Despite watching his team struggle to deliver on the big stage, coach Gerardo Martino claimed Argentina deserved to win the Copa America Centenario.
In a centenary tournament that promised so much, it ended in more disappointment for Argentina, who lost 4-2 on penalties in a rematch of last year’s final following 120 minutes of goalless action, which was overshadowed by red cards to Mauricio Diaz and Marcos Rojo in the first half in New Jersey on Sunday.
Captain Lionel Messi skied his spot-kick over the bar, while Lucas Biglia’s missed penalty proved decisive after Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero failed to find the net in regulation as Argentina lost a third consecutive major final, with the South American giants still waiting to snap 23-year title drought.
And Martino’s disappointment was obvious afterwards at MetLife Stadium, with the 53-year-old – who guided Argentina to a runners-up finish at the 2014 World Cup – telling reporters: “It is not easy to explain what happened. Argentina should win this game.
“There is pain. Losing again is a too large pain to have a different position.
“I agree with the disappointment of not having won the Cup, there were expectations.
“[But] The players have no reason to not continue trying. They do it with honesty and effort. And they do it well.”
The decider was a fiery affair in front of more than 82,000 spectators, especially in the first half, after referee Heber Lopes handed out two red cards.
Chile’s Diaz was the first go approaching the half-hour mark, sent off for two bookable offences, and Argentina full-back Rojo followed him down the tunnel two minutes before the break after a challenge on Arturo Vidal.
“After the expulsion of Rojo we had some problems to retrieve the ball, therefore we brought on Matias [Kranevitter],” Martino added.
“The entry of Erik [Lamela] was to take advantage of the tiredness of the rival defence. We were looking to push up until the last minute.”