2021 Copa America winners Argentina squared off against Euro 2020 champions Italy in the CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions (2022 Finalissima) on Wednesday night (June 1).
The South American champions secured a comfortable 3-0 win over the European juggernauts at Wembley, defending their intercontinental trophy. With their second CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions win (1993, 2022), Argentina have become the most successful team in the competition’s history.
Italy, who missed out on World Cup qualification for the second time running, were looking for a decent performance to get the fans back in their corner. Argentina, who have not lost a single match in two years, however, kept them from achieving their goal.
Except for the opening quarter of an hour in which Italy looked more threatening, La Albiceleste were easily the better side. Their passing was brilliant, they pressed hard, and, most importantly, they made the most of the chances they created.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina struck first in the 28th minute, with the skipper brilliantly setting up a tap-in for Lautaro Martinez. Italy looked to respond immediately through a Nicolo Barella effort, but Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was more than equal to the task.
A minute into the first-half of added time, Argentina doubled their lead, capping off an excellent spell of football. Martinez turned provider for Angel Di Maria, setting him up with a brilliant throughball. The former Real Madrid forward made no mistake putting his effort past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Di Maria tried to double his tally from a teasing curling effort. Only this time Donnarumma was able to stop his effort from going in. Messi registered two shots on target in the next 10 minutes, forcing Donnarumma to make two fine saves.
The South Americans continued to tear through the Italian defense but had to wait until the 94th minute to score their much-deserved second-half goal. Messi nicked another assist, this time setting up Paulo Dybala from the edge of the box.
Italy did have their moments here and there, but Argentina were easily a class above the reigning European champions on Wednesday night.
On that note, here are five Argentine superstars who stood out in their easy 3-0 victory over Italy at Wembley:
#5 Emiliano Martinez
Italy did not exactly bombard Emiliano Martinez’s goal on Wednesday night, but the keeper had to make some smart saves.
The Aston Villa stopper also impressed with his distribution, command inside the box, and quick recoveries.
Against the European champions, Martinez made three saves, two of which were diving efforts, accurately delivered six long balls, and made six recoveries.
His best save of the match came in the 21st minute when he denied Andrea Belotti’s looping header from creeping in.
The keeper had to stretch himself to stop Italy from scoring the opening goal.
#4 Rodrigo De Paul
Central midfielder Rodrigo De Paul has been a revelation for Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina.
Last night, too, he showed his class, dictating tempo against Italy’s famous midfield and creating multiple goalscoring chances.
The Atletico Madrid midfielder completed 51 out of his 62 passes (82 percent accuracy), created three chances, and accurately delivered three long balls.
He also recorded eight recoveries, won three ground duels, and drew three fouls.
#3 Angel Di Maria
Angel Di Maria, 34, was in red-hot form for Argentina on Wednesday night. He scored a brilliant goal, created opportunities, and majorly contributed to his team’s defense.
Had it not been for the would-be free agent, the South Americans would not have dominated the match the way they did.
His goal came in first-half added-time from a brilliant Lautaro Martinez through ball. He easily went past Giorgio Chiellini to get to the ball and then chipped it over an onrushing Donnarumma to double his side’s advantage.
Di Maria also lodged two more shots on target, but his efforts were dealt with by Donnarumma.
On Wednesday, Di Maria played 54 passes (83 percent accuracy), created two chances, completed two dribbles, and accurately delivered four long balls.
Di Maria also won three tackles, made 10 recoveries, and drew a foul.
#2 Lautaro Martinez
Having scored 25 goals across competitions for Inter Milan in the 2021-22 campaign, Lautaro Martinez came into the international fixture full of confidence.
That confidence was on full display against Italy last night. His movement was clever, he contributed to the team’s build-up play, scored a goal, and also provided a brilliant assist.
Martinez opened the scoring for La Albiceleste in the 28th minute from a tap-in from close range. The magisterial Lionel Messi pulled off a clever turn to get away from his marker, marauded down the left flank, and set up Martinez.
The forward made no mistake, tucking it home from close range. Just before the half-time whistle, Martinez majorly contributed to Argentina’s second goal of the night. He played an inch-perfect through ball, which Di Maria cleverly finished.
On Wednesday, Martinez created two chances, completed two dribbles, won five of eight ground duels, and drew a foul.
#1 Lionel Messi
Argentina skipper Lionel Messi has once again proved that age is just a number for him. The 34-year-old worked hard, dribbled with unmatched sharpness, tested the goalkeeper regularly and set up two goals.
The Italians tried to stop the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner in his tracks, but he always found a way. If he keeps this up until the end of the year, Argentina could certainly fancy themselves going all the way in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Against Italy, Messi completed 92 percent of his passes (63 attempts, 58 completed), created four chances, and completed five dribbles.
The Paris Saint-Germain man also lodged four shots on target, won 11 duels and drew five fouls.
It was easily one of Messi’s best performances in his country’s colors in recent memory.
Also Read: Italy 0-3 Argentina: 5 talking points as Messi & Co. outclass European Champions to win Finalissima | CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions