Argentina take on Chile in the Copa America Centenario final on Sunday night in the knowledge that this may be the best shot for their ‘golden generation’ to secure a major title that has for so long seemed only a matter of time.
However, things will not be in any way straightforward against a Chilean side who won the competition just a year ago and will be hoping for a repeat.
Ahead of the game, Sport360 takes a look at five of the major talking points.
The weight of expectationA 23-year wait for a major tournament trophy has brought with it a heavy burden for Gerardo Martino’s men.
Neutralising MessiThe Barcelona man is the player of the tournament by some margin. But, of course, this is not the first time he has dazzled in the knockout stages. When it comes to finals though, it’s a different story. In both the World Cup final and last year’s Copa showpiece, the superstar has failed to deliver. Charles Aranguiz was employed in a defensive role for La Roja last year and was able to isolate Messi from his team-mates. While nobody has suppressed him so far, can Chile force another dip when it matters most?
Messi celebrating his birthday.. pic.twitter.com/78aJUxqzw5— Leo Messi (@messi10stats) June 25, 2016
An early goal could be decisiveSince Chile’s shoot-out success in Santiago, the two sides have met twice with Argentina winning both 2-1 – the second coming in their opening game of this year’s Copa. Without the injured Messi, Angel Di Maria took centre stage in a intense battle dominated by midfield grit and we could be looking at something similar. Past clashes have been decided by small margins because both sides can hurt each other. Another ebb and flow spectacle is expected but crucial to that will be an early goal.
Midfield battleWith Arturo Vidal back in the heart of Chile’s relentless pressing machine we could be set for another vigorous battle in midfield between these two talent-rich South American giants. Argentina’s Javier Mascherano is at his peak and his clash with Vidal is a mouthwatering prospect. Both players harbour a clench-fisted determination and will to win which will form the driving force behind their sides push for Copa glory. While the attention may be on the attackers, it’s in the middle where this game will be won.
Vidal: It is difficult to see another Chile. Watching the Euros and #CopaAmerica, there is no other team that goes out to press from 1st min— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) June 24, 2016