Argentina loses game, then Messi
Chile 0, Argentina 0, Sunday; Chile wins 4-2 on penalty kicks
Lionel Messi put his penalty kick over the crossbar, grabbed his shirt, clenched his teeth and put both hands over his face.
A few minutes later he walked off the field, a dazed, pained look on his bearded face. The greatest player of his generation, perhaps soccer’s best ever, he was still without a title on Argentina’s national team.
“The national team is over for me,” he told the Argentine network TyC Sports after Chile beat Argentina for the Copa America title Sunday night in East Rutherford, N.J. “It’s been four finals, it’s not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.”
Chile beat Argentina in the final for the second straight year, 4-2 in the shootout following a 0-0 tie that ended an expanded 16-nation edition in the United States to mark the championship’s 100th anniversary.
Messi, five-time FIFA Player of the Year, winner of four Champions League titles and eight Spanish La Liga crowns with Barcelona, was crushed. Much of his nation had counted on him to bring home its first major title since 1993.
Playing two days after his 29th birthday, Messi lost a final for the third year in a row and the fourth time overall with Argentina. There was also the 2007 Copa final with Brazil, when he was still a wunderkind, and then an extra-time defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup.
Referring to the dejection of Messi and the other players, Argentina coach Gerardo Martino said: “If you start thinking over the future today, especially at a time like this, it’s tough. It’s overbearing. But so many times, athletes are able to raise themselves back up. They’ve raised themselves up before, and I’m sure they’ll do it again.”
Francisco Silva converted the shootout finale for the fifth-ranked La Roja after goalkeeper Claudio Bravo — Messi’s Barcelona teammate — made a diving stop on Lucas Biglia’s attempt. Chile, ranked fifth in the world, upset the top-ranked Albiceleste.
Silva’s shot came after Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved the opening kick by Arturo Vidal. Messi followed by sending his shot over Bravo into the stands. Nicolas Castillo and Charles Aranguiz converted their kicks for Chile, and Javier Mascherano and Sergio Aguero made theirs, leaving the teams tied 2-2 after three rounds.
Jean Beausejour then put Chile ahead before Bravo dived to save Biglia’s shot and bring up Silva. As Romero dived to his left, Silva’s shot went in to his right, giving Chile another title.
“We put together a group of players we need to laud,” Chile coach Antonio Pizzi said, “and I hope they continue to grow together as a national team.”
Jurgen Klinsmann thinks a fourth-place finish in the Copa America was a step in the right direction. U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati will speak to his coach and assess.
After opening with a 2-0 loss to third-ranked Colombia at Levi’s Stadium on June 3, the No. 31 United States beat Costa Rica, Paraguay and 13thranked Ecuador to advance to a semifinal against Argentina. Messi and his teammates routed the U.S. 4-0 Tuesday in Seattle, and the Americans closed with a 1-0 loss to Colombia in Saturday’s third-place game at Glendale, Ariz.
“It’s a tough tournament,” Gulati said. “We didn’t lose to anybody in the tournament that’s ranked outside the top five in the world, but we need to win some of those games, obviously.”
Chile’s players celebrate after winning the Copa America Centenario final by defeating Argentina 4-2 in penalty kicks in East Rutherford, N.J. Chile also won the title last year.