Lionel Messi’s wait to celebrate silverware with the senior Argentina continues following a bitter defeat in the Copa America final.
Although the four-time World Player of the Year has won a whole host of trophies at club level with Barcelona – including seven La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions Leagues – his only success for his country has come in the FIFA World Youth Championships in 2005 and then the Olympic Games, which is not considered to be a major honour in the game, three years later.
In 2007 he was part of the Argentina side which lost 3-0 to Brazil in the Copa America final, and last year there was more heartache when a Mario Gotze extra-time goal gave Germany World Cup glory. He had another chance to get his hands on silverware for La Albiceleste on Saturday, when he captained his side in the Copa America final against host nation Chile at the Estadio Nacional.
But after a goalless 90 minutes the match entered extra-time during which Gonzalo Higuain spurned a last-gasp chance to seal victory for Gerardo Martino’s side. And this proved to be a costly miss, as despite Messi converting the first kick in the penalty shootout, Higuain missed from 12 yards and Ever Banega had his shot saved to allow Chile emerge 4-1 victors.
“At some point Leo is going to win something with Argentina,” Messi’s team-mate Ezequiel Lavezzi said. “We thought this was an opportunity to make our mark, but unfortunately we could not. It hurts a lot. Once again we are left with a bitter taste. It hurts because we believed that this was the chance to win something. We are just missing that little step to achieve something.”
For Chile, whose decisive spot-kick was scored by Alexis Sanchez, this was the first time they have won major silverware in their history having previously lost the Copa America final on four occasions – to Argentina in 1955, Uruguay the following year, Paraguay in 1979, and Uruguay again in 1987. And coach Jorge Sampaoli believes keeping Messi quiet was the key to their success.
“In terms of attacking volume, Chile were superior to Argentina,” he said. ” The idea was for us to be the protagonist so the rival wouldn’t be able to dominate the play. If that happens, Messi shows you why he is the best in the world. The idea was to press high up the pitch and come out playing the ball. There was more effort and more commitment from us throughout the match.”