Sunday, June 17, 2018
Sports

Chile denies Messi, Argentina in Copa America final

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Lionel Messi still awaits his first title with Argentina's national team.

Messi, arguably soccer's top player, put his penalty kick over the crossbar, Francisco Silva converted Chile's shootout finale and La Roja won its second straight Copa America title, beating Argentina 4-2 on penalty kicks after a 0-0 tie Sunday night in front of 82,026 at MetLife Stadium.

Two days after his 29th birthday, Messi lost a final for the third year in a row following an extra-time defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup and a penalty-kicks loss to host Chile in last year's Copa America. The five-time FIFA player of the year has won four Champions League titles and eight La Liga crowns with Barcelona, but has never taken a trophy with Argentina's senior team.

For its 100th anniversary, South America's championship was expanded to 16 nations and played in the United States for the first time.

In an ill-tempered match that included an ejection on each side and eight yellow cards, the match was scoreless through regulation and 30 minutes of extra time, with Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain missing a clear goal-scoring opportunity for the third straight final.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved the opening kick by Arturo Vidal, and up stepped Messi, the best player of his generation and considered alongside Brazil's Pele and Argentina's Diego Maradona as the sport's greatest ever. But in the minds of many, he needs a title with his nation to solidify that claim.

Messi sent his shot over goalkeeper Claudio Bravo — his Barcelona teammate — and into the stands. Messi turned, bowed his head and clenched both fists in frustration.

Nicolas Castillo and Charles Aranguiz converted their kicks for Chile, and Javier Mascherano and Sergio Aguero made theirs, leaving the teams tied 2-2 after three rounds.

Jean Beausejour put Chile ahead, and Bravo dived to his right, saving Lucas Biglia's shot and bringing up Silva, a 30-year-old midfielder. Romero dived to his left and the shot went in to his right, giving Chile another title.

Messi crouched over, as if in pain, then got up, took off his captain's armband and walked to the bench, where he was consoled by Angel Di Maria.

Heber Lopes of Brazil was the referee, and a center of controversy in the first half. He issued two yellow cards to Chile's Marcelo Diaz, resulting in the midfielder's ejection in the 28th minute. Just 15 minutes later, the teams were back on even terms at 10 players each when Argentina's Marcos Rojo was issued a straight red card for a tackle.

Argentina coach Gerardo Martino and Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi each made two changes.

Di Maria replaced Ezequiel Lavezzi, who broke an elbow Tuesday in a 4-0 semifinal win over the United States, and Biglia entered in midfield in place of Augusto Fernandez, who injured a leg in the second half of the semifinal victory against the United States.

Vidal returned for Chile after serving a one-game suspension during the 2-0 semifinal win over Colombia on Wednesday night and Diaz also started. They replaced Pablo Hernandez and Francisco Silva.

Favorites advance in Euros: France, Germany and Belgium sealed their places in the quarterfinals of the European Championship on Sunday as three of the pre-tournament favorites lived up to their promise. There was a scare for the host nation after Ireland scored a second minute penalty, but Antoine Griezmann struck twice after the break to give France a deserved 2-1 victory in Lyon. While France was made to work hard to advance, Germany had no such difficulties in a polished 3-0 victory over Slovakia. And Eden Hazard inspired Belgium to what ended up as a crushing 4-0 win over Hungary.

France plays July 3 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis against the winner of today's England-Iceland match. Germany next plays Saturday in Bourdeaux against the winner of today's clash of giants, two-time defending champion Spain and Italy. Belgium lined up a quarterfinal against Wales on Friday in Lille.

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