Argentina ended a long wait of 29 years to win the now named CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions after a dazzling 3-0 rout of Italy in the Finalissima on Thursday evening, London time.
It was in 1993, since the last tournament of this kind was held, with Diego Maradona won his last international honor after he led his nation to the then-Artemio Franchi Cup after a pulsating shootout win over Denmark in Mar De Plata.
Without any doubt, the reigning kings of South America were head and shoulders above the current European champions of Roberto Mancini in front of 87,112 at the packed Wembley, with Lionel Scaloni extending their record unbeaten run at 32 matches, thanks to a transformative display by the talismanic Lionel Messi.
Just three weeks to go before turning 35, the Argentine skipper remained a menace on the Azzuri defence even if he’s not on the scoresheet with a pair of assists on either side of halftime, sending a notice ahead of what could be his last chance to win the World Cup in Qatar when it kicks off in five months’ time.
The PSG man brushed aside Napoli right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo in the 28th minute, and put up a left-footed ball that was easily tapped in by Lautaro Martinez at the six-yard box.
Argentina made it 2-0 just 30 seconds into the first-half stoppage time when the Inter striker left turned provider for Angel Di Maria, who made no mistake in chipping over his club teammate Gianluigi Donarumma after receiving a wicked through ball that weaved past Di Lorenzo and Juventus’ Giorgio Chiellini.
The 37-year-old ended his international career with 117 appearances when he was replaced by Lazio’s Manuel Lazzari. But his stellar Italy career has been stained by a recent pair of World Cup qualifying failures with a Euro triumph sandwiched in between, with the most recent one stings the most when North Macedonia smashed their Doha dreams into pieces in Palermo last March.
Stoppage-time substitute Paulo Dybala then added the finishing touches with a low shot past Donarumma’s left corner after coming just in time to back-up Messi after yet another one of his vintage runs.
Italy (4-3-3): Donarumma (GK), Di Lorenzo, Chiellini © (Lazzari 46’), Jorginho, Belotti (Scamacca 46’), Bernadeschi (Locatelli 46’), Pessina (Spinazzola 62’), Emerson (Bastoni 77’), Barella, Bonucci, Raspadori
Booked: Di Lorenzo 72’, Barella 77’
Argentina (4-3-3): EmilianoMartinez (GK), Tagliafico, Molina, De Paul (Palacios 76’), Messi ©, Di Maria (Gonzalez 90+1’), Romero (Pezzella 85’), Rodriguez, Otamendi, Lo Celso (Dybala 90+1’), Lautaro Martinez (Alvarez 85’)
Booked: Otamendi 22’
Referee: Piero Maza (Chile)