Chile secured the first major trophy in their history on home soil courtesy of a penalty shootout win over Argentina in the Copa America final. Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez slotted in the winning spot-kick after Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain fired over and Ever Banega was denied by Claudio Bravo. Higuain had earlier missed from close range after 90 minutes of few chances. Sanchez came closest in extra time for Chile, who scored all four of their penalties in the shootout. Where Chile held their nerve, Argentina wilted in the shootout at the end of a performance that fell well short of the heights they reached in their 6-1 semi-final win over Paraguay. Le Albiceleste are without a major trophy in the last 22 years since winning the 1993 Copa America in Ecuador.
Chile’s victory brought an end to almost a century of competing in the Copa America without claiming a title. They were one of four teams who played in the very first tournament in 1916 in Argentina but the best they had done until this year was runner-up, which they have achieved on four occasions (1955, 1956, 1979 and 1987). The Estadio Nacional Julio Martinez Pradanos was a cauldron of noise on Saturday, full of flag-waving red-clad home supporters, some of whom had reportedly paid up to $25,000 for tickets. They were not treated to a dazzling attacking display from their side but rather one of drive, discipline and, ultimately, composure, epitomised by the industrious and energetic Sanchez and Charles Aranguiz.
Both sides scored their opening penalty, with Matias Fernandez emphatically finding the top corner for Chile before Lionel Messi sent his kick low into the bottom corner. However, after Arturo Vidal had powerfully dispatched Chile’s second, Higuain blazed his effort way over the bar. Charles Aranguiz made it 3-1 to the hosts and it remained that way as Ever Banega’s tame effort was palmed away by the diving Claudio Bravo. Sanchez showed supreme composure to chip his effort down the middle and in to win the game and the competition for his side.