This is certainly not the best of times for fans of Lionel Messi. "For me, the National team is over. I've done all I can, it hurts not to be a champion," Messi has said.
The 29-year-old was making his 112th appearance for Argentina since making his debut in 2005. After the match finished 0-0 in 90 minutes, Chile won 4-2 on penalties for their second consecutive Copa title. Messi blazed a penalty over the bar in the shoot-out before Lucas Biglia missed to leave Chile's Francisco Silva with the task of stroking home the winning spot-kick at the MetLife Stadium.
This is the seventh straight loss for Argentina in major international tournaments including Copa America, Confederations Cup and Fifa World Cup.
Messi and his teammates suffered agonizing defeats in the 2014 World Cup final against Germany and to the Chileans on penalties in Santiago last year. On each occasion, Messi has borne the brunt of the backlash from critics in Argentina who trot out a familiar laundry list of grievances. He has no passion. He doesn’t sing the anthem. He doesn’t “feel” the shirt.
Barely a ball had been kicked in this Copa America before Maradona, a regular sniper, accused him of lacking “personality” and “leadership.”
Maradona amped up the rhetoric this week shortly after Argentina booked their place in the final with a 4-0 demolition of the United States. “We will certainly win on Sunday... and if we don’t win, they shouldn’t come back,” Maradona told an Argentinian television network. After missing Argentina’s opening group match—a 2-1 win over Sunday’s opponents Chile—he scored an electrifying 19-minute hat-trick against Panama after coming on as a substitute before going on to equal Gabriel Batistuta’s Argentina goals record in the 4-1 quarter-final win over Venezuela.
Against the US on Tuesday, he scored a magnificent curling freekick to become his country’s leading international goalscorer with 55, while setting up two more goals in a magical all-round display.