The first football tournament between the nations of South America took place in Argentina during July 2-17, 1916 with four participant; Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. Uruguay were the winners after drawing the final with hosts Argentina 0-0. This competition later became known as Copa America or the American Cup. Since then, the format has undergone changes, number of participants has increased and the event has acquired an enhanced international recognition. After 99 years, Chile have won their first Copa America Trophy by beating favorites Argentina on penalties. There is no better way than to achieve such honor in front of home supporters and against an opponent as formidable as the Argentine national team, which has an impressive star cast led by the world-famous Lionel Messi. Chile were pumped up from the start and did not allow Argentina the upper hand any time in the 120 minutes of regulation and extra time. They had 57% of ball possession against a colorless Argentina, who only the other day, had outplayed Paraguay 6-1 in the semifinals. On Saturday July 4, 2015, the atmosphere in Santiago’s Estadio Nacional before kick-off was extraordinary. There was a huge sweep of red as each home fan carried a national flag. In two hours of playing time no goals could be scored despite close chances on either side. The big match went to penalty shoot-out and the result hinged on nerves. Chile began first and took a 1-0 lead through Matias Fernandez’s top corner conversion but Messi made in 1-1 next. After Arturo Vidal’s goal, it became 2-1 for Chile. Then horror struck Argentina with two successive misses from Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega and with Charles Aranguiz of Chile converting between these misses, the excitement in the stands became palpable as Alexis Sanchez placed the ball on the spot. Sanchez lost his nerves and carved out a rank poor shot but got lucky as Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero dived on the wrong side. Estadio Nacional got instantly transformed to a huge site of rapturous celebrations even as the ashen-faced Argentinians cursed their luck. Chile had made history on their home turf.
The Chileans started with taking the play in Argentina’s half after the kick-off and that unsettled Argentina. Chile could have taken an early lead but Arturo Vidal couldn’t control his shot after receiving a deflected ball from Sanchez’s cross. Chile’s coach had placed midfielder Marcelo Diaz quite deep to free up Gary Medel to cover Messi. Though Diaz committed a bad foul on Messi in the 43rd minute to get a yellow card, Sampaoli’s plan worked as Messi was kept quiet. The Argentine captain could touch the ball only 63 times, the fewest for Messi in any game of Copa America. While Chile continued with their aggression, Argentina were pushed on the defense. They lacked the fluidity and lost the coordination. Still, they had their chances from free-kicks and corners but nothing that could seriously threaten Chile.
After half time, Argentina became increasingly frustrated and Chile had their chances from Vidal and Sanchez. Good work from goalkeepers from either side ensured that the score remained goalless after 90 minutes. The match stretched to 30 minutes of extra time and during this period, Argentina had a clear opportunity. Messi found his space and broke away to send the ball for Ezequiel Lavezzi but Messi’s low cross was too far in front of Gonzalo Higuain, who screwed up by shooting only on the side netting. It was a costly miss like the one in 2014 World Cup, when Gonzalo Higuain had missed at Mercana against Germany. Anyway, 120 minutes of play failed to produce the result and penalty shoot-out ensued.
Chile took a 1-0 lead through Matias Fernandez but Messi made in 1-1. After Arturo Vidal put Chile 2-1 ahead, Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega horribly missed the target. Chile didn’t miss anything and everything boiled down to Alexis Sanchez’s spot kick. But Sanchez attempted a Panenka, which is taking a subtle touch underneath the ball. He messed it up as the ball slowly rolled to the right side. To Argentina’s utter misfortune, Sergio Romero dived on the left side as the ball lazily went over the goal line. Argentina missed their chance to win Copa America trophy after they won it 22 years ago, while Chile made a historic achievement.
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