On Monday evening in Brasília, Lionel Messi became Argentina’s joint-most capped player by equaling Javier Mascherano’s total of 147. Messi’s journey with La Albiceleste began in 2005, when he was just 18 but already world-renowned as Barcelona’s youngest-ever scorer and Ronaldinho’s heir apparent.
But it was Messi’s fellow 33-year-old, Papu Gómez — receiving just his sixth cap and only third start — who proved the difference in Argentina’s 1-0 group stage victory over Paraguay at the Copa América.
Papu’s career has been a glorious slow burn. After 10 years of relative anonymity spent in Argentina and then in Europe with Catania and Metalist Kharkiv, Papu’s goals — frequently singular pieces of refined footballing genius — fired Atalanta up the Serie A table and into Europe.
He’s now with Sevilla after a public falling-out with Gian Piero Gasperini, but Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni obviously likes what he adds to the mix.
His goal arrived in the 10th minute. Lionel Messi took possession, feinted beyond his marker and drove into the final third before passing wide to Ángel Di María.
Messi doing Messi things.It looks casual but it always works. pic.twitter.com/Zv91wZ0mCn
— Jerry Mancini (@jmancini8) June 22, 2021
Di María drifted inside while Papu drove across the box from his left wing position. The PSG star picked him out, and Papu took a little look before dinking it over Puebla’s Antony Silva.
¡Goooool de Argentina!Qué golazo se inventó la Argentina. La finta de Messi, el pase de Di María, la definición del Papu.
— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) June 22, 2021
He did the dance and now you must dance.
It’s Argentina’s third one-goal game of the tournament, but they’ve got seven points and top Group A. They’ll have a great chance to add to that total next Monday against Bolivia before playing in the quarterfinals on July 2 or 3.
Here’s Messi’s nutmeg on Santiago Arzamendia after dropping Ángel Cardozo Lucena to the floor.
Messi got 'em pic.twitter.com/TJQ1uvGple— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 22, 2021