Unlike the World Cup final last year, Lionel Messi just could not look at the Copa America trophy as he went by it, but Javier Mascherano was unable to resist. The midfielder’s words then revealed the full pain behind that glance.
“I don’t have an explanation,” Mascherano said after Alexis Sanchez had scored the penalty that sealed Chile’s 4-1 shoot-out win following a 0-0 draw in the final. “Maybe it’s me. This is torture.”
That’s what defeat to Chile really represents for Argentina. It was not so much about winning the Copa America, even given its prestige as the world’s oldest international competition. It was about restoring the country to a winner’s podium and ending what is the worst run without a trophy in their history, with what is supposed to be one of the finest ever generations of talent.
Argentina will now go longer than 22 years without claiming silverware, having last won something at the 1993 Copa America. They now remain on the second-longest barren run of all former World Cup winners – only trumped by England’s 49 years. Worse, since 1993, Uruguay have won that competition twice while both Colombia and Chile have claimed their first.
After looking like they had clicked in the sensational 6-1 semi-final win over Paraguay, Argentina were directionless in the final and Messi spent so much of the game isolated and out of the game because of manager Gerardo Martino’s bizarre formation. Sergio Aguero was then remarkably taken off for the hapless Gonzalo Higuain.
“We knew this was the opportunity for vindication,” winger Ezequiel Lavezzi said. “It leaves a bitter taste. “We thought this Copa America was ours.
“Leo is one who feels these frustrations most,” Lavezzi added, “because he is the best and all eyes are on him. He is destroyed.”Reuse content