Argentina, Chile set for mother of all battles
In the end, football is the winner. Much of the current Copa America has been blighted by negativity, cynicism and anti-fair play, but Saturday’s showpiece sees the two purest teams fight it out for the title as Argentina and Chile meet in Santiago.
It is very much a fitting finale. Two teams with a philosophy, two teams that like to attack, two teams with style and swagger. Chile versus Argentina is the game this Copa has been waiting for ever since it kicked off on June 11.
It has been a long time coming. While Chile faced an ebullient Ecuador team that had a real go in the tournament’s opening game and then met Mexico in the most entertaining encounter of the group stage (a 3-3 draw), exciting matches have been at a premium in this competition.
After bashing Bolivia 5-0 in their final group game, La Roja advanced to the final by beating Uruguay and Peru in two tight games in which they were only able to take control after their rivals had been reduced to 10 men. Tense and gripping games they were. Classics there were not.
Argentina have had it even worse. Gerardo Martino’s men first faced a pragmatic Paraguay team in a 2-2 draw, before beating an excessively physical Uruguay side 1-0 and overcoming a negative Jamaica by the same scoreline. Then, in the last eight, the Albiceleste eliminated a Colombia outfit far removed from the one that played probably the finest football of the whole competition at Brazil 2014. And in the semi-finals, Paraguay had little left in the tank in a one-sided meeting in which only Argentina attacked for much of the 90 minutes in their stunning 6-1 win. In the pre-match press conference, an Argentine journalist said to Martino: “Ramon [Diaz] says he is going to attack. Do you believe him?” Tata laughed. He knew it was unlikely. Instead, he has spoken of staying true to a style of play - even after he was severely criticised when his team threw away a two-goal lead against Paraguay in the sides’ first meeting.
“The Argentine national team has never had a defined style,” he said. And that is exactly what he is aiming to instil in this team as they seek their first Copa America since 1993. Chile, meanwhile, have won many friends for their brave brand of attacking football over the last few years under Jorge Sampaoli. Both Martino and Sampaoli are students of former Argentina and Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa and Tata is sure that La Roja will remain positive in Saturday’s showpiece.
Martino expects Argentina to spoil Chile’s party
Argentina football coach Gerardo Martino praised the local people’s warm welcome during their stay in <g data-gr-id="65">Chile</g> but he added that there will be no sympathy for the hosts in the Copa America final here on Saturday. “We have been treated wonderfully here. But this is football. We have to play with the ball and try to win the game,” the 52-year-old said on Friday ahead of the final against Chile, reports Xinhua. Argentina had to face several defensive sides in previous matches at this year’s Copa America due to its formidable forward line. But Martino believes Chile will come out and attack. “It’s very difficult for them to change their style. They have been insisting on an idea for some time now so they may change personnel but when it comes to the game itself and how they approach it, Chile will be the same as they always are,” he said.