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Chile win the Copa America with penalty shootout triumph over Argentina

An incredible Copa America final had to end eventually, and when the final whistle blew, it was Chile celebrating the win and lifting the trophy on home soil.

Ian Walton/Getty Images

An incredible Copa America final couldn't be decided in regulation, and not even an extra half hour of time could decide the match. After a shocking penalty shootout, it was Chile wheeling away in celebration, dominating the shootout to win it 4-1.

The match got off to an absolutely thrilling start, with scoring chances at both ends only kept at bay by desperation defending. Both teams exploded out of the gates, throwing absolutely everything they could muster at one another trying to find some kind of crack in each others' defenses to open the scoring.

The pace was electric, the tackles were full-blooded, and the chances brought you out of your seat. Arturo Vidal drew a sublime reaction save from Sergio Romero when he tried to volley in a rebounded shot, then Lionel Messi sent in a perfectly placed free kick that Kun Agüero was an inch from heading home. Edu Vargas went on a scintillating run after being slipped through behind Argentina's defense, and Angel Di Maria responded with a galloping trip up the pitch of his own.

Di Maria's run came with a high cost for Argentina, though -- after being targeted by a number of hard tackles from Chile earlier in the match, Di Maria's body just couldn't take the strain of the run. He came up short before he could penetrate into the box, and ultimately had to get subbed off clutching his hamstring. Of course, Argentina don't lack for talent in their side, and Ezequiel Lavezzi was introduced as a pretty darn good Plan B.

The match went into the half scoreless, but not for lack of effort. Chile had more shots, but Argentina were more dangerous with theirs. The energy and effort was incredible -- and it didn't slow down one bit when the second half kicked off.

Chile kept edging the possession battle early in the second half, but Argentina slowly started to stamp their authority onto the match. The Albiceleste were taking control, and for all the fight Chile were mustering, they couldn't keep Argentina from asserting their will. Chile kept fighting back and trying to keep their opponents off balance, and scrambled away a few more chances of their own -- but couldn't get the job done on their best chance of the match, in the 82nd minute when Alexis Sanchez volleyed a shot in but pushed it wide instead of on target.

There was a moment of controversy not long later, when Mauricio Isla was sent tumbling after a hard challenge from Marcos Rojo -- who was already on a yellow card after a similar incident early in the second half. The challenge looked potentially worthy of a second yellow card and a sending off, but the Colombian referee, Wilmar Roldan, left his cards in his pocket and allowed Rojo to stay on the pitch.

Argentina thought they had it won moments later when Lavezzi was sprung off a throughball and looked to be clear in on goal -- but the offside flag went up, and rightfully so, keeping the Argentines off the scoreboard. A frenetic finish to regular time at both ends of the pitch included an Argentina penalty shout being waved away, a missed shot by Chile, and Gonzalo Higuain's last-gasp effort in the final seconds of regulation going to the wrong side of the back post to force extra time.

Extra time was marred by further missed chances, the most stunning of which came when Alexis Sanchez was set free off a goal kick, beating Javier Mascherano easily -- but then ruining it all by skying his shot. Despite some massive efforts at both ends of the pitch, neither side could find that elusive goal, with penalty shouts for both Argentina and Chile going unanswered by the referee.

That left the match in the hands of the ever-difficult penalty shootout, started out with a scorching shot from Mati Fernandez that Sergio Romero couldn't stop from reaching the top corner. Lionel Messi wasn't to be outdone, easily beating his club teammate Claudio Bravo with a low shot that the Chilean simply couldn't reach.

That would prove to be the only penalty that Argentina converted, thanks to absolutely shocking misses from Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega. Chile went 3-for-3, and Alexis Sanchez stepped up with a chance to win it for Chile -- and converted his shot easily, wheeling away in joy as Chile celebrated winning the Copa America on home soil.

It was an absolutely tremendous performance from the winners, and Chile fully deserve their victory. They were a favorite coming into this tournament for a reason, and now they've proved all of their doubters wrong. Santiago is going to be a heck of a fun place to be tonight.

Chile: Claudio Bravo; Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel, Francisco Silva, Jean Beausejour; Charles Aranguiz, Marcelo Diaz, Arturo Vidal; Jorge Valdivia (Mati Fernandez 74'); Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas (Angelo Henriquez 95')

Goals: None Penalties: Fernandez made, Vidal made, Aranguiz made, Sanchez made

Argentina: Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo; Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano, Javier Pastore (Ever Banega 81'); Angel Di Maria (Ezequiel Lavezzi 29'), Sergio Agüero (Gonzalo Higuain 74'), Lionel Messi

Goals: None Penalties: Messi made, Higuain missed, Banega missed

3 things

1. That was what a final should be

Too often, cup finals start out as pragmatic, dull affairs, with both teams trying more to avoid making mistakes than actually attempting to make anything happen. Things only start to open up after one team scores, and even then it can take until well into the second half before things truly get interesting.

That wasn't the case today, with the match turning into a track meet almost from the first whistle. Both teams went all out from start to finish, leaving absolutely everything out on the pitch. That was what a final should be. That was what a final should always look like.

2. Lionel Messi was amazing -- but still couldn't win

Much has been made over the years of Messi's lack of a senior international title, with many using that to hold him out of the conversation of greatest players ever to play the game. He knew that he had to finally deliver on the big stage to get that monkey off his back, and he put every ounce of effort that he could muster into breaking Argentina's long run without a title. Messi wanted to lift the Copa America trophy more than anyone else on that pitch, and it showed in how he played.

His runs, his passes, his shots, everything Messi did today was vintage Messi. Every time he got on the ball, he looked to make something happen, and every time Argentina got a real scoring chance, he was involved at the heart of it. Messi poured every bit of his will into this match, for good or ill, lose or win -- and Argentina still couldn't help him win. Messi did absolutely everything he could, but in the end his teammates couldn't pick things up and help out their leader.

3. Chile have stepped into the international elite

A Copa America title, won on home soil, and coming over mighty Argentina. This is the single-biggest day in Chilean football history, and with that victorious heft of the trophy, Chile have announced their entry into the elite of international football. They stood toe-to-toe with one of the giants of the world stage, trading blows and shrugging off some mighty haymakers from Argentina's high-octane attack. Chile are here to stay, and what they do next will be thrilling to watch unfold.