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27 Jun 2016   09:35:35 AM   Monday BdST A- A A+ Print this E-mail this

Chile upset favourites Argentina to retain Copa soccer title

 Chile upset favourites Argentina to retain Copa soccer title

Chile upset favourites Argentina with a penalty shootout victory in the Copa America final at MetLife Stadium on Sunday to retain their title in the world`s oldest continental football competition.

With the dynamic Artur Vidal back after suspension, Chile earned themselves bragging rights as South America`s dominant team as they beat heavyweights Argentina on penalties for a second straight year in the tournament decider.

The two sides were deadlocked 0-0 after 90 minutes and also after another half an hour of extra time in a match where both the teams were reduced to 10 men in the first half.

This was to have been the match that sealed Lionel Messi’s legacy. The one that silenced the doubters, that killed off the question mark hanging over his greatness, that gave him his place in the pantheon next to Diego Maradona and showed he could achieve the same success with Argentina that has become so staggeringly routine at club level. Instead, it became The Night Messi Missed.

Goalless after 120 minutes, a game that during the first half looked on course to be decided by over-zealous officiating instead had to be settled by penalties. This wasn’t the first time the stomach-churning lottery of spot kicks has been needed to separate Argentina and Chile, of course. Last year, it was the heroics of Claudio Bravo and Alexis Sánchez’s ice-cool Panenka that clinched the Copa América for La Roja.

What followed from there seemed almost inevitable, given the way everything about this match had been set up as the final, coronating chapter in the saga of young Leo: the two sides traded successful spot kicks, then Bravo – that man again – saved Lucas Biglia’s effort. Francisco Silva, brought on late during extra-time for Sánchez, proved a perfect proxy for the hero of the 2015 shootout. He shot hard; Romero dived the wrong way; the Copa was Chile’s once again.

As jubilation broke out on the Chilean bench and among the swatch of red behind the goal, Messi slumped to the ground, stunned. After the bitter consolation, in a losing cause, of the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot, here again we witnessed the cruel spectacle of this generation’s greatest player stumbling with the finish line in sight. But take nothing away from Chile; at times they have been exceptional in this tournament, no more so than when thrashing a highly fancied Mexico side 7-0 in the quarter-finals. If the GOAT is to be a loser, would that it be to a team of Chile’s quality.

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