Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Chile clinch the Copa

Messi still looking for first national team trophy. Marawan Zayed reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

‘Chile beat Messi and Argentina in the final of Copa America 2015’ is the headline of each and every soccer website, magazine and newspaper these days.
Argentinean fans thought the nightmare of losing the World Cup final against Germany a year ago was the worst they could have witnessed, especially when the best player in the history of the game is playing for them. And Lionel Messi himself surely thought that reaching the Copa America final this year was his biggest ever chance of making up for the tragic loss he suffered in the World Cup.

Unfortunately for both the fans and Messi, the Chilean players made the most of playing the tournament at home and deservedly defeated Argentina in the penalty shootout after 120 minutes of football resulted in no goals.

However, the result could have been much different if Gonazlo Higuain had converted his 92nd minute close range chance after Ezequiel Lavezzi played him in. Higuain’s fans will argue that the angle was too tight but neutrals and Higuain opponents will say he should have scored. The night went from bad to worse for Higuain as he blasted his penalty in the stands when both teams turned to the penalty shootout. Higuain’s penalty miss -- Argentina's first in the shoot-out -- handed Chile an advantage they would not relinquish. Ever Banega missed his spot kick as well before Alexis Sanchez admirably chipped in his penalty to win it for his country 4-1 with only Messi scoring for the Argentine team.

Apart from Higuain’s sitter, the game witnessed very few clear cut chances as both teams seemed reluctant to attack at the expense of defence. Aguero almost scored with a close range header from Messi’s cross while Vidal came close at the other end in the first half.

The game was more of déjà vu for the Argentinean and their fans as nearly everything that happened in the World Cup final once again happened in the Copa final. Mega star Angel Di Maria who missed the World Cup final through injury, once again broke down injured in the 23rd minute and had to come off.

Messi, who had a relatively bad game by his extremely high standards at the World Cup final, once again didn’t have the best of days while the biggest villain Higuain who missed a one-on-one chance with Neuer last year before Gotze scored the only of the game to win it for the Germans, did the same again this year and missed the only clear cut chance of the game in the last minute of original time before blasting his penalty kick high in the stands in awful fashion.

Messi was in no mood to even receive the trophy of best player in the tournament as he refused it after the game. It tells a lot about how he felt to once again fail to lead his team to a major title after last year’s World Cup exit.

This would have been Argentina’s first major trophy in 22 years as their last title goes back to 1993 when they defeated Mexico in the final.

On the other end, Chile's victory brought an end to almost a century of competing in the Copa America without claiming a title.

They were one of four teams who played in the very first tournament in 1916 in Argentina but the best they had done until this year was runner-up, which they have achieved on four occasions (1955, 1956, 1979 and 1987).

The spotlight might be on Messi but another player who’s probably feeling worse is the warrior Javier Mascherano who has now lost three finals in Copa America let alone the World Cup final.

The more interesting part about the tournament this year is that it confirmed that Copa America is no longer an easy ride for the likes of Brazil and Argentina as we used to see in the past. Before the last edition which was won by Uruguay, Brazil won four of the previous tournament, defeating Argentina in two of them. However, all of a sudden the football map changed in South America as the likes of Chile, Uruguay and even Paraguay who reached the final in 2007 were competing for the title. Brazil lost its fear factor as their legend Cafu said after they bowed out as they relied heavily on their sole superstar Neymar who was kicked out of the tournament because of his ill temper and who’ll never be able to make it on his own anyway, while Argentina simply failed to show up when it really mattered.

This was the closest they could get to the title and had high hopes of going all the way especially after winning the semi-final 6-1 against an in-form Paraguayan side. However, they once again failed to cross the finish line, especially after nerves got in the way during the penalty shootout.

Chile are worthy winners of the tournament that witnessed 59 goals in 26 games. Both the top scorer and the best goalkeeper are from the Chilean side in the form of Eduardo Vargas who netted four times and Barcelona’s goalkeeper Claudio Bravo who was chosen as the best keeper in the tournament after some stellar performances throughout the competition.

The best player was supposedly Messi but after he refused to take the trophy there was no best player in this year’s edition. It was probably the first time in the history of the tournament that a player rejected the best player trophy.

Chile’s first title in the history couldn’t have come at a better venue as winning a major trophy like Copa America on your home soil is probably more than the Chilean players and fans could have dared hoped for. The lasting image of Cope America this year will be the Chilean players celebrating after Alexis Sanchez’s brilliant penalty chip and Messi walking in front of the cup in despair.

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