Messi and Argentina seek the “American dream” in the Copa América

MONTEVIDEO.- The early morning of June 27, 2016, Argentina I cry. Lionel Messi He said enough to the albiceleste in the midst of new frustration in the Copa América. But time was wise and did justice. Crowned kings of the continent in 2021, the world champions return to the United States.

It was the Copa América Centenario. An extra edition with which Conmebol commemorated on North American soil the 100 years of the oldest national team tournament in the world. Argentina and Chile met again in the final.

The red team was defending the title it won in Santiago in 2015 as host, the albiceleste team was preparing the revenge of that final lost on penalties.

Chile would become two-time champion of America. Once again, a penalty shootout gave them the Cup. With Messi as their banner, Argentina lost a fourth final. Three from the Copa América (2007, 2015 and 2016) and the most painful, the 2014 World Cup against Germany at the Maracaná.

That was when Messi couldn't take it anymore. Dejected and in pain, on the 10th he announced to the world of soccer at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford (New Jersey) that he was resigning from the albiceleste.

“The national team is here for me. It's over. It's over. I fought hard. I tried. There are now four finals and I couldn't win them. I did everything possible and it hurts me more than anyone else, but it's clear that it's not for me. Unfortunately it was not given to me.”

Messi took a 37-day break in which he reflected on his future in the national team, and after having overcome the bitter pill of the Copa América Centenario, he announced his return to the albiceleste because, he stated, “I love my country and this shirt too much. “Hopefully we can give him some joy soon.”

The other side of the coin:

That “soon” came in 2021, two years after the Titanic that was the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where the chaotic Argentine team led by Jorge Sampaoli sank in every game it played until colliding with the iceberg of France in the round of 16.

It was in the 2021 Copa América in Brazil, amid the overwhelming silence of the stadiums without fans due to the pandemic, where Argentina shouted champion after 28 years without titles due to different competitions.

And he did it in the temple of the Maracaná and against Brazil, his bitter historical archrival, the best possible enemy to write the beginning of one of the most glorious stages of Argentine football, with the 'bonus track' of the first title of the almighty Messi with the major selection.

What came next for the albiceleste is known history: the undefeated qualification for the 2022 World Cup, the title of the Finalissima against Italy as a harbinger of what would happen in Qatar and the dreamed World Cup, the one in which Argentina played like champions because they knew that it was going to be.

Return to the North:

The United States once again hosts the Copa América for the second time in history.

Messi, who will turn 37 in full competition, will play the Cup at home, a year after his publicized signing for Inter Miami, the millionaire franchise co-owned by former English star David Beckham that has revolutionized Major League Soccer (MLS).

“When a championship starts, be it World Cup, Copa América or whatever, Argentina is a candidate just like Brazil and even more so in this Copa América,” warned number 10. “I think Argentina is always the favorite, beyond the fact that we have just won everything.” “Previously, when we couldn't achieve our goals, Argentina was always the favorite,” he added.

The American champions, leaders of the South American qualifiers for the 2026 North American World Cup, will open the tournament by facing Canada on June 20 in Atlanta, in the opening of Group A.

Five days later they will meet again with Chile in East Rutherford – a neighbor of New York -, where Messi was unhappy 8 years ago and, blinded by pain, decided to tear off his albiceleste skin.

They will close the group stage in Miami on June 29 against Peru, the bottom of the South American World Cup.

Will there be an “American dream” for Messi and his Argentina where one day they were unhappy?