Chile Win 2015 Copa America, Beating Argentina on Penalty Kicks in the Final
Lionel Messi may be widely touted as the best football player in the world (or at very least, as one of the two best), but international titles have mostly eluded him throughout his career. Other than a 2005 World Youth Championship victory and a 2008 Olympic Gold Medal, Leo’s run with the Argentina national football team hasn’t yielded the sort of accolades that many might have expected from soccer’s most dynamic talent. The frustration continued for Messi and his Argentine squad over the weekend, as the White and Sky Blues finished as runners-up in the 2015 Copa America. Chile win 2015 Copa America, but is was a close game that could have gone either way.
From the beginning, Argentina were considered the frontrunners to win the 2015 Copa America. Not only would Lionel Messi be donning the Argentina home jersey 2015 – 2016 following a top-form treble season at FC Barcelona, but the team was also coming off of a runner-up finish at the 2014 World Cup. It looked as if the time was ripe for Leo to finally bring home a Copa America soccer trophy.
Furthermore, Uruguay, the defending champs from the 2013 Copa tournament, were set to be handicapped this year thanks to the ongoing international football suspension of Luis Suarez. Add Brazil’s early elimination in the quarterfinals—thanks to Neymar’s four-game ban, following an argument with a referee in the group stage—and the Argentines seemed to have the top slot locked up.
A Cinderella Story
However, what fans in the Argentina football jersey didn’t count on was a Cinderella story for the Chilean host team. Prior to this year, Chile had never won a Copa America title, finishing second twice (in 1979 and 1987), and bowing out in third the last time they hosted, in 1991.
Despite their lack of titles, Chile’s home field advantage gave them the momentum they needed to surge through the group stage without a loss. Once they’d beaten a weakened Uruguay in the quarterfinals, most fans were pegging the hosts as the squad that would go up against the Argentine’s in the championship match.
David Versus Goliath
So it was that Chile and Argentina ended up in something of a David and Goliath battle for the 2015 Copa America title. Despite a solid run for the Chilean hosts, most football experts predicted an easy victory for Argentinean’s. After all, the White and Sky Blues had steamrolled Paraguay in the semifinals, winning 6-1 without Lionel Messi even scoring a goal. They could surely beat a Chile soccer team that had only scored a total of three goals in their first two knockout stage matches.
As it turned out, though, the July 4th final was much more competitive that many had anticipated. Messi went scoreless once again, finishing the tournament with just one goal to his name. However, this time he wasn’t making up for his lack of goals with assists. He’d played some sort of role in setting up each of the six goals that his team had scored in the Paraguay semifinal, but against Chile, his team went scoreless.
Not that the Argentine side—or Messi—was playing poorly. On the contrary, the two teams split possession fairly evenly, and both defensive sides were dynamite, holding the score at a deadlocked 0-0 for the 90 minutes of regulation time and the additional half hour of extra time. When it came down to the penalty shootout, it seemed like Argentina—with sharpshooters such as Messi, Angel di Maria, and Sergio Aguero on hand—were still likely to prevail.
But while Messi set the right tone by knocking down the first penalty kick for Argentina, teammates Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega missed their shots, giving Chile a golden opportunity for a win. Meanwhile, Chilean players Matias Fernandez, Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz, and Alexis Sanchez made four out of four to give the host team a 4-1 penalty shootout victory.