In 1916, when what is now called America’s Cup was played for the first time, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Russia of the Tsars still existed. It was a tournament invented by Argentina, at that time one of the richest countries in the world. “Riche comme un argentin”, it was said in Paris. It has rained since then. But one detail has remained constant. The Argentines, who organized the competition to celebrate the centenary of their independence and paid for the trophy (bought in a jewelry store in Buenos Aires, sterling silver, 3,000 Swiss francs) out of pocket, have never had much luck. Although they have won 14 times, one less than Uruguay, neither of their two great stars, Diego Maradona and Leo Messi, ever raised the cup.
The third myth, Alfredo di Stéfano, did lift the trophy once. It was in 1947. But then Di Stéfano was a 21-year-old kid overshadowed by other River Plate figures nicknamed Machine. The head of that River Plate and the national team was José Manuel Moreno, The Fanfa, tango player and womanizer, dazzling soccer player and teacher of young Alfredito. Di Stéfano, who no longer won anything else with the Argentine national team (later he played with those of Colombia and Spain), imitated for the rest of his career the “total football” of The Fanfa and he probably got over it.
The fact is that neither Maradona nor Messi were champions. What about Maradona is curious. It failed in the 1979 edition, with a single victory, against Bolivia, despite the fact that that same year it had swept the U21 World Cup in Japan. He failed again in 1987, with the same team that a year earlier won the World Cup in Mexico and playing in Argentine stadiums: Uruguay, which is always there for that, blocked his way. And on the third attempt, in 1989, the same thing happened. Argentina lost to Uruguay and Brazil. Maradona never played a great match in the Copa América.
Leo Messi has pursued the trophy with the utmost tenacity. He has played 27 Copa América matches (with few goals, nine) and has only lost three. Just three endings. In the first, 2007, accompanied by Riquelme and Tevez, Argentina was swept by Brazil (3-0). In the second, 2015, Chile won on penalties. In the third the result was repeated, with Chile winning by penalties. With a difference: Messi missed his maximum penalty, he left the group for the rest of the series and at the end of the final he said goodbye: “The selection is over for me,” he said. “I tried a lot, it’s not for me. It hurts me more than anyone not to be a champion with Argentina. I leave without succeeding ”.
But there he is again Leo Messi, who will be 34 years old during the tournament. Maybe this is your last chance. If things went very well for him and he scored more than six goals, he would not only reinforce his record as the top scorer for the Argentine team, but he would surpass Pelé as the top scorer for the South American teams. If he also won the final, he could finally say that he gave the albiceleste a title.
If all that did not happen, it would only confirm the misfortune of the Argentine stars in the tournament born in their country.