EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Chile emerged victorious over Argentina once again on Sunday night at MetLife stadium, winning on penalties in wonderful fashion for the second-straight year. It was an aggressive but entertaining rematch of the Copa America 2015 Final, and with regulation and extra time finishing scoreless also at Copa America Centenario, La Roja was able to take care of business from the spot, Francisco Silva knocking in the final penalty to defend the team's Copa America title.
Arturo Vidal and Lionel Messi failed to convert the opening penalty kicks for their respective sides and the next two shots from either side were successful. The fourth shot for Argentina, taken by Lucas Biglia, was saved by a diving Claudio Bravo, setting up Silva for the game-winner, which he slid comfortably past Sergio Romero to clinch the championship.
Aggressive first half
The attack from both sides was very rigid and aggressive right from the start. Desperate to break the deadlock, players from each side got heated throughout. Argentina had the first major chance of the game right off the opening whistle, as Ever Banega struck a chance wide of Bravo's goal. The FC Barcelona goalkeeper saved a free kick from his teammate, Messi, in the 17th minute, but the prime chance for La Albiceleste came four minutes later.
Gonzalo Higuain had the ball and nothing but open space and the Chilean keeper in front of him following a mistake by Chile's Gary Medel, and this was his chance to redeem the numerous missed opportunities of the 2015 Final and the 2014 World Cup Final. The Napoli striker chipped the ball softly over Bravo from the right side towards the far post, and the ball rolled just wide of the post and out for a goal kick, keeping it 0-0 and making it hard for Higuain to sleep once again.
Things got worse for Chile in the 28th minute when Marcelo Diaz received a second yellow and was sent off, forcing Juan Antonio Pizzi's side to play with 10 men for the remainder of the match. Diaz held his ground as Messi sped towards him on an Argentina counterattack, the superstar colliding into Diaz and drawing the decisive booking.
The game continued to be ugly on both ends, and the playing field returned to being level when referee Heber Lopes made another bold call and handed a straight red card to Argentine defender Marcos Rojo for a foul he committed against Arturo Vidal.
Lopes was the spotlight of the first half, as he handed out a total of five yellow cards and two red cards over the first 45 to make it an out-of-control, 10-on-10 game. Scoreless at half, lots of things had to chance in every facet.
Frustrating second half
Chile continued to press as the second half got underway, and Eduardo Vargas had the team's first shot of the day in the 49th minute, on that fell wide of Sergio Romero's goal. Higuain and Mauricio Isla had shots go wide minutes later, and the game was dead even as Sergio Aguero was substituted into the match for Argentina with around 20 minutes remaining.
Aguero skied his first attempt into the crowd shortly after coming onto the pitch. Edu Vargas had a good opportunity to score but had his shot punched away by Romero, and Aguero once again placed a shot into the crowd with six minutes to go. Ever Banega and Messi had glances at goal in the closing moments of regulation but the 90 minutes and stoppage time came to a close with the scoreboard showing a 0-0 tie, meaning extra time for the second-straight final between these two rivals.
Nothing settled in extra time
There were quite a few chances in extra time, starting with the shot Chile had been waiting for in the 98th minute when electric substitute Edson Puch whipped in a sensational ball for Vargas' head in the box. Vargas snapped a shot on goal but Romero made the heroic save to keep it scoreless.
Two minutes later on the other end, Messi's free kick found the head of Aguero, whose shot was acrobatically saved by an outstretched Claudio Bravo. Messi set himself up for a well-placed free kick in the 113th minute, but his attempt was prevented from reaching Bravo by the Chilean wall.
After thirty extra minutes of extremely fatigued soccer, things headed to penalties in a repeat of the Santiago final one year prior.
Everything would be decided from the penalty spot in a deja vu situation for both nations involved. To start things off, Arturo Vidal had a bottom-right effort saved by Sergio Romero, but Messi couldn't capitalize, shockingly skying his shot over the crossbar. Nicolas Castillo and Javier Mascherano converted their penalties in the second set of shots, and Charles Aranguiz and Aguero did the same to follow them up.
Jean Beausejour made it 3-2 on the next penalty kick but Claudio Bravo dove to his left to save Lucas Biglia's penalty. That put Francisco Silva in the position to close it out for La Roja, and he did just that, finishing a tidy strike into the left side of the goal to make Chile the first back-to-back Copa America champion since Brazil won the 2004 and 2007 titles.