Lionel Messi says the Copa America may as well be awarded to Brazil in advance of Sunday’s final after launching a stinging attack at the competition’s officiating.
Messi’s international career took yet another frustrating turn on Saturday, as he was sent off for his part in an altercation with Chilean provocateur Gary Medel in Argentina’s 2-1 third-place play-off victory against Chile.
The 32-year-old – who is yet to win an international hour with his nation, despite his extraordinary record with Barcelona – alleged that ‘corruption’ has been at the heart of Argentina’s pain, to tournament hosts Brazil’s gain.
And he believes that the Selecao are certain to beat heavy underdogs at the Maracana on Sunday, even if they need help from elsewhere.
“I think there is no doubt. Unfortunately, I think it is prepared for Brazil [to win it],” said Messi, whose side were beaten 2-0 by Brazil in the semi-finals. “I hope that the VAR and the referees have nothing to do and that Peru can compete because they have the team to win, but I see it difficult.
“I feel lot of anger because I think I did not deserve that red card because I think we were playing a very good game. We were ahead, but, as I said recently, unfortunately there is a lot of corruption, the referees …
“We leave with the feeling that they did not allow us to be in the final, that we were ready for better. Brazil’s match and today’s match were our two best performances, but then when you are sincere, you say things and these things happen.”
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Captain Lionel Messi believes Argentina’s win over Qatar will help the team grow in confidence as they head into the quarter-finals of the Copa America.
The South American side clinched second place in Group B after a 2-0 victory against Qatar, thanks to goals from Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero.
It had been a must-win game for Argentina after they picked up just one point from their opening two matches.
Quoted on the team’s official website, Messi said after the match: “We had a good match and we won, which was the most important.
“We needed a game like this, to gain confidence and be calm.
“As the games go by, the team has to grow and this match served that purpose.”
He added: “Now starts another Copa. Now starts all or nothing.”
Inter Milan striker Martinez opened the scoring for Argentina after just four minutes, capitalising on sloppy Qatar defending before poking the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Aguero had a golden chance to double the lead but he flashed his shot wide of the target from 12 yards when he should have done better.
The Manchester City striker made amends when he made sure of the three points in the 82nd minute. He collected the ball up in midfield and beat two defenders before driving a low shot beyond the goalkeeper.
Messi could have got his name on the scoresheet but he uncharacteristically skied the ball over the crossbar from close range.
The win means Argentina will now face Venezuela in the quarter-finals on Friday in Rio de Janeiro.
Group B winners Colombia made it three wins from three matches after beating Paraguay 1-0 at the Arena Fonte Nova. Gustavo Cuellar scored the only goal of the game after 31 minutes.
Argentina held its last training session at Estadio Beira Rio in Porto Alegre this Saturday ahead of Copa America clash against Qatar
In a critical situation, the team must win to secure its spot at the Quarterfinals.
A group of supporters were allowed to watch the practice.
Argentina is currently at the bottom of the group with one point, the same as Qatar, but losing in average.
Paraguay is second with two and Colombia has already topped Group B with six points.
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