Chile beat Argentina on penalties to win Copa America
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP):
The wait is finally over for Chile. The title drought has ended.
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made a save and striker Alexis Sanchez converted the winning penalty as the hosts defeated Argentina 4-1 in a shootout after a 0-0 draw in the Copa America final yesterday, finally winning their first major tournament.
Bravo stopped Ever Banega's low shot by diving to his left to make the save and, earlier, Gonzalo Higuain also missed for Argentina, sending his shot over the crossbar.
The Chileans scored all of their penalties and captain Bravo lifted the nation's first ever trophy in front of President Michelle Bachelet and nearly 50,000 Chileans who packed the Estadio Nacional, frantically waving Chile's red, blue and white flags.
In the shootout, Matias Fernandez, Arturo Vidal and Charles Aranguiz all netted for Chile, while Messi scored Argentina's lone goal in the team's first attempt.
The title rewarded the nation's best generation of players after years of disappointments in the South American tournament and at World Cups. The victory secures Chile a spot in the Confederations Cup for the first time.
"This is a dream, this team deserved a victory like this," said midfielder Arturo Vidal, one of the leaders of this golden generation. "The Chilean people needed this triumph, needed something so beautiful as being crowned America's champion.
"Today it was an incredible step forward for us, this generation deserved it," the Juventus midfielder said.
Chile hadn't made it to a final in 28 years, when they lost to Uruguay in the Copa America in Argentina. They finished runners-up four times, including at home in 1955. Their best result at a World Cup was a third-place finish at home in 1962 and last year they reached the round of 16, being eliminated by hosts Brazil on penalties.
The result extended Argentina's and Lionel Messi's title drought. The national team hasn't won a trophy in 22 years and Messi will continue to hear criticism for his lacklustre play with the national team when it needs him the most. He struggled throughout the match yesterday and was never a factor, looking nothing like the star that he usually is with Barcelona.
The disappointment comes less than a year since Argentina and Messi lost the World Cup final to Germany in Brazil. Argentina lost consecutive Copa America finals to Brazil in 2004 and 2007. In the 2011 tournament at home, Messi and his teammates didn't make it past the quarter-finals.
Yesterday's defeat came exactly 22 years after Argentina won their last title at the 1993 Copa America, when Messi was only a kid. Since then, they have failed in seven Copa Americas and six World Cups, with Messi playing in five of those tournaments.