Ar­gentina loses game, then Messi

Chile 0, Ar­gentina 0, Sun­day; Chile wins 4-2 on penalty kicks

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTS - CHRON­I­CLE NEWS SER­VICES

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.”

U.S. fu­ture:

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.”

Ni­cholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Im­ages

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.

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