Deja-Vu: Argentina vs. Chile

Messi & Co. leave another final- empty handed. For me the most heartbreaking scene was watching Messi miss the penalty and suffer for the remainder of the shootout. I don’t think anyone else wants it as bad as he does. The constant criticism and negativity for not winning a national title is probably overwhelming. He looked thoughtful, uncertain, and deja-vu kicked in as he prepared for this penalty. He did everything he could during the game but this cannot be a one-man-band. Mascherano did a great job, however the clear goals that Higuain missed are unforgivable. Argentina had great shots in the first half. We all know these opportunities only come once and if missed can be the biggest regret. Rojo being red carded affected Argentina, Di Maria not playing at his best, and now Messi having to create every single chance into a goal had the team in a bind.

With one man down, Chile was able to stay afloat better than expected. During the second half, Chile really came out to pressure and finalize the game. However, they were not lucky at scoring during regular time either. Bravo, Barcelona’s goalkeeper, proved to be the man of the match. He had numerous saves and when it came down to penalties he did his job. Chile is proving to be a powerhouse in CONMEBOL. This is a team that will continue to get far. Vidal did not play well, missing his penalty as well, but Sanchez continued to shine. Honestly, this will go down as the best generation of players for Chile.

Can we even put a name to the man in the middle, also known as ‘referee’ Heber Roberto Lopes. Yes, we knew this was going to be a rough game. Chile typically leads this type of plays. The referee made the game feel choppy, no flow, constantly being stopped. That affected the way the teams continued playing, yellow cards and red being tossed around. This type of referee is not worthy of such a final. Both Chile and Argentina had complained about him because of his track record. When a referee is talked about you know it is not for good calls.

Nerve-wracking. If i had to pick one word to summarize the 120+ minutes of this game, that’s the best way to describe it. Very even, tough, challenging game that’s why it led to the dramatic end. If I had to say if the better team won, I would say the team that made the penalties won.

Update: Messi just announced his retirement from the national team.

 

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South American Treat: Chile vs. Colombia

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La Roja or Los Cafeteros, where to even begin. These two South American teams are on fire! They have elite world-class players, not to mention goalkeepers Bravo and Osuna. Chile is coming from pretty much demolishing the Mexican national team (Siete Cero), they are the reigning Copa America champs and are motivated to prove that was not a fixed tournament. Chile just dominates, pressures, and runs the game at a fast pace. It is a dynamic team who has many players that can pull a trick on the opponent. Chile started the Copa America not on a good note losing against Argentina but surely reached the semi-finals. I personally like Alexis Sanchez, he’s a superb leader, player, risk taker and performer.

On the other hand, Colombia started a great tournament but I was not impressed in their quarter-final game. They struggled against Panama, the penalty shootout even made James Rodriguez cry at the end. My favorite player is by far Cuadrado, the Juve player. It seems like he has an invisible magnet between the cleat and the soccer ball. If he has a good game then everything flows. Sorry, but I’m still not in love with James Rodriguez.

If Colombia plays the way they did with Panama and Chile the way they did with Mexico, then Chile will win. No doubt. Tomorrow, I expect this match to be explosive, non-stop running, and of course beautiful goals. Place your bets and hope you win 🙂

 

Messi: His Visit to Earth

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Tonight Argentina played the semi-final game against the US. It is not just any game, Messi scored a beautiful free-kick goal—his 55th goal that is. It was a light, feathered touch yet powerful to place it right above the goalkeeper’s reach and lightly scratching the post. Unbelievable! With this goal, Messi has become the all-time top scorer for the national team. He surpassed Batistuta’s  record, that in itself is already an honor. He reads the game, knows when to pass, creates spaces, and all this while 4-5 opponents are trying to block him.

The albiceleste was synchronized and no doubt they controlled the game from the start. I dare to say they even slowed down, at times it seemed Argentina was at a training practice just casually circulating the ball. At full speed I know the score could have been worse (so thank you!). The US team could not even place a shot on goal, no threat, a truly easy game. I did expect a more intense, challenging game, especially after Klinsmann’s words of encouragement. The positive to take from this, we do have to commend the US team. They made it to the semi-finals, unfortunately they had to play against the best team in the world and the alien we call Messi.

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Copa America Centenario: Why the US?

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I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews about the US hosting the special edition of Copa America 2016. This unusual fusion of CONBEMOL and CONCACAF has led to a lot of speculation and well let’s be honest, was this necessary?

If we go back a few months, with so much corruption, scandal and fraud, one can really speculate on who was really behind this idea. CONBEMOL has presented itself as a victim to all this and seeks to recover funds that it lost. Regardless, officials continued with the tournament and here we are…..

USA was the top choice, the infrastructure, stadiums, people, and most important- money- were already here. While some might argue that the US is not a country where futbol is number 1, events like this only continue to foster the growth. Since World Cup 1994, we have seen the increase of enthusiasm and fan involvement. Let us not go further than World Cup 2010 final, where an estimated 24.3 million viewers were tuning in. Now we hear the “USA, USA, USA” chants across stadiums.

While this Copa Centenario definitely broke the mold, as a futbol fan I am delighted to have world-class players like Messi and Mascherano here!

Now let’s just enjoy the games and see who takes this trophy home.