Pride and joy as Chile retain Copa title

Rising to the occasion to fend off Argentina, Chile cement their status as one of the world's top teams with a second Copa win.
Rising to the occasion to fend off Argentina, Chile cement their status as one of the world's top teams with a second Copa win. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

EAST RUTHERFORD • Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi took great pride in steering his country to Sunday's Copa America final win against a team he believes to be the best side in the world with the best player in history.

The 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory sealed a second Copa win in a row for Chile, who had also triumphed over world No. 1 Argentina and their linchpin Lionel Messi after a 0-0 stalemate in last year's final at home in Santiago.

"It's always very hard to predict when a match is going to be decided by penalty kicks," said Pizzi, who took over the fifth-ranked Chileans in January. "Both last year and this year we ended up winning, but I think (the tight games) speak to the parity between both teams and the mutual respect we have for each, and surely it will go on that way.

"Now we're going to enjoy ourselves."

Pizzi said he was proud of the way his team rose to the occasion to overcome the star-studded Argentinian side and Messi, who missed a penalty in the shoot-out.

"Before them today were the No. 1 team in the world, with the best players in the world and the best player in history," he said.

Argentina coach Gerardo Martino, whose side failed to end their 23-year title drought in major international competitions, was understandably downbeat but said his team must have the resilience to come back from disappointment.

"We really had high hopes but are leaving empty-handed," he said.

"Argentina should have won in regulation time. We should have won in extra time too, and we were not able to win.

"Really, it is not easy to explain. There are situations we can explain football-wise, and other situations that can be explained with luck.

"But the players have to come back and try again.

"They represent the national team and feel pride in wearing the national jersey, and it's there that they find the will to really foster hope again."

A second successive Copa win has cemented Chile's status as one of the world's top teams.

"Chile have become audacious in the way they impose their game on any field, against any adversary," Diego Latorre, who was in the Argentina squad that won the Copa America in Chile in 1991, said on Saturday.

"This was unheard of in previous Chile teams," he wrote in his column in the Argentinian daily La Nacion.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline 'Pride and joy as Chile retain Copa title'. Print Edition | Subscribe