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This is the match that made Messi quit

By Jon Q | June 28th 2016

The stage was set at the Metlife Stadium, New York, just two days after Leo Messi's birthday, Brazilian referee Heber Lopes gave him a card - a beautiful yellow for simulation in the 40th minute. The match characterized by ill-tempers and tension, the referee was equally generous with the cards but expected goals would not materialize for 120 minutes of regular and extra time.

This was, of course, the finals of the Copa America Centenario 2016. Pre-tournament favorites and the highest scoring sides so far, Argentina on 18 goals and Chile's 16, expectations were high that this would be a goal fest. Instead, it was Heber who took center-stage. He would first caution Marcelo Diaz for a tough lunge on Messi in the 17th minute.

The match that kicked off on Sunday at 3:00 am (local time) saw a total of 9 yellow cards dished out indiscriminately; Diaz again earned a second yellow, a bit harshly, though, for a collision with Messi. Again. Heber had seen enough and sent him for an early shower in the 28th minute.

Next in the referee's book were Vidal and Mascherano in the 37th minute for their role in a brief scuffle. Then Messi for simulation. With those six yellows, Manchester United's Marcos Rojo would get a straight red for an infringement on Vidal. Halftime talking points were obviously the card fest with the match still a 0-0 stalemate. 

Argentina had looked to seize the moment with Chile on the backpedal and reluctant to commit forward but Gonzalo Higuain could not find the cutting edge. Messi, meanwhile, was only allowed room just to breathe for most the match. Chile became more adventurous after Rojo's exit reduced Argentina's man advantage and were pushing them into more defensive positions.

Chile's Beausejour found himself in the referee's book shortly after the start of the second half as Aranguiz later followed. Sergio Aguero was brought on for Higuain but could not break down the Chile backline. Fellow Argentine substitute Kranevitter got in the yellow card action and was booked for dissent to take the card tally to 9 yellow and a straight red. 

After a grueling 30 minutes of extra time and incredibly still goalless, it was down to the penalty shootout. Arturo Vidal stepped up first and his jittery kick was easily read by Romero. So when Messi followed, he knew the odds were now firmly in Argentina's favor. He charged forward and his blasted effort drifted past the upright! The Chileans then perfectly dispatched the remaining three spot kicks. When Biglia's attempt was saved by Claudio Bravo, the hopes of a nation rested on the shoulders of extra time substitute Francisco Silva who made no mistake to send the Chileans into a rapturous outbreak of joy for the second time in two years. Messi was dejected, the whole Argentina camp slumped.

Argentina, last won the Copa in 1993 and were widely expected to exact retribution on Chile who beat them once again through penalties in 2015 when Chile hosted the event. They will have to wait longer.  

Alexis Sanchez was named Player of the tournament. Claudio Bravo won the Golden Glove for his 3 clean sheets and finally Eduardo Vargas won the Golden Boot for his six goals to cap off an exceptional two years for Chilean football.

It seems that Messi could not with stand yet another loss and this triggered him to retire from international football. It was a sad moment for him not to win in the finals after attending three finals with a winning expectation. His decision has left the Argentina funs and team moaning.

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