Messi, Argentina come up short once again in another final showpiece

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-6 23:03:01

The two best teams in this year's Copa America played in the final but it was not a thing of beauty.

Instead, Argentina and Chile ­canceled each other out so completely that the goalless game had to be decided by penalty kicks. When all was said and done, we had a first-time Copa America champion in host nation Chile while ­Argentina came up short in a major final for the second time in a row.

For Chile, it was the best way to win their first-ever continental title after 99 years of trying. Playing before a passionate home crowd of over 45,000 in Santiago, Chile were unceasing as they pressed and harried the favored Argentinians. Chile had their own stars like Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez and Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and were intent on victory whilst striving to prevent Argentina's Lionel Messi from exerting his magic.

Argentina will rue another disappointing outcome in a Copa America final, all the more so because they have arguably the world's best player in Messi with a host of other big talents. Messi shone in Argentina's 6-1 semifinal win over Paraguay when he had a hand in five goals but he was far less brilliant against Chile.

It is no secret Messi does not play as well with Argentina as with Barcelona, as the talent surrounding him and the team tactics are different. However, Argentina cannot blame Messi as the team's other star players failed to play well either.

Having Angel di Maria replaced due to injury in the first half hampered ­Argentina while the likes of Sergio Aguero and Javier Pastore were not able to step up. Chile's game plan was smart but cynical, putting strong pressure on the Argentinians while utilizing hard fouls and rough play.

In the penalty shootout, Messi ­coolly scored with his kick, but teammates Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega lost their nerve, the former skying his shot over the bar while the latter saw his weak shot saved.

The Albiceleste have not won the Copa America since 1993, while also ­losing in the Copa America finals in 2004 and 2007 to Brazil. In 2011, they were knocked out in the quarterfinals by eventual champions Uruguay. Argentina will still have more good chances to win the Copa America such as the next one next year as they are not short of ­talented players and Messi is only 28.

It may be unfair, but until then, Messi will feel a major weight on his shoulders as long as he is unable to bring home a title for his country like his compatriot Diego Maradona.

The author is a Beijing-based freelance writer.

Posted in: Extra Time

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