Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni dedicated his team’s 1-0 victory over hosts Brazil in the Copa America final on Saturday to previous Albiceleste sides “that tried to win it but couldn’t.”
A first-half strike from Angel Di Maria was enough to hand Argentina their first major title since the 1993 Copa America when Gabriel Batista guided them to victory over Mexico in the final.
Since then, the South American giants have been runner-up four times in the Copa America and once in the World Cup, including a harrowing period in the mid-2010s when they lost three finals in as many years.
“This trophy is also for the lads who tried to win it and couldn’t. That generation of footballers left a legacy,” said Scaloni.
The 43-year-old, himself a former defender for Argentina, played down his influence on the team’s fortunes since taking over as head coach in 2018.
In that time, Scaloni has rejuvenated the squad with youth while bringing out the best in veterans Angel Di Maria, Nicolas Otamendi and Lionel Messi.
“I’m convinced that whoever had been in my position would have done the same,” Scaloni said. “These guys give their maximum every time they go out to play. We achieved what we have because we’ve been able to be ourselves. It’s a difficult competition to win and it’s important to understand what it means to wear this shirt.”
Scaloni heaped praise on Messi, saying the 34-year-old confirmed his status as the world’s best player with four goals and five assists, despite carrying an unspecified injury.
Now the Albiceleste will turn their focus to the South American zone qualifiers for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
“It’s important to understand what it means to wear this shirt,” he said. “Hopefully, we can continue to play like this and qualify for the World Cup.”
XINHUA | RIO DE JANEIRO