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Messi's Argentina outclass Italy to win 'Finalissima'

June 1, 2022 Argentina's Lionel Messi is toosed by with teammates REUTERS

Argentina marked the revival of the Cup of Champions in style as they outclassed Italy 3-0 in a heavyweight clash billed as the 'Finalissima' at a raucous Wembley Stadium on Wednesday.

First-half goals by Lautaro Martinez and Angel di Maria put the south American champions in complete control against an Italy side who were back at Wembley 11 months after beating England to win the delayed Euro 2020.

With thousands of their supporters in the 87,000 crowd determined to turn north west London into Buenos Aires for the night, an Argentina side including Lionel Messi were simply too quick and slick for the lumbering Azzurri.

Martinez tapped home from close range in the 28th minute from Messi's low cross to reward Argentina's early dominance.

Inter Milan's Martinez then slid a pass through for Di Maria to double the lead with a dinked finish on the stroke of halftime to send the south American fans into raptures.

Italy had their moments before the break but Argentina could have scored a sackful of goals after it with Messi pulling the strings and Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma sparing his side a drubbing with a series of fine saves.

Substitute Paulo Dybala finally underlined Argentina's superiority with a drilled low finish in stoppage time.

It was a disappointing end to Italy stalwart defender Giorgio Chiellini's international career as the 37-year-old was substituted at halftime on his 117th and final appearance.

June 1, 2022 Argentina's Lionel Messi in action with Italy's Giorgio Chiellini REUTERS

The Finalissima is the revival of the CONMEBOL-UEFA Cup of Champions that has been played only twice before - in 1985 and 1993 - and while it is viewed as something of a novelty, Argentina celebrated as though it was a World Cup final.

Messi, who lit up the evening with a series of trademark dribbles, was hoisted into the air by his team mates who danced jigs of joy on the lush Wembley turf.

Argentina, who ended a 28-year wait for a trophy by beating Brazil to win the 2021 Copa America, produced a display that augurs well for their hopes at the Qatar World Cup this year, extending their unbeaten run to 32 games.

But for Italy it was a sobering reminder of just how quickly fortunes can change in soccer.

Last July Roberto Mancini's team were euphoric after a penalty shootout win over England but have since suffered the humiliation of failing to qualify for the World Cup for the second successive tournament after losing in a playoff to North Macedonia.

In the build-up Mancini described game as the "end of a cycle" and the defeat left him in no doubt as to how much work is required to revive Italy's fortunes.