Baku, June 27, AZERTAC
Mirroring the result of last year’s Copa America final in Santiago, Chile edged Argentina 4-2 on penalties after a scoreless 120 minutes in New Jersey to win the 2016 Copa America Centenario. The match, in which both sides ended with ten men, was a taut and dramatic affair but ultimately finished scoreless, requiring penalties to separate the sides. Lionel Messi fired his penalty over the crossbar and Lucas Bigilia missed his effort later on, enabling Francisco Silva to step up and secure Chile’s second consecutive Copa America title.
Argentina opened on the front foot, pressuring Chile’s backline from the first whistle. The pressure nearly paid off 20 minutes into the match when a careless turnover by Chile centre-back Gary Medel allowed Argentina’s Gonazalo Higuain clear in on goal, but La Albiceleste’s No9 chipped attempt over Claudio Bravo missed wide.
Minutes later, Nicolas Otamendi flashed a header wide that hit the outside of Bravo’s net, causing confusion among the Argentinian supporters in the stands who believed their central defender had put La Albiceleste into an early lead. The match took a significant turn less than half an hour into proceedings when Marcelo Diaz picked up a second yellow card for bringing down Argentina captain Messi, after having earned his first caution in similar fashion 12 minutes prior to his sending off.
However, Argentina did not hold onto their numerical advantage for long as Marcos Rojo was shown a straight red card for his tackle on Arturo Vidal only minutes before half-time. The first 45 minutes came to a close with neither side able to break through, largely a result of the stop-start nature of the game.
Second-half substitute Sergio Aguero had a chance to win it six minutes from full-time after beating Chile’s last defender, but the Manchester City hitman sent his shot well high and wide of the goal. A last-gasp effort from La Roja nearly won it before the final whistle but Alexis Sanchez’s close range effort was well blocked by Ramiro Funes Mori, which sparked a quick counter-attack from Argentina and a solo run by Messi, whose shot screamed wide.
Ten minutes into extra time, Chile’s Eduardo Vargas forced Sergio Romero to make a fine diving stop, keeping Vargas’ snapping header from finding the side netting. Moments later at the other end, Bravo denied Aguero with an even better save, tipping his flashing header just over the bar. Still scoreless, penalties were required to find a winner, creating a feeling of déjà vu for many players who had the same experience last year in Santiago.
The first round of penalties went begging as Romero saved Vidal’s effort before Messi fired over the bar. The second round was far more emphatic as Nicolas Castillo and Javier Mascherano both converted with authoritative strikes. Two rounds of successful penalties followed before Jean Beausejour finished for Chile as Bravo denied Biglia. Silva then stepped up for Chile and slotted home to ignite Chilean celebrations.