It was deja vu all over again. The Copa America was a re-match between defending champions Chile and Argentina. Once again the game was scoreless. Again it went to penalty kicks. The result was a repeat as Chile emerged victorious 4-2 on penalties. The only thing different was the venue, Metlife Stadium, in East Rutherford, N.J., which hosted the 100th version of this championship, The “Centenario.”
Chile’s victory was more impressive because unlike last year, it was not at their high altitude capital. This is the most neutral of sites and Chile emerged once again as the South American powers Brazil and Argentina fell by the wayside once more.
But the most shocking news was Lionel Messi‘ announcement afterward that he was retiring from international competition. Which means that at 29, and another World Cup only two years away, Messi may have worn the jersey of his home nation for the final time.
“My thinking right now and thinking about it in the locker room, I’m done playing for the national team,”
The last image of his national career will be of him missing high with his penalty shot just after Argentine goalie, Romero stopped Chile’ opening kick. Argentina would not recover.
The game was a mess of cards, expulsions, and near misses with Gonzalo Higuain on a breakaway, his trademark style of scoring, missed the far corner on his grounder with the goalie out of the picture and one defender desperately laying his body out to collide with the post.
But Chile has shown a conviction, a refusal to be intimidated by Argentina. They have been physical against their neighbors and now two years in a row have been able to neutralize the scoring machine that was Argentina and the best player in the world.
For Messi, the four finals losses will gnaw at him but he appears to have come to the conclusion that he cannot alter this reality.
“I tried everything possible, it hurts me more than anyone but it is evident that this is not for me,”
However, this statement is in the emotion of a tough defeat. Messi may very well see that at the next World Cup in 2018, he will be 31, and capable of removing the one blot on his record and maybe, just maybe, cast some light on the giant shadow that Maradona has cast on his career. Only time will tell.