The supporters of the Chile and Argentina have been waiting a long time for some major silverware.
Chile, who have been wonderful hosts of the 2015 Copa America, have never lifted an illustrious trophy throughout the soccer team’s existence. While fans of Argentina, although they’ve only been waiting for a meagre 22 years by comparison, are growing restless to see their men make that final step again.
It adds another intriguing dynamic to what will be a dream final on Saturday night. The hosts, the great entertainers, playing the game with an enamoring intensity, against the finest collection of attacking players anywhere in the international game, spearheaded by one of the very best players of all time.
In a Copa which has been a little difficult to watch at times, it should be a rewarding spectacle for those who have been intensely trained on every game up until this point. Indeed, both semi-final matches were engrossing in their own unique way.
But in terms of personnel, tactics and playing styles, this one just doesn’t look as though it can possibly disappoint. Factor in the stunning, raucous backdrop the La Roja supporters have provided and this could be one of the all-time great finals.
Santiago will hold its breath on Saturday evening and one of international football’s undesirable sequences will come to an end. Which one? Read on and make your own mind up.
TV schedule for viewers in the United States:
Chile vs. Argentina, 4pm ET kickoff time (pre-game starts at 3pm ET) — exclusively on beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS en Espańol.
Programming note: In the United States, beIN SPORTS has the exclusive English-language and Spanish-language rights to the tournament. If your cable or satellite provider doesn’t offer beIN SPORTS, or you want to watch the games on your computer, mobile phone, tablet or Roku, sign up for a free trial to fuboTV to watch the games. And if you like what you see, fuboTV is just $6.99 per month. It’s completely legal and features HD-quality streams, but is only available to soccer fans in the United States.
Chile Carrying Hopes of a Nation
Up until the semi-finals of this tournament Chile seemed to be handling the pressure of hosting pretty well. Aside from a crazy game against Mexico in the group stages which was drawn 3-3, there was an aura of dominance about their performances, smothering opposition sides before forensically picking them to pieces.
But against Peru there were a few minor signs of nerves. Arturo Vidal could have been sent off, Carlos Zambrano harshly was, then Vargas scrambled home an offside opener. Even then La Roja were tetchy, as Gary Medel turned into his own net. But former Queens Park Rangers man Vargas dragged them out of the mire with a stunning strike.
Are Jorge Sampoli’s side beginning to feel the magnitude of what they could potentially achieve? After all, this is La Roja’s first Copa final since 1987 and it’ll be the fifth time in the country’s history they’ve played in this spectacle; the previous four they’ve been beaten.
It was the kind of performance that suggests playing a side as bold as Argentina might not be the worst thing for the hosts. Up to now the expectation has been on Chile, but given the Albiceleste’s star-studded squad, La Roja are suddenly big underdogs despite the Santiago venue.
Hopefully, that’ll see Chile emboldened with their patented fearlessness once again. In the knockout stages so far teams have sought to nullify the hosts, particularly the influence of players such as Vidal and Alexis Sanchez. But against an ambitious Argentina there should be a lot more space to exploit.
Sampaoli’s side have yet to face one of the giants of the South American game in their run to the final and this opponent will be a major step up in quality for Chile. But these players have a magnificent chance to etch their name into the annals of the country’s sporting history; an opportunity that may not come around again for a very long time.
Standing in Chile’s way? Only Lionel Messi. And while the Barcelona sensation hasn’t been in his best goalscoring form at this competition so far—indeed, he’s not netted from open play for the national side in over 900 minutes—he’s been an effervescent influence throughout the competition. Especially in Argentina’s previous outing against Paraguay.
Everything aligned for Tata Martino’s side in that 6-1 hammering. The ex-Blaugrana boss has been striving for balance throughout the competition and suddenly, somewhat unexpectedly it must be said, it all clicked into gear.
Angel Di Maria was a forceful and ferocious presence on the left, Sergio Aguero led the line magnificently and Javier Pastore assumed the mantle of playmaker, just as we’d implored him to do ahead of the game. As for Messi, he was immaculate. Stunning. Beyond words, really.
The goals may not be flowing for the 28-year-old, but each game he’s beginning to look more and more like the Argentina skipper. Last summer at the World Cup he was the captain, but Javier Mascherano was still the leader of this team. And while the forward may not bellow and berate his team-mates, now Messi is leading by example.
This tremendous attacking triumvirate should be confident of causing Chile problems too. Against Peru, La Roja were undone by some fundamental attacking play with men caught up the field. If the hosts leave themselves similarly exposed against Aguero, Di Maria and Messi, then it’s going to be a very tough evening for the home side.
One facet of Argentina’s team that hasn’t quite earned the praise they deserve is the defense. Ezequiel Garay and Nicolas Otamendi have been a rock solid pairing at the back, dealing admirably with some dangerous attacking talent throughout the competition. If they can keep Chile out, the Albiceleste have the quality at the sharp end of the pitch to win this one.
Chile Pressure: Paraguay seemed content to sit off Argentina in their semi-final, exerting no pressure on an Abiceleste midfield which had lacked rhythm to this point. It allowed Pastore a lot of the ball and he probed meticulously throughout the match, given time to locate Messi in dangerous pockets.
That’s not a tactic Chile will adopt. Regardless of the opposition, Sampaoli’s men look to squeeze the play and they will try to restrict the passing lanes into the dangerous front three. If they can keep up the intensity levels at the end of such a draining tournament, Argentina’s lack of a deep-lying playmaker could see La Roja get some joy nicking the ball back high up the pitch and springing into action.
Argentina Centre-Backs: The calibre of Argentina’s attacking players need no further explanation, but the battle between their centre-backs and the Chile forwards should make for intriguing viewing.
Up to now Garay and Otamendi have had to deal with forwards who are mainly physical, such as Edinson Cavani, Jackson Martinez and Paolo Guerrero; easy work for two centre-backs who relish these kinds of confrontations. But Alexis and Vargas will represent a completely different challenge, giving the Albiceleste duo a sharp, mobile and vibrant threat to worry about.
Verdict: Chile 2-1 Argentina
When Chile play a team like Argentina, the matches are usually frantic. La Roja will not deviate from their high-octane principles and their opponents, with the attacking talent at their disposal, will be happy with a stretched game with space to exploit.
But the endeavor La Roja possess in those central areas will prove too much for Argentina to cope with. The Albiceleste midfield worked against Paraguay because they were afforded oceans of time and space, but this match, this atmosphere and this team will pose a mightily tough challenge for this concerning segment of Martino’s side.
Messi, of course, will have a major impact on the game. But if Chile can cut off his supply line with their energetic closing, La Roja will be the toast of the nation come Saturday evening.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $35/mo. for Sling Blue
- Watch Premier League, World Cup & MLS
- Includes USA, NBC, FOX, FS1 + more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Benzema, Courtois and De Bruyne nominated for UEFA award
- Serbia’s Kostic completes Juventus move
- Ten Hag does not want to lose Rashford at Man Utd
- Tuchel reveals ‘bond’ with Aubameyang amid Chelsea rumours
- Struggling Barcelona sign 100-mn-euro digital deal
- Liverpool will not panic buy despite Thiago injury blow, says Klopp
- Surprise date-change overshadows World Cup 100-day countdown
- Qatar’s ground control on alert for World Cup disasters
- Where to find Osasuna vs. Sevilla on US TV
- Tottenham’s Premier League title credentials face Chelsea test