East Rutherford — Gonzalo Higuain had the ball with no
defender between him and the goalkeeper.
And he missed badly. Just like last year's Copa America
final. And just like the 2014 World Cup final.
Lionel Messi and Argentina lost another championship match
at a major tournament Sunday, falling to Chile 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0
draw — an excruciatingly eerie repeat of the 2015 Copa final between the teams.
Messi, as always, will be the focus of the latest
shortcoming, especially after he missed his penalty that would have given
Argentina an early lead in the shootout. But with his country's major title
drought now guaranteed to extend at least a quarter-century, multiple misses on
promising opportunities by Messi's teammates also doomed Argentina on Sunday.
And once again, Higuain had the best of them. In the 21st
minute, the Napoli forward stole the ball from Gary Medel and was one-on-one
with goalkeeper Claudio Bravo but pushed the ball just left of the net.
La Albiceleste had five shots on goal to Chile's three, but
the most glaring number was this: 11 shots off target for Argentina.
Also read: Napoli blow as Higuain gets four-match ban
The tens of thousands of Argentina fans in the stands
groaned louder and louder as one shot after another sailed high or wide, or
In extra time, Argentina finally challenged Bravo when
Sergio Aguero's header off Messi's free kick appeared headed under the
crossbar. But a leaping Bravo got his fingertips on it to send the ball sailing
over the net.
It was all achingly familiar for Argentina and especially
Higuain. In last year's Copa final, Higuain hit the outside of the net on a
breakaway at the end of regulation. He went on to miss a penalty, as well.
And in the World Cup final two years ago, which Argentina
lost 1-0 in extra time to Germany, Higuain had an errant header land at his
feet at about the same stage of the match as Sunday's miss. He just needed to
beat the goalkeeper but sent his shot wide. He later thought he'd scored but
had been called offside.
On Sunday, Chile went down to 10 men in the 28th minute, but
Argentina couldn't score with the advantage. Then in the 43rd minute,
Argentina's Marcos Rojo was sent off when he slid into Arturo Vidal from
behind, and the teams played 10-on-10 the rest of the way.For
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