Argentina and Chile will relish the chance to end long waits for major international trophies on Sunday in the final of the Copa America.
Tournament hosts Chile came through a close-fought semi-final with Peru to move within one win of their first Copa success while Argentina thrashed Paraguay 6-1 and inched closer to their first major title since 1993.
Gerardo Martino saw Lionel Messi shine in their dismantling of Paraguay last week with this weekend’s clash offering the four-time world player of the year the chance to seal his first international honours.
Despite winning a host of titles with Barcelona, Messi’s international career has not yet reached the same heights, although victory in Santiago would go a long way to silencing any remaining detractors.
Sergio Aguero – another component of Martino’s impressive forward line – was on target against Paraguay and talked up the quality Argentina possess with the likes of Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain lurking on the bench.
“I just try to do my job. Behind me I have Carlitos and I have Pipita [Higuain], they are very good players and that motivates you,” Aguero told La Nacion.
“It is good if your place is in demand. We [Aguero and Messi] know that sometimes we will generate, but above all we have to aim not to fail.
“They are one of the best teams in the tournament and it will be a good final.
“It is the second major challenge facing us after Uruguay and they will look to impose on us.”
For Chile and their Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli, Sunday represents the chance for a first Copa title, having again impressed with a high-energy, pressing game that also gained praise at last year’s World Cup.
Argentina have dominated the sides’ recent meetings but, with Chile looking for a repeat of their 1-0 victory in World Cup qualifying of 2008, captain Claudio Bravo is hopeful the underdog tag can serve his side well.
“We have never been favourites in any tournament and often is good for us to feel that, because we are full of energy and enthusiasm,” he told reporters.
“The word fear has not been referred to by anyone in the team, but we have the utmost respect for all the teams. The headline of fear or that we were scared was established by the press and not from us.
“I think we have to do the same thing that we did in the match in the qualifiers for Brazil, which was a very seasoned Chile, a Chile that wanted to play on equal terms.
“This is something we have been doing since long ago, and the truth is that we have a great chance, playing at home, with our fans, which increases our chances of playing a good game and brings us closer to the title.”
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