Chile (pictured) lifts the trophy after prevailing over Argentina in the Copa America Centenario final on June 26, 2016, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA. (Photo: Mexsport)
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey – Chile retained its Copa America title, prevailing over Argentina, 4-2 on penalty kicks, after a 0-0 draw in the Centenario edition’s final on Sunday night before 82,026 fans at MetLife Stadium.
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo saved Argentina’s fourth try off the foot of Lucas Biglia and then Francisco Silva converted on Chile’s fifth attempt as the defending champion lifted the trophy once again.
Last year, the Chileans outlasted Argentina on penalties, 4-1, following another scoreless stalemate. On that occasion, though, Lionel Messi hit the back of the net on Argentina’s first kick. In the rematch, the Barcelona star blazed the opening effort high.
Nicolas Castillo, Charles Aranguiz and Jean Beausejour also buried their shots for Chile, while Argentina's Javier Mascherano and Sergio Aguero hit the back of the net.
Argentina could have taken a lead in the 21st minute after a misplay in the middle by Chile defender Gary Medel allowed Gonzalo Higuain to race into the box. The Napoli forward, however, shot agonizingly wide of a left post into which Medel crashed in a hustling bid to make up for his error.
Chile was reduced a player in the 29th minute, when Marcelo Diaz committed the second of his two cautionable fouls against Messi.
Two minutes prior to halftime, Argentina’s Marcos Rojo was ejected, meaning that both sides would play nearly 80 more minutes with just 10 men.
The Argentineans were more assertive offensively, outshooting Chile, 16-4.
Both teams’ best chances came as fatigue was setting in at the end of regulation time and through the two extra periods.
In the 90th minute, Messi went wide of near post after picking up ball in his own end and running into left side of the Chilean box.
Eduardo Vargas – the tournament’s Golden Boot winner -- nearly put Chile ahead nine minutes later, but his seven-yard header was right at goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
The save of the tournament, however, was made by Bravo in the 100th minute. From 32-yards out Messi delivered a free kick towards the penalty spot that Aguero headed and Bravo somehow tipped over the crossbar for a corner kick.
Remarkably, Chile still hasn’t officially registered a win in 27 all-time Copa America meetings with Argentina.