SÃO PAOLO – Chile has lost the match for the third place in the Copa América to Argentina. In a heated game, where both countries’ captains Gary Medel and Lionel Messi received a red card, Argentina scored twice before halftime. Although Vidal
scored a penalty, this was not enough to win the neighborly dispute.
Arturo Vidal said after the lost semifinal against Peru that no one would be looking forward to playing a match for third place, and his comments seemed taken literally by La Roja on Saturday afternoon in the Arena Corinthians.
The Chilean squad started as unmotivated, just like last Wednesday when they were overwhelmed by Peru. Argentina lost the last two Copa América finals to Chile and was clearly looking for revenge. With an all-star attack, consisting of Paulo Dybala, Kün Aguero and Lionel Messi, the neighbors got early in the game what they were looking for: an opening goal.
Chile’s defense seemed asleep when Messi took a free kick quickly. With a long ball he launched Manchester City’s Aguero, who stayed calm facing the heavily criticized Chilean goalkeeper Gabriel Arias and scored the 1-0.
Things got worse for Chile when top scorer Alexis Sánchez had to get substituted with an injury. He was replaced by 31-year-old Júnior Fernándes. With every minute, the match turned more heated and often had to be stopped because of altercations between Chilean and Argentinean players.
Ten minutes after Aguero´s opening goal, Juventus’ Dybala doubled the score. Again, Chilean goalkeeper Arias came out of his goal too slow, having many Chilean fans thinking back with melancholy to the era of Claudio Bravo.
Close to halftime, Medel pushed Messi after the Argentine captain had allegedly challenged him. His furious response caused the referee to show both a red card. A strict decision, considering that disturbances like these happen often in South American soccer. Sending away two players of such importance killed the game, which continued until halftime with fouls and tackles from both sides.
The second half was less heated but also less exciting to watch. The weakness of Chile was clearly displayed as the team couldn’t create any chances. Experienced players like Charles Aranguíz and Eduardo Vargas were (again) invisible and where Argentina could bring in Ángel Di Maria as substitute, Chile had to look for goals with Nicolás Castillo.
Chile did score, once. The referee decided to award the Chileans a penalty after consulting the VAR, although it seemed Giovani Lo Celso tackled Aranguíz outside the penalty box. It was the highlight of the second half, although Vargas could have scored the equalizer some minutes later.
And so the Copa América ends for Chile. Where La Roja generated high expectations after some great games during the group phase, the match today against Argentina and the lost semifinal against Peru have shown that its time for changes in the national squad. Next year, Chile’s golden generation will want to shine for the last time at the Copa América 2020, but it needs a lot of polish to make that happen.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.