INCREDIBLE: Argentina runs rampant and beats Italy to win the Finalissima
The Argentinian National Team takes the second title of the Scaloni Era
It was the final to beat all finals, the perfect warm up for the World Cup, and even a match for which two national teams had called up the same player. The 2022 Conmebol-UEFA Champions Cup, better know as the Finalissima, had every ingredient to be one of the best matches of the year, and it proved to be just that.
For Argentina, it was one of the last chances for a full test before the World Cup, a last chance for some of the players on the fringes of a call up for Qatar 2022 to make a mark and make themselves indispensible come the end of the year. It was also a record holding ocassion. Lionel Scaloni's team was on a 31 games winning streak; another win and they would become the holders of the longest unbeaten streak for the Albiceleste.
For Italy, it was chance to prove what happened at Stadio Renzo Barbera was the exception and not the rule, a chance to prove they belonged with the world's best. It was also a historic ocassion, with captain Giorgio Chiellini showing up for their last match with the Azurra, after 116 international matches.
During the first half it was a very intense match, with both teams reaching the opposing box, and Argentina perhaps the better side but nothing to show for it. That was until the 27th minute, when Lionel Messi held the ball magnificently on the left, dragging Di Lorenzo and entering the box for a short cross to the incoming Lautaro Martínez. Little to do for Gianluigi Donnarumma and 1-0 to the Albiceleste.
Like a fighter trying to shrug off the punch, Italy went once again into the fray and the match going kept going back and forth, with Argentina dropping slightly and Italy pushing, but failing to find someone to help Jorginho.
A somewhat cynical elbow from Bonucci to Messi stopped the match for a while. When action resumed, Argentin showed just why Juve legend Chiellini is moving to the MLS, as Lautaro Martinez put a pass in behing of him to Di María, who chipped it over the keeper; Donnarumma perhaps this time a bit to blame, coming too slow from his line.
In the end, it was a short farewell to Chiellini, who was replaced at halftime for Manuel Lazzari, with Manuel Locatelli replacing Federico Bernardeschi and Gianluca Scamacca coming in for Belotti, Mancini looking for the keys to the match.
The second half started with Italy looking for something, Mancini pushing his players to find something else. Argentina dropped and waited, something of a characteristic of the Scaloni era, looking for an Italy mistake. It nearly came just before the hour mark, with Donnarumma saving on the line a back pass from Bonucci that nearly ends in an own goal
After that, Italy struggled more and more. Di María hit a curler that was itching to get into the top corner before Donnarumma saved it in the 59th minute. With Argentina pressing once again and generating chance after chance, it looked like the 3-0 was soon to come, but it never did. Three shots from Messi were denied by his PSG teammate Donnarumma and Argentina was running rampant. Around the 70th minute mark the Argentina fans started to chant "ole, ole, ole". The show was complete.
The cheeky game of the Argentines unnerved the Italians, who started commiting (and some times being blamed for) silly fouls. Entering the final ten minutes, Argentina killed the match, dropping in two banks of four players that proved all too much to overcome for the Italians. It's been 705 minutes since Argentina conceded a goal when Martinez, Romero and Otamendi are together on the pitch.
There where many counter-attacking opportunities, and it looked like nothing was going to come off it until Paulo Dybala made it 3-0 in the dying embers of the match, putting in a lost ball from Messi.
In the end, Argentina is the fair winner, having overcome Italy in every sense, both attacking, defensively and in every other footballing term. Di María proved once again what he had shown in the Copa América final, Messi looked more lively and hungry than he's looked for a while, and Argentina confirmed their place as one of the favourites for Qatar 2022.
Continue reading: All you need to know about the Finalissima