Copa America 2016: Chile - The forgotten winners of Copa Centenario
With the Copa America 2016 going to Chile and Messi hanging up his boots for the international stage, has the media done right to forget about Chile? Yes, the person in question is arguably the best in the world and with him retiring it’s no surprise to see him all over the news but what about Sanchez and Chile? They’ve won the Copa two years in a row now after their penalty shootout success and have brought Chile into the football spotlight on a global scale it definitely feels that the world has already forgotten them.
Chile won the tournament through their hard work and desire and while the final result was decided due to penalties it by no means undermines their achievement. The act of deciding the outcome of a match through penalties has been a topic debated for a long time before Messi missed from the spot at a major final and has been considered by many as a form of luck rather than skill. However, it doesn’t by any mean undermine Chile’s win, clearly, the underdog both in terms of support and players they were resilient and proved that they deserved to be on the same field as Argentina and Messi and in the end, showed they had the nerves to pull through.
Argentina losing in 3 major finals back to back, doesn’t mean Messi is a choker, it frankly shows how the country falters under pressure. Yes, his performances during finals are nowhere close to his best, but Argentina are a team who even without Messi, should be more than competent to beat Chile in normal time.
Argentina only have themselves to blame for failing each time, with the world either sympathizing or blaming the left-footed magician, no seems to recognize the impact Chile has made on a global stage. By no means does this result tarnish Messi nor is it an opportunity to fuel the Ronaldo vs Messi debate, it just shows how the being the underdog is a good thing. Chile holding their own and showing their mettle when it mattered while Messi once again failing to win silverware for his nation.
Chile’s victory has been overshadowed by a single person, an entire nation’s glory outsung by the cries for a single man retiring. Their journey to the finals and winning it again have gone undocumented. From having their title winning coaching leaving and having a terrible start under new manager Juan Antonio Pizzi. Their pre-Copa warm up started with a dreadful loss to Jamaica at home and ended with another loss against Mexico. They entered the first match of the Copas losing three of their last four matches. On a terrible run of games and with a manager struggling to find the right words to instill confidence into his team, it was only due to last year’s win that Chile were considered by a few as favorites. With countries like Mexico and host nation the USA looking to play the role of the dark horses, Chile’s chances seemed bleak.
Their first match against Argentina ended in defeat as an Argentina without Messi scored 2 goals and conceding only in stoppage time. Their second game against Bolivia was no easy win either. A close 2-1 victory ensured Chile got their first win in the group and ending their group stage matches with a win against Panama. They had a tricky matchup against Mexico and were tipped to lose against a confident Mexico side with an inform Javier Hernandez. The tables were turned in the most dramatic fashion, with Chile smashing 7 goals against the Mexicans with no reply. Their momentum carried on to the semis where they beat Columbia 2-0 and cemented their position in the finals and finally after a dramatic penalty shootout, were victorious over Argentina.
So what makes this so special? While the media has been focused only on the Argentine hanging up his boots and with apparently a long list of other Argentinians following suit people seemed to have forgotten this is Chile’s second Copa America title. From the inception of the tournament to Centenario, this is Chile’s 2nd title in the history of the competition.
The impact? Chile are finally showing the world exactly what they are made of and it’s sad to say that their rise has gone unnoticed. Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, and the likes have taken immense steps to ensure that Chile cement their place in world football. Successfully winning the 2015 Copa America meant that they confirmed their spot in the Confederations Cup. It is a massive step forward for the South American nation and while the world mourns the loss of a single individual from the international stage, no one has seemed to acknowledge the entry of an entire nation. While Argentina will move on and Messi will still be considered the best in the world, Chile as a nation are on a high that may or may not be sustained forever.