Two Years, Five Matches, One Colossal International Rivalry
Chile and Argentina will meet for the fifth time in just two years later today, but each encounter has been extremely memorable in its own right. Tonight, with both teams fighting tooth and nail for 2018 World Cup qualification, will be no different. Let’s take a look back at the previous four encounters between La Albiceleste and La Roja.
Having been defeated by Germany in the 2014 World Cup Final, Argentina attempted to claim the next best thing the following year — the 2015 Copa America. After watching Brazil capitulate in the quarterfinals, Argentina defeated Colombia in their own quarterfinal and Paraguay in the semis to setup a meeting with the host side, Chile.
Chile were underdogs having never won the competition themselves, but they were cheered on by rabid support at the Estadio Nacional. With the spine of Claudio Bravo, Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal holding off Argentina’s horde of attacking talents, and Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas forming a dangerous front pairing, the match was played on a knife’s edge.
Ultimately, Argentina would be left to rue misses from Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, who missed a glorious chance in extra time as well as his spot kick, as Chile won all penalties with all four takers holding their nerve. Only Messi would convert for Argentina.
Lionel Messi missed Argentina’s first four qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup through injury and Argentina had suffered as a result, recording one win, one loss and two draws in a stuttering start.
Messi made his return at the spot of the previous drama, the Estadio Nacional in Santiago. La Albiceleste extracted a small degree of revenge despite falling behind to a 10th-minute Felipe Gutierrez goal.
Angel Di Maria curled in an equalizer only 10 minutes after, and then Messi provided the assist for Gabriel Mercado’s match-winner in the 25th-minute. The victory for Argentina lifted them to fourth in the CONMEBOL table while Chile sank to sixth.
The marquee match of the group stages of the 2016 Copa America Centenario was a rematch of the previous edition’s final, an early meeting between Argentina and Chile at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Nearly 70,000 were on hand to watch the stars collide, but Lionel Messi missed out due to a back injury. For one of the few times in Argentina’s Messi-era, they actually did well without needing to rely on him.
After a scoreless first half, Argentina put two goals on the board with a flurry attacking football that saw Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega exchange roles as goal scorers and providers.
Chile grabbed a goal through Jose Fuenzalida in stoppage time, but the marker had been laid. Argentina were now clear favorites for this tournament.
In many ways, it was the match everyone had hoped for. With Brazil still heavily in transition, these two sides remained the best teams in South America. It was Argentina vs. Chile in front of 82,026 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
An enormous mistake from Gary Medel allowed Gonzalo Higuain to bear down on goal in the 21st minute, but he sent his shot wide of the left post. The game turned physical and Marcelo Diaz was sent off for Chile. However, a rash challenge from Marcos Rojo drew a straight red. It was a surreal first half.
The energy, of course, died down from there, but it was a fascinating 75 minutes of 10 vs. 10 football in the final of the Copa America. Once again, the match was decided by spot kicks, and once again, Chile triumphed.
Messi sent his attempt over and announced his retirement after the match, saying “I’ve done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion.”