Chile celebrated their first ever victory in Copa America by beating Argentina with the 2015 final game staged in Santiago. After a goalless 120 minutes of action, the host country prevailed by winning a penalty shoot-out by a 4-1 scoreline but a glance behind those statistics reveals a disturbing lack of goals in recent knockout competitions for an Argentinian team which boasts Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria amongst others in a seemingly powerful attacking line-up.
During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Argentine defence conceded just one goal in four games during the knockout phase when Mario Gotze of Germany netted an extra-time winner during the final to claim a 1-0 victory. Argentina had previously secured their place in the final by beating Netherlands on penalties after that contest had remained scoreless following the conclusion of extra-time.
In their quarter-final game with Belgium during that tournament, an early Gonzalo Higuain goal was sufficient to secure a 1-0 win while a strike from Di Maria just two minutes from the end of extra-time secured a 1-0 victory against Switzerland during the Round of 16 matches. Not exactly a glut of goals scored by the Argentinian attack with Messi failing to add to his goals from the group phase.
As the quarter-finals approached for the recent Copa America tournament, there was hope that Messi would finally deliver a match winning performance on the international stage with a tie against Colombia looming. Once again, the Argentinian defence proved impossible to breach but the attack failed to pierce the opposition equivalent and the ream was forced to rely on another penalty shoot-out to secure a semi-final game against a Paraguay squad celebrating a famous victory against Brazil.
What followed may have been a game too far for Paraguay as Argentina belatedly fulfilled their attacking promise by clinching a 6-1 victory but Messi failed to the find the net as his fellow attackers share the goals. With Messi, and Argentina, scoring no goals in the final against Chile, question marks must now be raised as to whether such a prolific striker for Barcelona over several seasons can be gauged as a real success on the international stage.
Granted that Messi may be a closely marked figure during international games and his movement may be more restricted in such confined spaces, but his ability to play with his fellow established attackers is also open to debate. The goals glut against Paraguay apart, Argentina have netted just one other goal during normal time in six knockout matches during the last 12 months and that has probably cost the team the opportunity of being declared both World Cup and Copa America champions at the same time.
Lionel Messi and his fellow attackers must now reflect on a situation where their club form has failed to materialise at international level.