They came to pay their respects to their king, and he did not let them down. Lionel Messi led Argentina to victory over Italy in the “Finalissima” at Wembley, which certainly lived up to all of the hype that was surrounding the match. Messi will turn 35 in three weeks, but he is still as influential as he has ever been.
On what was supposed to be a showdown between the champions of Europe and South America and which was being played for the first time since 1993, there only ever looked like there was going to be one winner on what was Giorgio Chiellini’s final international appearance as Lionel Scaloni’s side stretched their unbeaten run to 32 matches. Scaloni, a former defender, spent a half season on loan at West Ham in 2006 under the management of Alan Pardew. He has clearly assembled a team that should be considered genuine contenders for the World Cup later this year, and Messi is pulling the strings from a deeper position. Scaloni spent time at West Ham in 2006.
It has been almost 30 years since Argentina defeated Denmark in a shootout to win the trophy that was formerly known as the Artemio Franchi Cup after a former president of Uefa. The match took place in what was then known as the Artemio Franchi Cup. The match was resurrected as “part of the expansion of the cooperation between Uefa and Conmebol” signed in February 2020 between the two governing bodies as a direct challenge to Fifa’s growing hegemony in the sport of soccer. France was the winner of the first edition, which took place in 1985. However, despite the fact that teams from South America are anticipated to take part in a revamped version of the Nations League following the year 2024, this was an opportunity for Italy to at least partially make up for the disappointment of failing to qualify for the World Cup after losing a playoff to North Macedonia.
Argentina, on the other hand, had none of these problems as they breezed through qualification for Qatar without suffering a single loss after finally winning the South American championship after a wait of 28 years. When Lionel Messi came out for the pre-game warm-up, as well as pretty much every time he went near the ball after that, the crowd erupted in roaring applause and cheers. There was a carnival atmosphere as 37-year-old Chiellini belted out the Italian national anthem with his usual gusto for the last time before the game kicked off. Tickets for this game sold out in less than a week, and there was a carnival atmosphere.
After only forty-five seconds of play, Angel Di Mara took a shot on goal from inside his own half, much to Messi’s annoyance. Roberto Mancini was as sharply dressed as ever in a sharp grey suit as he watched Di Mara try his luck from inside his own half. This was back at the site of his side’s victory against England last summer. Although the Italy coach has promised to rebuild the Azzurri after the team failed to qualify for the World Cup for the second year in a row, there were several familiar faces in his starting lineup here, including Chiellini and his former defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci. Italy started to create opportunities after what appeared to be a successful negotiation of a fast start from their competitors, but they were undone by a piece of Messi magic at the other end of the field.
After executing a sublime turn, Lautaro Martinez was able to score at the far post by tapping in a ball that was played across the face of the goal. This occurred after Giovanni Di Lorenzo had been left hopelessly trailing in his wake by the turn. Gianluigi Donnarumma was helpless to stop Argentina’s second goal as it was scored on the stroke of halftime. Di Mara finished off a quick breakaway with Martinez to put Italy in a difficult position where it needed to climb a mountain to win.
At the halftime break, Mancini made three substitutions in an attempt to turn the tide of the race, but it was too late for Chiellini to win. At the hour mark, Donnarumma nearly gave Argentina a third goal when he took his eye off a back pass; however, he was able to quickly recover in time to prevent the goal from being scored.
Giovani Lo Celso should have made the result even more conclusive from a tight angle, but the Italy goalkeeper made several outstanding saves to keep the score from getting out of hand while his team was being overrun by the opposing team. Di Mara and Messi were two of the players who the Italy goalkeeper denied scoring opportunities to. After yet another lung-busting run from the player in question, the goal was finally scored by the substitute Paulo Dybala in injury time.