Messi vows to play on after latest heartache

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – Lionel Messi vowed to extend his international career after yet another bid to win a major title with Argentina ended in failure at the Copa America on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old Barcelona star, who infamously quit international soccer after Argentina’s loss in the 2016 Copa America Centenario final, said he has no plans to hang up his boots after a 2-0 semifinal loss to Brazil.

“If I can still help in any way, I will continue to do so. I feel really good in this group,” said the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.

“This is a good, talented generation who showed that they love the national team,” he added. “They have a future and great foundations. They just need to be given time.”

Messi will get another chance to end his tournament title drought next year when the Copa America takes place in Argentina and Colombia, with the 2022 World Cup looming on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said his new-look squad has a bright future despite the loss.

“Without a doubt, today we showed that this group of players feel the jersey like no others,” he said.

“We showed an image for the future of this squad and these players and the great path they are on. To play in this stadium, in these conditions and to be superior to our opponents.

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“It doesn’t matter because they’re going to the final, but if we’re aware of what we did today then there’s only positives.”

He said the defeat was “unfair “claiming that “no other team has created as many scoring chances against Brazil as we did”.

Messi’s best chance came in the 57th minute when he volleyed against the post.

Scaloni said the veteran was Argentina’s “standard-bearer”.

“Brazil continuously tried to stop passes from reaching him and we kept looking for ways to get him the ball,” said the coach.

“It was thrilling to see him play. It didn’t work out today, but he’ll have his rematch and the whole squad will have their rematch.”

Scaloni was unhappy with some of Ecuadorean referee Roddy Zambrano’s decisions – particularly that Argentina picked up six bookings to Brazil’s two.

“I didn’t like the referee, and I don’t usually make those comments,” he said.

“I don’t think he was qualified for a match of this level. If a midfielder player is on a yellow card, this changes things.

“There were a lot of small details where the match started to lose its balance because of those decisions.”

‘I knew I’d score’

Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring in the 19th minute from a Roberto Firmino pass, then in the 71st he returned the favor as Brazil qualified for its first Copa America final since 2007.

“I knew I would score. I’m not saying that because I scored. Other times I didn’t say this,” said 22-year-old Manchester City forward Jesus.

“I was very confident and I managed to score in a great team performance. Firmino set me up really well.

“I’m delighted, not for the goal but for the team. We scored the goals, we’re all delighted about the match, about the commitment, about the performance.”

Brazil coach Tite said: “Gabriel impresses all the professionals that work with him because he never gives up.”

Associated Press

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