It took penalties to find a winner, but Chile captured the 2016 Copa America Centenario title over Argentina on penalties 4-2 Sunday evening in front of a record soccer crowd of 82,026 at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford New Jersey.
Argentina dominated early, applying a menacing front press that frustrated La Roja. In the 21st minute, Gary Medel misplayed a pass in the back and Gonzalo Higuain pounced for a breakaway, but his shot over goalkeeper Claudio Bravo trickled wide while Medel slammed into the goalpost.
As you might expect in a Copa America final, the action was intense and physical as neither side looked to give an inch. Unfortunately, referee Heber Lopes made two controversal decisions that permanently affected the match. In the 28th minute, Marcelo Diaz was issued a harsh second yellow after Messi collided into the midfielder.
If Chile felt hard done by, it was Argentina's turn to feel cheated as Marcos Rojo was given a straight red in the 43rd minute for an aggressive challenge on Arturo Vidal, when replays from multiple angles appeared to show minimal contact.
This was a rough game for some of the games' biggest superstars. Early on Alexis Sanchez was visibly limping after the back of his ankle was stepped on and consequently struggled to play at 100% the rest of the nignt. Lionel Messi was dangerous when given time and space, but for the most part the Chilean defense was able to shut him down.
With each side missing a player, the second half was a wide-open spectacle as both sides fought for the right to stake their claim as South America's best. Right before the final whistle, Sergio Aguero blew a golden opportunity when he sliced a shot from close range.
Extra time was just as wild as the second half. In the 98th minute, Edson Pugh got on a Chilean cross in a dangerous spot, but goalkeeper Sergio Romero made an excellent diving stop. Two minutes later, he was bested by Bravo, who made an absolutely world-class reflex save to tip Sergio Aguero's re-directed header off the crossbar and out.
Finally, the match went to penalty kicks. Arturo Vidal missed the opening attempt for Chile, then unbelievably, Lionel Messi skied his shot over the bar. After some successful attempts, Lucas Biglia 's shot was saved, and with the game on the line, Francisco Silva delivered, putting his shot away to hand Chile the title.