Will Copa América be the last time Messi represents Argentina in football?

On Thursday in Atlanta, the Argentina national soccer team will open the 2024 Copa América, South America’s biggest soccer championship, with a match against Canada. Fans around the world, especially in Argentina, have been eagerly awaiting this day since their beloved team, led by perhaps the greatest footballer of all time, Win the 2022 World Cup.

But when Lionel Messi, the Argentine captain and superstar, takes the field at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium with his teammates as favorites to defend the 2021 Copa América title, a smoldering sadness will follow me.

Will this be the last for Messi, who turns 37 next week? speak Two years ago was your last World Cup, wearing the blue and white Argentina shirt at a major tournament? Will this be the last time one of the most famous people on Earth, who brought joy to many during a time of unrest in his homeland, will represent his football-obsessed country?

“He said goodbye to the interviews he did,” Sergio Colque, a 40-year-old electrician, said as he waited to play in a recreational soccer match last weekend in Buenos Aires. , it seems like he is preparing us for that.” of Argentina.

Jonathan Icikson, 27, ambulance dispatcher, last week was with friends outside a bar watching Argentina play Guatemala in the final match before the Copa América. “Sadness obviously cannot be measured in words,” he said, “but not all endings are happy. All good things end at some point.”

This Copa América will definitely be the end for this generation of Argentine players.

Ángel Di María, 36 years old, a star and Messi’s teammate of 16 years, said he will retire from international football once the three-week competition ends. Other veterans, such as 36-year-old Nicolás Otamendi, have not yet determined how much longer they will continue playing, but age is catching up with this golden generation of Argentine football.

“There’s a bit of fear that everything is about to end,” Messi said about his career there a recent television interview.

When Argentina beat France in the World Cup final in Qatar, it was the country’s first title since 1986. Another Argentine superstar, Diego Maradonaone of the greatest players of all time, led that team to victory.

But in his four previous attempts, and passed the ups and downs of his relationship with his countryMr. Messi did not meet expectations as Mr. Maradona’s successor. That is the only achievement missed by Messi, who has won a record eight Ballon d’Ors as the world’s best player.

However, when Messi finally did it, Argentina celebrated like never before. Five million people — about 10 percent of the country’s population — flooded the streets of Buenos Aires for the national team parade, one of the biggest events in Argentina’s history.

“We went through the World Cup in a difficult time,” said Lorena Rovere, 45, a pharmacist in Buenos Aires. “Then we return to reality.”

Argentina’s economy is bogged down recession for many years and continues to have the highest inflation rate in the world, at approx 276 percent annual.

Sworn into office in December vowing to fix Argentina’s fiscal problems, President Javier Milei, a right-wing liberal, has warned that things will get worse before they get worse. it would have been better for him to institute a drastic austerity program. He promised to get one.saw machine” on public spending, blaming the country’s economic ills.

Unemployment has risen this year, poverty has skyrocketed and more and more Argentines are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

The Senate passed a bill this month that Mr. Milei said would make Argentina more attractive to investors by paving the way for privatization and eliminating worker protections. The law led to protests and the detention of more than 30 people.

For many Argentines, watching Messi and his teammates zoom around the football field, perhaps racing towards the nostalgic final together, provided a welcome, if temporary, respite.

“It won’t solve our country’s deeper problems,” said Gabriel del Rio, 45, a youth soccer coach and city traffic light inspector in Buenos Aires. He said his 27-year-old son recently began the process of applying for an Italian passport, and he believes living abroad could also be the answer for his 16-year-old daughter because Association in Argentina is very limited.

But soccer “really brings temporary joy to people,” Mr. Del Rio said. “The players understand this; they knew that at the World Cup and now the Copa América. It’s about giving people a brief distraction, something to enjoy amid the ongoing challenges.”

Manuel Peñalba, 21, a university student in Buenos Aires who works as a freelance video editor, said Argentina “deserves” to win the World Cup because the country is facing many problems.

He said he plans to watch all of Argentina’s Copa América matches with friends. They will have to rely on television broadcasts as all matches in the tournament run by South American soccer federation Conmebol will be played in the United States, for only the second time in the competition’s 108-year history. fight. That’s part of it an agreement with Concacaf, the federation that governs the sport in North, Central America and the Caribbean.

In addition to the United States and Canada, countries invited to this year’s Copa América include Mexico, Panama, Jamaica and Costa Rica.

Throughout clear financial benefits Competed in the United States, Copa América is also a preparation for the 2026 World Cup, which will be held in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Messi has recently been non-committal about playing next season, when he will be 39 years old, an age which he admitted would make competing at that level difficult.

In a recent interview with ESPN Argentina, Messi said he thinks his current club, Inter Miami, will be his last club. (Last year, he surprised many people when Signed with Inter Miami of major soccer league, a relatively new league in North America, after two decades of competing in more talented leagues in Europe, with Barcelona and Paris-St. Germain.)

But winning the World Cup has breathed new life into Messi. After struggling to win for Argentina – he briefly withdrew from the national team after losing to Germany in the World Cup final in 2014 and the Copa América final to Chile in 2015 and 2016 – he said he wants to be around more than ever.

“I knew there wasn’t much time left,” he said GAME recently.

Lionel Scaloni, coach of the Argentina team, speak Telemundo Deportes said this month that “we Argentines are too gloomy.”

“We are thinking about the day he leaves while he is still playing,” he added. “Enjoy him and we’ll see tomorrow.”

Alejandro Wall, an Argentine sports journalist who has written seven books about football, including one Regarding Mr. Messi last year, he said that it was difficult to imagine a national team without Mr. Messi.

However, he added, the team has entered a “time of transition”, with Mr. Di María retiring, Mr. Messi playing less and talented young players emerging.

“To a greater extent, Messi will test himself in this Copa América,” Mr. Wall said, “and see how he gets through it to see what happens next.”

Many fans said they hope Mr. Messi will last a little longer, even if only as a less-used player, in the next World Cup. Saying goodbye is difficult. He can still bring a few more smiles back home.

Mr. Peñalba said: “The whole team knows how to play without Messi. “It’s the end of an era. It’s painful, but it’s coming.”


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