Chile have defeated Argentina to lift the Copa America title in the USA.
Goalless after 120 minutes, a game that during the first half looked on course to be decided by over-zealous officiating instead had to be settled by penalties. This wasn’t the first time the stomach-churning lottery of spot kicks has been needed to separate Argentina and Chile, of course.
This time, with Chile shooting first, a save by Sergio Romero to thwart Arturo Vidal handed Argentina the early advantage. Messi stepped forward. After a game in which he’d been consistently excellent but struggled to apply the finishing touch, destiny surely awaited. He appeared calm. There were no deep breaths, no tics to betray nerves. The run-up was clinical, short and confident. But the shot was blasted high over the bar. High over the bar, and well into the stands. Once again at an international tournament, Messi had missed. The agony was written all over his face.
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What followed from there seemed almost inevitable, given the way everything about this match had been set up as the final, coronating chapter in the saga of young Leo: the two sides traded successful spot kicks, then Bravo – that man again – saved Lucas Biglia’s effort. Francisco Silva, brought on late during extra-time for Sánchez, proved a perfect proxy for the hero of the 2015 shootout. He shot hard; Romero dived the wrong way; the Copa was Chile’s once again.
As jubilation broke out on the Chilean bench and among the swatch of red behind the goal, Messi slumped to the ground, stunned. After the bitter consolation, in a losing cause, of the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot, here again we witnessed the cruel spectacle of this generation’s greatest player stumbling with the finish line in sight.