Copa America 2015
Final (July 4, 2015)
Estadio Nacional, Santiago, Chile
Chile ended their near-century-old hunt for a major trophy with a shootout victory Argentina, whose might was nullified by a constant barrage of Chilean fouls. Lionel Messi was left with a painful expression of shock and disappointment, as Alexis Sanchez ran towards his fans after slotting in the fourth and winning penalty.
The match began with Chile playing a three-man defence, as Gonzalo Jara remained suspended, following his misdemeanour against Edinson Cavani during the quarterfinals of Copa. Argentina fielded the off-form Ángel Di María at the front, alongside Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero, while Gonzalo Higuaín started on the bench.
Messi had a sublime match against Paraguay in the semifinals, where he played a role in all the six goals scored by Argentina. Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli had correctly assumed the threat posed by the diminutive Argentine, and crowded the Chilean midfield with five players. This led to Messi being closed down almost every time he tried to open an attacking move for Argentina. By the end of extra-time, he could only muster a paltry two shots on goal.
Ángel Di María was injured at the half-hour mark, and was replaced by Ezequiel Lavezzi, while Agüero was replaced late in the 2nd half by Higuaín. Both the substitutes had clear-cut chances to put Argentina ahead, but they missed their shots.
As the game progressed into penalty shootout, Argentina paid a heavy price for not capitalising on their opportunities. Chile substitute Matí Fernández, who is actually Argentine by birth, stepped up to take the first penalty and scored, while Messi followed it up with a cool finish, the score tied at 1-1. After Vidal scored Chile’s second spotkick, things went wrong for Argentina, as Higuaín and Banega missed their penalties. The home crowd held their breath as Alexis Sanchez walked up to take the fourth penalty. They erupted with joy as the Arsenal frontman scored, capping of a special season for club and country.
Clearly, but deservedly in an emotional state, Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal gushed out, “This is a dream come true, this team deserves something like this. We left our life on the field. Chilean people needed this joy and we managed to give it to them.” Chile have won their maiden Copa America trophy, and will play in the 2017 Confederations Cup at Russia, as the winning representative of CONMEBOL, while Argentina will still be looking to win a major tournament since their 1993 Copa America win.
Here are the higlights of the match: