Messi and Argentina meet again with Chile in New Jersey, but a lot has changed

Messi and Argentina meet again with Chile in New Jersey, but a lot has changed
Messi and Argentina meet again with Chile in New Jersey, but a lot has changed
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey, USA —

Lionel Messi returns to MetLife Stadium in a Copa América and it is impossible not to evoke the unfortunate night he experienced with Argentina in the final played eight years ago.

That was where they lost on penalties against Chile, precisely their rival today, Tuesday, for the second date of Group A of the continental tournament.

On that night of June 26, 2016, Messi missed the first penalty of the shoot-out and ended up crying in the stadium tunnels. It was the third consecutive disappointment that he suffered in a duel for the title of a major tournament, adding to the defeats against Germany in the 2014 World Cup and then against Chile in the Copa América.

Dejected, the Argentine star surprised with the untimely decision to resign from the national team: “The national team is not for me. I have decided to end everything here.”

Everyone already knows what happened to the forward who turned 37 this Monday.

There is another Argentina and another Messi. The star won the long-awaited title that he was looking for with the senior team by defeating Brazil in the final of the 2021 Copa América, enjoying it at the Maracaná stadium. And the following year came the crowning achievement, consecration in a World Cup, beating France in the final played a few days before Christmas 2022 at the Lusail stadium in Qatar.

Messi and Argentina are not satisfied and are going for the two-time continental championship.

“Football continues, the ball does not stop,” Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni said on Monday. “The stadium is the same, everything else is history, there is little point in going back. It is a game that we have played a lot, I don’t think it is different from others.”

Although Tuesday’s match against Chile in the New Jersey stadium — with the skyscrapers of Manhattan in the distance — is not for a title, the morbidity is present.

While Argentina is vibrating with a sensational moment, Chile is an old team that has not yet found a replacement for the “Golden Generation”, architect of the two-time continental championship.

Desperate for solutions, Chile hired Argentine Ricardo Gareca as coach at the beginning of the year. His debut in an official competition was not encouraging: a dismal 0-0 draw with Peru last Friday in Arlington, Texas.

“We are in a difficult group, now we face a team that is very competitive, very good, that the arrival of Ricardo Gareca gave them something else as well,” Messi said.

It was a generous phrase that the Argentine captain said after the 2-0 victory against Canada in the opening match of the cup in Atlanta, without having seen the Chilean debut.

Gareca referred to the state of mind on Monday: “Logically the beginnings are always complicated and we expected a better result, but they are fully recovered.”

Chile is the second highest average age team in the tournament (28.8 years, behind Peru’s 29.1). Claudio Bravo, the starting goalkeeper, is the oldest player in the tournament at 41 years old.

THE SURVIVORS OF 2016

Several of the protagonists of the final of the centenary edition are still in the ring.

Apart from Messi, Ángel Di María and Nicolás Otamendi are the other Argentines.

There are more Chileans: Bravo, Alexis Sánchez, Mauricio Isla, Erick Pulgar and Eduardo Vargas.

VARIANTS

It is speculated that Scaloni could take out Nahuel Molina and Marcos Acuña, the full-backs from the first game, giving a clue to Nicolás Tagliafico and Gonzalo Montiel. It is not ruled out that Lautaro Martínez plays for Julián Álvarez by alternating ownership in the attack. Nicolás González could also appear for Di María.

“The scheme will be similar to the other day, we will see if we make a touch-up,” said Scaloni.

Gareca will miss winger Diego Valdés due to a muscle injury he suffered against Peru. Darío Osorio, a 20-year-old promise who plays in Denmark with Midtjylland, came on for Valdés for the second half but his performance was very weak and he was the focus of harsh criticism.

Sánchez had to come to his teammate’s defense: “You have to be critical, but support him. We shouldn’t throw him down, I think he has a lot to learn. “Sometimes the press or people who talk about football have to help the Chilean player.”

BACKGROUND

In a long history of confrontations between neighbors, Chile has barely won in six of the 90 disputed matches.

None of the Chilean victories have been in the 29 duels against each other in the Copa América. But La Roja emerged victorious on penalties when they defined the title at home in 2015 and 2016. They also met in the last edition of the tournament, drawing 1-1 in the group stage.

“Facing Argentina is not facing any team, they are not common confrontations,” said Gareca. “Being Argentine doesn’t change anything, we are going to be Argentinians all our lives… I live it intensely, totally focused on the Chilean team, but they are special games.”

 
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