentina while his six key passes was second only to Lionel Messi, with one of those being the glorious long-range pass to release Di Maria for the crucial goal in the final.

Right wing – Lionel Messi (Argentina)

While he may have fluffed his lines at the end of the final, Messi's exploits throughout the tournament previously meant he could be forgiven for that. After all, without his unbeaten four goals and five assists – a high for the tournament – Argentina almost certainly wouldn't have reached the showpiece. He remains one goal behind Pele's record (77) for CONMEBOL nations, but he finally has his first trophy with Argentina, and that's what matters most.

 

Attacking midfield – Neymar (Brazil)

Neymar had a peculiar tournament in some ways. No one would suggest he was poor, because he was routinely the player that provided the spark for Brazil, as evidenced by his tournament-leading 3.5 key passes and 21.6 passes into the final third each game (among players with more than one match played), but he was also wasteful in front of goal, his one non-penalty goal from 5.3 xG giving him the worst xG under-performance (4.3) at the tournament.

 

Left wing – Luis Diaz (Colombia)

Porto's Diaz is an exciting player and showed as much for Colombia as they claimed bronze. He scored more non-penalty goals (four) than any other player and produced some spectacular finishes, such as his remarkable bicycle-kick against Brazil and 30-yard screamer to seal victory in the third-place play-off against Peru. His four goals came from just 10 shots, with that 40 per cent conversion the best among those with three or more goals.

 

Striker – Lautaro Martinez (Argentina)

Despite the presence of Sergio Aguero, Martinez was the man generally chosen to lead the line at the Copa and he did fairly well as he netted three goals, with only Messi and Diaz getting more. While he was guilty of wastefulness at times, his three-goal haul was actually pretty close to his 3.3 xG, showing that for the most part he was dependable. Similarly, only two players averaged more shots on target per 90 minutes (players with more than one match played) than his 1.4. He also improved on his two goals from the 2019 edition, so he's seemingly going in the right direction.

Kieran Trippier returns as Gareth Southgate makes one change to his England starting line-up to face Italy in the final of Euro 2020.

The Atletico Madrid defender takes the place of forward Bukayo Saka as the Three Lions return to the back three that saw them through against Germany in the last 16, while Phil Foden has missed out of the squad altogether due to injury – the Manchester City star having missed training on Saturday due to an unspecified injury.

The change opens up a place in a likely front three for Mason Mount, who previously operated in central midfield in wins over Ukraine and Denmark.

England are otherwise unaltered, with four-goal forward Harry Kane – now the country's joint-leading goalscorer at major tournaments – leading the line and a familiar midfield axis of Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice named.

As for Italy, they name an unchanged starting XI from their penalty shootout win over Spain in the semi-final.

Federico Chiesa starts on the right flank of a 4-3-3 formation despite pre-match suggestions that he might miss out through injury.

And Roberto Mancini's men once again count on defensive warriors Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci as they earn their 112th and 109th caps respectively.

England: Pickford, Trippier, Walker, Maguire, Stones, Shaw, Phillips, Rice, Mount, Kane, Sterling.

Italy: Donnarumma, Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson, Barella, Jorginho, Verratti, Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne.

Gareth Southgate has offered heartfelt thanks to England fans for their support ahead of a first major tournament final appearance in 55 years.

The Three Lions have played five of their six games en route to the showpiece fixture of Euro 2020 in front of a partisan crowd at Wembley Stadium.

And they will contest a sixth at their home ground on Sunday when they take on Italy aiming to win a first piece of silverware since the 1966 World Cup.

Ahead of that showdown, Southgate has placed on his record his appreciation for the backing he and his team have received both from the stands and further afield.

He said: "I just wanted to take the time to say thank you to everybody for the incredible support we've received throughout this tournament. 

"We hope that we've represented you in the right way, we hope that you've enjoyed watching us play. 

"I'm very grateful to all of the players and in the incredible staff I've got with me that we've been able to get to our first final for 55 years, but of course we know now we've got to deliver for you. 

"We'll be doing everything we can, your support and energy has given us a huge lift and I know it will on Sunday."

The United States will aim to put a halt to Haiti’s flow when the teams meet in Group B of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup on Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

The U.S.'s overall record against their opening opponent is 7W-6D-9L might surprise some, but U.S. fans shouldn't be surprised by Haiti's ability to challenge on the pitch. Two of the Stars and Stripes' legends, Joe Gaetjens and Jozy Altidore, have Haitian heritage. Former player, Gaetjens played for the U.S. in the 1950 World Cup and scored the stunning game-winner in his team's historic upset over England. Altidore is currently third place for all-time USMNT goals (42) and ninth in international caps at 115.

The U.S. comes in as the defending Concacaf Nations League winners after an impressive 3-2 extra-time win over Mexico in June. Aside from a few holdovers, the team chosen to represent in the Gold Cup is mostly different. This is an opportunity for several players to make an impression on head coach Gregg Berhalter.

This U.S. team still boasts star power from abroad, namely in forwards Matthew Hoppe and Nicholas Gioacchini, who play for Schalke and Caen in Germany and France, respectively, while defender Shaquell Moore plays in Spain for Tenerife. There are a number of MLS stars featured on the roster as well. Between DC United’s Paul Arriola and the Columbus Crew’s Gyasi Zardes, they account for 20 U.S. goals and will look to add to that number in Gold Cup action.

However, Haiti has hit the ground running in the tournament, having already seen game action in the Prelims. Duckens Nazon scored three goals in the Prelims and now has seven overall goals, making him not only Haiti’s top Gold Cup scorer but also for the Caribbean.

Strikers are often more effective as a duo, so it is ideal for Haiti that Frantzdy Pierrot is also rounding into great form, scoring a hat trick in the final Prelims game. Pierrot is now right behind Nazon in overall Gold Cup goals with six. Pierrot working beside Nazon on the field means that the U.S. faces a pair of extremely effective strikers. Goalkeeper Matt Turner’s shot-stopping skills, which have proved to be the best in MLS this season, will now be tested in international action.

The tasks are set for both teams, with the U.S. looking to stop Haiti’s flow and get a good start of their own in a tournament the U.S. have won six times. Haiti will try to maintain their momentum, especially their scoring streak, to build on the semifinal finish the team produced in 2019.

Raheem Sterling should be named player of the tournament if England beat Italy to win Euro 2020, according to Jamie Carragher.

With the 26-year-old having rounded off last season with just one goal from his last 16 appearances for Manchester City, it was suggested that his England starting place might be under threat.

However, he has come alive at the tournament, scoring the Three Lions' first three goals of the tournament (two of which were winners), grabbing an assist, and winning the penalty that booked a place in the final.

And former England international Carragher believes those contributions have marked him out as the star man of Euro 2020.

"Nobody has been able to cope with Sterling in this tournament," he told Sky Sports. "If England go on to win he will win player of the tournament – he has been outstanding.

"His position was questioned before the tournament after not having his best season at Man City but from what we have seen Sterling always has to be in this England team.

"The pace he provides, the goals he provides. He has become a major goal threat under Gareth Southgate. 

"We can talk about how Italy can stop him, but if he makes runs in behind the centre-backs and the right full-back then he can be a threat.

"An obvious change at some stage would be Jack Grealish coming on and playing down the left and Sterling going down the right to have a go at Emerson from Chelsea, who has not played a lot of football this season.

"He is the one who can cause Italy some real problems."

 

England have yet to concede an open-play goal at this summer's tournament - thanks in no small part to the work of a midfield shield comprised of Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice.

And Carragher thinks their role will be key again in the final if Gareth Southgate's side are to get over the line.

He continued: "Midfield is key for England, if England don’t get the centre of midfield right, that is where they could have a huge problem.

"Italy are really strong through the centre of the pitch – certainly at centre-back and central midfield, there is a lot of onus on England's midfield three in this game. 

"If they perform and can get after the Italians midfield then England have certainly got enough in the attacking areas of the pitch to win the game.

"But midfield is a real strength of Italy so that is where England have really got to get on top and make it difficult, so it will be up to Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice and Mason Mount in there.

"A lot has been made about the centre-back partnership – outstanding,  legendary players for their country and for Juventus [but] you shouldn’t forget how old they are though.

"I think England can out run them basically in this game, the energy from the bench will be vital as it was in the Denmark game. 

"It will be really tight game – I think we are looking at the best two teams in this tournament, certainly on form, so I think it’s the right final."

 

Gary Neville has urged the FA to tie down their "greatest asset" Gareth Southgate ahead of England's first appearance in a major tournament final in 55 years.

The Three Lions are out to win the European Championship for the first time in their history on Sunday when they face Italy at Wembley Stadium.

Win or lose, this run to the final is the latest mark of the progress made by international football's perennial underachievers, who also made it to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup under Southgate.

And Neville believes English football chiefs must do all they can to keep the man who has masterminded these recent successes in charge for as long as possible.

He told Sky Sports: "I said it four or five weeks ago that I thought that Gareth Southgate is our greatest asset and I'm still absolutely of that opinion. 

"There is nobody in this country that knows international football better than Gareth Southgate in terms of tournament football and that's got the ability to coach. 

"Many of us have been to many tournaments, but he's then been in the U21s.

"He's been in the system, he knows exactly what it's like to coach in the system of the FA, understands the politics and the way in which the FA works and accepts that and [doesn't] make it a problem, which many managers in the past have. 

"All those things that are difficult to contend with, the media, the handling of players, the club v country stuff - he's seen all that before in his playing career and U21s career and all those things that he's seen happen wrong before he's been able to put right through his experiences as England manager and that's why he is our greatest asset. 

"We should try and keep him for as long as we possibly can, that's not to say we'll win [against Italy], that's not to say we'll win in the next tournament or do well in the next two tournaments but I genuinely don't believe there is anyone who has got the experience, knowledge and capability to perform for England like he has."

 

A raucous atmosphere is sure to greet England as they step out onto the Wembley turf aiming to secure their first trophy since winning the 1966 World Cup at the same stadium.

But Neville expects the players to be better prepared for the emotion of the occasion after experiencing similar during their semi-final win over Denmark.

He continued: "It'd be interesting to know whether the pressure impacted the players in the first half an hour of the game against Denmark because the first 20 minutes after kick-off - it was absolutely mesmerising, spine-tingling to the point where it had an impact upon us [in the stadium].

"No England player would have seen that since Euro '96 so I can't believe that didn't have an impact on them in the first half an hour.

"They were in a special place on Wednesday but I think because of that they will be used to it and will be better prepared for what's going to happen [in the final].

"Germany was good but Wednesday was absolutely off the scale against Denmark. It was brilliant."

 

Gareth Southgate could spring a surprise by starting Jadon Sancho instead of Bukayo Saka for England in the Euro 2020 final against Italy.

That is the view of former England defender Gary Neville, who believes the spot on the right wing that was filled by Saka in the semi-final win over Denmark is the only position up for grabs.

Neville would have been tempted to play Marcus Rashford if the Manchester United forward had been in better form.

Instead he believes another soon-to-be United player Sancho, who started the quarter-final against Ukraine in Saka's absence, could be the man who gets the nod if 19-year-old is indeed left out.

Saka has had an impressive tournament for England and Neville acknowledges it could be an "unpopular" decision.

He feels it would be easier for Southgate to pick an unchanged side and then take Saka off in the second half as he did in the extra-time triumph in the last four.

The Arsenal youngster has been put forward for many press interviews prior to the Italy clash, but Neville thinks that could be a red herring.

 

"There is only one possible change and that's Saka," he said to ITV Sport.

"I know that would possibly be an unpopular thing to say.

"He may say [to Saka] go for 60 minutes and we'll get you off - which he's done before - he may say that and go with the same team. 

"But I just wonder whether he might bring someone else in.

"Actually putting him up for interviews before the final makes me think he might not be playing.

"If Rashford was in form I'd go Rashford-Sterling just to get in behind [Giorgio] Chiellini and [Leonardo] Bonucci but Rashford hasn't been in the greatest of form. 

"I would think it would be Sancho if Saka doesn't play.

"I think you have to play two of the quicker ones, so it would be Saka, Sancho or Rashford with Sterling on the other side."

 

Phil Foden missed training on Saturday with a knock and the Manchester City star is the only injury doubt for England.

While he called the development "a blow", Neville believes England can cope due to their strength in depth, particularly in the attacking positions.

He told Sky Sports: "It would be a blow for Phil Foden personally and for the team because he is an important part of those six or seven forward players that we have that float around Harry Kane.

"One of the great strengths in this tournament is that you can start Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling and bring on Jack Grealish or Jadon Sancho or Phil Foden and not really drop in quality that much.

"We have got an exceptional amount of talent in those positions.

"We are better in the latter half of games, the danger against Italy is that if we do start badly in that first half an hour then the Italians will punish us more than Denmark did.

"You don’t want to be behind to a team with the defensive record that they have.

"It's important that Foden is fit for him personally but if not then an injury is an injury, it's important that we have a lot of players who are fit in those positions going into the last 20 minutes of games which has become critical for us."

Lionel Messi lifted the Copa America on Saturday in Brazil.

But back in Europe, rumours continue to swirl about his future.

The 34-year-old forward is out of contract though the latest development suggests a resolution is in sight.

 

TOP STORY - NEW BARCELONA DEAL LOOMS FOR MESSI

AS reports that LaLiga have authorized Barcelona to register Lionel Messi despite the club's financial concerns.

Messi became a free agent last week with Barcelona working on a new deal, pending their financial constraints having been impacted heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paris Saint-Germain had been linked with a swoop for Messi but the approval of the authorities to register Messi is a strong indication he will stay.

 

ROUND-UP

- Highly sought-after Saul Niguez is being considered in a swap deal between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, which would include Antoine Griezmann, claims Football Espana. Liverpool were linked with Niguez earlier this week.

- Chelsea have joined the race for Rennes teenage talent Eduardo Camavinga, alongside Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid, according to Le Parisien.

- Manchester United are ready to spend £17m to sign Napoli's right-back Giovanni di Lorenzo following the Euro 2020 final, reports Il Napolista.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that veteran Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini will sign a new one-year extension with Juventus after the completion of Euro 2020.

- Newly promoted Watford are keen on Udinese's Danish star Jens Stryger Larsen after he impressed during Euro 2020, reports 90min.

- Newly promoted Brentford are preparing a £10m bid for Liverpool's Harry Wilson claims The Sun.

Mexico have drawn a blank in the opening game of their CONCACAF Gold Cup title defence after a 0-0 draw with Trinidad & Tobago in Arlington on Saturday.

El Tri were left frustrated by a stubborn Soca Warriors backline, led brilliantly by goalkeeper Marvin Phillip who made numerous strong saves and was named Man of the Match.

The holders thought they had found a winner in second-half stoppage-time when Rogelio Funes Mori tucked in Jesus Gallardo's low cutback but the latter was ruled marginally offside.

Mexico dominated proceedings, with 30 shots to four, including seven on target, along with 83 per cent possession yet they were unable to capitalise.

Hirving Lozano had to be replaced early in the first half with a suspected concussion and neck injury, before Jesus Corona tested Phillip and Hector Herrera shot wide from distance.

Herrera's backheel pass set up Orbelin Pineda after the break but he shot straight at Phillip.

Mexico heaped the pressure in the final 20 minutes, with Phillip brilliantly denying Funes Mori's poke after chesting down inside the box in the 76th minute, before a stunning one-handed block to deny Corona.

Both sides return to action in Group A on Wednesday, with Mexico taking on Guatemala in Dallas and Trinidad & Tobago facing El Salvador in Frisco.

Lionel Messi has expressed his happiness and relief at finally winning silverware with Argentina after Saturday's Copa America 2021 triumph over Brazil at the Maracana.

Argentina defeated Brazil 1-0 after Angel Di Maria's 22nd-minute strike, earning six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi his maiden piece of silverware with La Albiceleste.

Messi has finished runner-up in the Copa three times; 2007, 2015 and 2016, as well as runner-up at the 2014 World Cup and revealed his joy after the game.

"I needed to get the thorn out of being able to achieve something with the national team, I had been very close for many years," Messi told reporters.

"I knew that at some point it was going to go right, it was going to happen and I think there is no better moment than this.

"I feel that God was saving this moment for me, against Brazil in the final and in their country."

Along with breaking 34-year-old Messi's international duck, it is also was Argentina's first Copa America since 1993, ending a 28-year wait.

"We still cannot believe that we are champions and what we have achieved," Messi said. "But I think it will be a match that will remain in history, not only because we are champions of South America but also because we beat them Brazil in their country."

Argentina's win marked 20 games unbeaten under head coach Lionel Scaloni and offered optimism for next year's World Cup in Qatar.

Scaloni has changed the Argentine side, with relative newcomers Emiliano Martinez, Rodrigo De Paul and Cristiano Romero impressing.

"Lionel deserves special merit," Messi said. "He always wanted the best for the national team. He knew how to put together a winning team and deserves recognition."

Messi added: "We have to take advantage of this generation, this new crop of players. I told them they were going to be the future of the national team and I was not wrong. They showed it, today we are champions."

Scaloni also heaped praise on Messi who was named Player of the Tournament alongside Brazil's Neymar.

The Argentine finished as the equal top scorer with four goals as well as most assists (five).

“If all Argentines knew about the way he played this Copa America, they would love him more and more," Scaloni said. "I have no doubt.

"I, as a coach, could never do without this player, including playing in inferior conditions than we faced in this final and the semi-final.

"That's the kind of player we have and we have to enjoy, because one day in your career you won't be playing anymore. I have no words for him, he makes things easier on a daily basis."

Brazil head coach Tite has praised superstar Neymar for his show of sportsmanship to Lionel Messi after his side's 1-0 Copa America final defeat to Argentina on Saturday.

Neymar's Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Angel Di Maria scored the winner in the 22nd minute at the Maracana as Argentina lifted its first Copa since 1993 as Brazil relinquished the crown it won in 2019.

The Brazil boss was clearly disappointment with the result but spoke positively about Neymar's grace after acknowledging Messi's achievement in winning his maiden piece of silverware with Argentina.

The superstar pair are close friends from their four years together at Barcelona.

"There is greatness in defeat and in recognising the rival," Tite said.

"Perhaps, the image that was seen between Messi and Neymar after the game is a message that we have to give."

Tite was less positive about Copa America organisers, identifying CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez for criticism at the hastily organised event.

Copa America 2021 was originally planned to be played in Colombia and Argentina but hastily re-arranged due to political and COVID-19 issues with Brazil confirmed as hosts in May.

The defeat was the first time the Selecao have failed to win a Copa America played in Brazil, winning all five previous tournaments on home soil.

"The organisation of the Copa America left a lot to be desired," Tite said after the final defeat. "The quality of the pitches [left a lot to be desired].

"We almost lost Everton in training. We went to train, the grass locked up and he had a dislocated finger. In a short time it is impossible to organise a competition of this magnitude.

"I'm specifically talking about the person in charge, Alejandro (Dominguez), president of CONMEBOL, of having the organisation of the competition over a short period of time."

Tite had been outspoken about the quality of pitches during the tournament, in particular Estadio Nilton Santos in Rio de Janeiro where Brazil played four games.

Brazil's participation at the Copa was in doubt pre-tournament as the players opposed the relocation amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Like Cristiano Ronaldo five years ago, Lionel Messi has ended his international trophy drought with continental glory.

Ballon d'Ors are one thing, with the pair sharing 11 between them, but achieving success with the national team has been critical to the grander standing and legacy of the two outstanding players of this generation.

There is a school of thought that Messi remains in Diego Maradona's shadow in Argentina.

The late Maradona, of course, took La Albiceleste to World Cup glory in 1986, which has eluded Messi who was a runner-up in 2014.

But Messi had also never won the Copa America. That was until Saturday's 1-0 win over Brazil, at the Maracana, the same venue where he lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany.

Messi was part of the Argentina sides that lost Copa finals in 2015 and 2016. He briefly retired after missing his penalty in the 2016 final shootout.

This tournament was his sixth shot at lifting the trophy. And it was the 34-year-old's best yet, dominating as joint top scorer with four goals and topping the Copa assists charts with four.

Messi was not the star in the final, with a lively Angel Di Maria scoring the winner with Argentina's first touch inside Brazil's penalty area.

Udinese midfielder Rodrigo De Paul set up the winner and was a key presence at both ends, while goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was the star in the semi-final shootout and exceptional again in the final.

But Messi was the big story. The Argentina captain and superstar has taken a huge weight off his shoulders with international glory.

Argentina fans will start dreaming about what is possible at next year's World Cup in Qatar.

Lionel Scaloni's La Albiceleste are unbeaten across 20 games and conceded only three goals at the Copa America.

Argentina scored 12 goals across the seven games in the tournament, with Messi directly involved in nine.

The final was billed as Messi versus fellow superstar and former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, who was busy but closely marked throughout by the Argentines in the final.

Neymar, who missed Brazil's 2019 Copa triumph, is another global superstar yet to lift the World Cup or a continental title. Missing out on home soil will be a great disappointment for the Selecao.

The loss was Brazil's first at home in 25 games under Tite (W21 D3 L1). It also ended their 13-game unbeaten run.

The margin between victory and defeat was fine, but the fallout for Messi and Neymar is a stark contrast. Ecstasy and pain.

Argentina have ended their 28-year wait to lift the Copa America after Angel Di Maria's first-half goal clinched a 1-0 victory over Brazil in Saturday's final at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana.

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Di Maria, who was promoted to the starting line-up for the final, coolly lobbed over Brazil goalkeeper Ederson for the 22nd-minute winner.

Argentina had been Copa runners-up at four of the past seven tournaments, losing to rivals Brazil in 2004 and 2007, but finally claimed the country's 15th continental crown.

The triumph also marks Lionel Messi's maiden piece of major silverware with Argentina, with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner dominant throughout the tournament, finishing with most goals (four) and most assists (five).

In a physical encounter, Brazil superstar Neymar received plenty of attention while Messi was unable to exude his normal influence for La Albiceleste.

Brazil started the better but could only manage scuffed efforts on goal from Everton and Richarlison before Argentina struck against the run of play.

The outstanding Rodrigo De Paul's hopeful ball forward eluded Selecao left-back Renan Lodi, allowing Di Maria in behind and he calmly poked over the onrushing Ederson.

Di Maria was a constant threat in the first half, with a left-foot effort blocked by Marquinhos before Messi flashed wide.

With the half-time injection of Roberto Firmino, Brazil pressed and thought they had equalised in the 52nd minute when Richarlison hit the back of the net but was offside in the lead-up.

The Everton forward tested Argentina keeper Emiliano Martinez at his near post shortly after, with the Aston Villa man saving smartly.

Brazil substitute Gabriel Barbosa had a late volley brilliantly thwarted by Martinez, before an exhausted Messi spurned a golden opportunity to seal the win from De Paul's throughball.

Marcelo is convinced Real Madrid will get back to winning trophies in the new season after he was named as Carlo Ancelotti's captain.

The Brazilian left-back takes on the leadership role from Sergio Ramos, who has left the Spanish giants to join Paris Saint-Germain, and said he felt "extremely lucky" to be chosen.

At the age of 33, Marcelo will hope to be a mainstay under Italian boss Ancelotti, who is back in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu after Zinedine Zidane left following a lack of silverware in the 2020-21 campaign.

It is Ancelotti's second crack at the Madrid job, after a prior spell covering two seasons from 2013 to 2015. Capturing the LaLiga crown that Atletico Madrid snatched last term will be a priority.

Marcelo said: "We're aware that it's very tough to go through a season without winning a title, but we fought 'til the end of the season.

"I'm sure we're going to win something. We're very happy, we've still got players to come back from international duty or on holiday, but we're very motivated for the season to start."

Despite only starting 12 LaLiga games during that barren final season of Zidane's reign, Marcelo was an understandable choice as Ancelotti targeted a dressing-room leader, given he is coming up to 15 years of service at Madrid, having signed for the club from Fluminense in December 2006.

 

"It's an honour and an enormous responsibility to be captain of the greatest club in the world. I'm extremely lucky," Marcelo said on Madrid's official website.

"I learn a lot every season, there's always something new. I'm even more excited about this campaign because I'm Real Madrid captain. It's a dream come true for me and I believe I've done everything I can to be here for such a long time.

"I believe that as captain I'm the spokesperson for the team and I'll always look to help as much as I can, just like I've always done."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.