SANTIAGO: Chile wrecked Lionel Messi’s dream of a first international title with a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Argentina to end their 99-year wait for a Copa America crown on Saturday.
Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez struck the winning penalty for Chile, as the hosts clinched a 4-1 shoot-out victory when the game ended goalless after extra time.
Sanchez chipped the decisive penalty down the middle past Sergio Romero to spark wild celebrations in front of a 45,000 capacity crowd at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago.
Chile took control of the shoot-out when Gonzalo Higuain blazed his penalty over the bar before Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo saved Ever Banega’s spot-kick.
Argentina captain Messi, aiming to inspire the South American giants to a first international title in 22 years, could only look on distraught as Chile celebrated.
The four-time world footballer of the year had repeatedly spoken of his desperation to win a title with Argentina after winning everything at club level with Barcelona.
But the 28-year-old superstar was to suffer more disappointment, only 12 months after enduring another agonising extra-time defeat in last year’s World Cup final against Germany in Brazil.
Chile’s win was their first ever victory over Argentina in the Copa America. “We talked about it in Brazil that we were going to win the Copa America,” said Sanchez. “This is really a great generation, we deserve this.”
Chile’s Argentina-born coach Jorge Sampaoli said his side had deserved to win. “We had to play a great game against one of the world’s best teams for the quality of players,” he said. “We should have won in 90 minutes, but ended up getting justice.”
Argentina’s players meanwhile were left pondering another heartbreaking loss.
Midfielder Javier Mascherano has now played in three losing Argentina teams in Copa America finals, and was also a member of the team beaten in the World Cup final.
“Three Copa America finals, three defeats. I can’t explain the losing streak,” said a dejected Mascherano. “We just didn’t seem to have that little bit of luck that you sometimes need to have to win in finals. Is it karma? I don’t know.”
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino meanwhile lamented his side’s failure to take chances.
“They were very clear chances that should have changed the outcome of the game,” said Martino.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2015.
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