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No country for La Roja

No country for La Roja
Lionel Messi, the name evokes a sense of awe and admiration from everyone who follows football. So much so that even hardened footballing opponents become fanboys and want to take a selfie with him after the match ends. An event which happened when Jamaican player <g data-gr-id="74">Deshorn</g> Brown bagged a cheeky selfie with Messi. In a few hours from now Lionel Messi will try and end Argentinas 22 year drought in the Copa America. On the other <g data-gr-id="75">hand</g> Chile’s players will bear the weight of a nation on their shoulders when they meet Argentina in Sunday’s Copa America final in Santiago. Since the very first Copa America in Buenos Aires in 1916, Chile are yet to claim the South American continent’s most prized piece of silverware, finishing runners up an exasperating four times. It makes for a pressure cooker situation. 

Tactics
Argentina are likely to stick with their traditional formation of 4-3-3, with Angel Di Maria and Messi as deadly wide attackers who drift inside, supplied by Javier Pastore, and Sergio Aguero as a dangerous presence both on the ground and in the air with his heading ability.

Chile will probably stick with their flexible 4-1-3-2 but whether Charles <g data-gr-id="72">Aranguiz</g> and Arturo Vidal press high up the field or drop back alongside Diaz will be the key tactical decision that Sampaoli has to make.The question is do Chile have the discipline to play defensive? Although their progress to the final has had a touch of pragmatism, they haven’t compromised their all-out attack and high pressing style yet. This has obviously reaped them rich dividends. Vidal and <g data-gr-id="73">Aranguiz</g> are key to that Bielsa inspired Sampaoli philosophy, loving to press high up the field and win attacking opportunities.

A higher-risk strategy, but one which comes naturally to this Chilean side, would perhaps be to target the supply to the Argentinean attack, especially Mascherano who often drops back between his centre-backs and can be vulnerable to counter attack.

Alexis Sanchez’s seemingly infinite running is a good fit for that kind of pressing, but Eduardo Vargas and Jorge Valdivia are less natural ultra distance runners. Vidal and <g data-gr-id="60">Aranguiz</g> and the Chilean 
full-backs are involved in the full Bielsa-inspired press and might hope to force the kind of mistake that led to Paraguay’s solitary goal, but it would leave a horrible mismatch of attacking and defensive talent if Argentina broke beyond the press.

Vargas and Valdivia meanwhile would hope to make use of the space that can open up between Argentina’s defensive and attacking units when Mascherano drops back and Pastore pushes up languidly. That can leave Lucas Biglia isolated in the middle of the pitch and he may have trouble covering <g data-gr-id="80">the space.</g> Vargas showed how deadly he can be from that range against <g data-gr-id="79">Peru,</g> while Valdivia is having the tournament of his life so far and can run the show if given time and space. 

Sampaoli’s choice should be easy to see on Saturday night – will he choose to drop Vidal and <g data-gr-id="83">Aranguiz</g> back to protect his back four, or will they push up high and hope to hit Argentina before they can hit back? As a neutral, the most exciting prospect is definitely the latter, which could lead to the most insanely delicious attacking final to a major tournament in years. Talking about tactics. With a third place final and the showpiece in Chile’s Estadio Nacional still to play this week, the identity of the next Copa América winner remains a mystery. But one thing is already certain. Be it Argentina or Chile that eventually lifts the trophy on Saturday evening, the winning coach will be an Argentine national.

All four semifinalists of the Copa America were directed by a local representative: a feat unmatched in the 99-year history of the competition. The record is a glowing tribute to the advances in coaching that have occurred in Argentina over the last decade, reflected elsewhere by the inroads men such as Marcelo Bielsa, Mauricio Pochettino and others have made in some of Europe’s biggest clubs.What makes Argentine tacticians such a successful asset to a nation? Part of the equation is the essentially nomadic lifestyle of the 1980 generation onwards in soccer. Both players and coaches move around the globe in search of new opportunities, widening horizons and gaining essential knowledge. To illustrate, Sampaoli coached in Peru, Chile and Ecuador before coming to the fore with a wonderful Universidad de Chile team followed by the national squad. Martino cut his managerial teeth with championship-winning teams in Paraguay and had an unsuccessful, spell with Barcelona in Spain.

Final word
It was Lionel Messi who helped set up five goals as Argentina trounced Paraguay 6-1 in the Copa America semifinals. Messi assisted in first-half goals by Marcos Rojo and Javier Pastore and one of Angel Di Maria’s second-half goals. The Barcelona star also helped set up the final two goals by Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

Messi demonstrated his brilliant play-making abilities when he beat three defenders – poking the ball through the legs of one of them – in a remarkable run that culminated in Argentina’s fourth goal by Di Maria. In Saturday’s final, Argentina will attempt to end a 22-year title drought to give Messi his first triumph with the national team, while Chile, boosted by the home crowd and its bastion of home supporters will be hoping to win the <g data-gr-id="67">continents</g> biggest trophy on home soil. May the best team win.

The awesome foursome

Lionel Messi
Messi was clearly inconsolable after Argentina’s World Cup defeat. His perceived lack of connection with the country of his birth didn’t stop him racking up 100 caps before turning 28 years old. His commitment has been beyond question and unselfishness remains a feature of his game. Lionel Messi will be Argentinas north star in the final. 

Lionel Messi gained a Sportsmail rating of 9.5 for his exceptional performance for Argentina against Paraguay in the Copa America semi-finals. Yet, having not featured on the scoresheet in the Albiceleste’s 6-1 victory, the Barcelona talisman is still facing questions as to whether he is concerned by his lack of goals. Messi, who laid on three assists, earning the man-of-the-match award has predictably dismissed the idea that the fact that he has only scored once in Chile is playing on his mind.

Carlos Tevez
Redemption will surely be foremost in Tevez’s mind. Having not been included in Brazil, the 31-year-old is now in the mix once again and will be keen to start hammering the goals in for La Albiceleste. It was Tevez’s strike that brought Argentina their penalty shoot-out victory over Colombia in Sunday’s quarter-final.

The nightmare of 2011 is over for Carlos Tevez, who closed the loop on one of his most painful football memories by putting Argentina into the Copa America <g data-gr-id="169">semifinals</g> after a dramatic penalty shootout against Colombia.

The striker came off the bench in the second half and netted the decisive 14th spot-kick, sealing a 5-4 win after the match finished 0-0 in Chile on Friday.

Arturo Vidal
He has become a mainstay in the lineup of Italian champion Juventus, helping the team win the Serie A title the past two seasons.Vidal has undergone an impressive transformation from being a stopper to making himself into a versatile player who recovers lost balls, sets up assists and often scores goals. 

A versatile player who played several different defensive and midfield roles in his early <g data-gr-id="188">years,Vidal</g> eventually found his position at Juventus as a box-to-box midfielder, capable of assisting his teammates in both defense and attack.

 It was these displays for Juventus that led him to be nicknamed Il Guerriero (“The Warrior”) and Rey Arturo (“King Arthur”) by the Italian press for his hard-tackling and aggressive, tenacious style 
of play.

Alexis Sanchez
The attacking skills of Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez makes him Chile’s most lethal offensive weapon.”The Wonder Boy” scored eight times with the national squad, including a double against England at Wembley Stadium. During the week Alexis Sanchez took some time out away from training to practice some karaoke, picking One Direction song More Than This.

The Arsenal forward knows that’s exactly what both he and Chile need to provide in the Copa America 2015 final to help end the country’s trophy drought.

His performance in this 2-1 win over bitter rivals Peru was a far cry from the bombastic Sanchez displays we saw in the first three games, where it seemed he was going to take this tournament by the scruff of its neck.
Nikhil D Thiyyar

Nikhil D Thiyyar

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