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Messi, consistency & more – five reasons Argentina can win the Copa

Expectation has weighed heavy on Argentina even before they kicked their first ball in La Serena, but they’ve made it to the final of Copa América 2015.

They will be bidding to win the trophy for the first time since 1993 and end a barren spell of 22 years without a senior international trophy.

Standing in their way, however, are hosts Chile.

Following last year’s World Cup disappointment, several of the Albiceleste players have spoken of their eagerness to win a title with the national team, and here we look at the five reasons that that could become a reality on July 4.

Lionel Messi

Before the competition had even got underway, people were expecting Lionel Messi to be the star of the show in Chile.

While the captain hasn’t shone at the Copa América like he did for Barcelona as they stormed to a famous treble this season, he has still produced some fine moments.

In order to get the best from Messi, coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has deployed him on the right wing – just as Luis Enrique did for much of the term in Spain.

While he has not been prolific, his only goal coming from the penalty spot in their group-stage opener against Paraguay, the 28-year-old has been at the heart of everything for his side.

His dribbling has been typically nimble and his ability to get free from even the tightest of spaces has often forced opponents to follow him with more than one man.

That can create space for his team-mates to do the damage in, which was evident in their semi-final thrashing of Paraguay.

Messi didn’t get on the scoresheet but directly assisted three of their goals and also had a hand in another.

If he replicates that performance against Chile then they could well be in for a difficult night.

They don’t need Messi to score to win

Even though Messi has not been making the headlines for his scoring in Chile, it hasn’t stopped Argentina from finding the net, nor from winning.

In fact, the only game that the skipper did score in is the solitary match at the Copa that La Albiceleste failed to triumph in – the 2-2 draw with Paraguay in the group stage.

Sergio Agüero has been a solid source of goals in attack, with Gonzalo Higuaín also chipping in with two despite only featuring for a total of 95 minutes across three games.

Both of them found the net in their semi-final demolition of Paraguay, along with Marcos Rojo, Javier Pastore and an Ángel Di María double.

It is a squad with a wealth of attacking talent – one of a number of reasons that they were picked by many as favourites for glory – and that was finally displayed in Concepción.

Although Martino’s men struggled to find the net with regularity in the group stage, the semi-final victory will be a huge morale boost.

Every player will be full of confidence following such a relentless display in the final four, and that shows Chile that they cannot simply focus their attentions on the Messi.

Consistent selection

Changes to the starting line-up have been minimal from Martino.

Before the Copa had even begun he seemed to have settled on his favoured starting line-up, he just couldn’t deploy it until their second outing in Chile.

Facundo Roncaglia and Éver Banega both started the opening fixture against Paraguay with Pablo Zabaleta and Lucas Biglia lacking fitness, but they have since been ever-present in the XI.

Martín Demichelis has been drafted in on two occasions – against Jamaica in the group stage due to Nicolás Otamendi’s suspension and in the semi-final versus Paraguay with Ezequiel Garay forced out through illness – while Agüero was rested for their clash with the Reggae Boyz to ensure his fitness for the quarter-finals.

Such switches have not affected the core of the team, nor the balance, nor the tactical shape Martino has been deploying.

Sergio Romero has looked confident between the posts, while Javier Mascherano has been integral to every performance and, of course, Messi has regularly been the creative force further forward.

Unless there are any unforseen injuries for La Albiceleste boss to contend with, you could probably already name his line-up for the final.

Familiarity with pressure

Argentina are no strangers to tension and high stakes.

They went all the way to the World Cup final last year before eventually succumbing to Germany courtesy of an extra-time goal from Mario Götze.

It is an experience that still pains many of the players, but it could prove an advantage should Saturday’s clash at the Estadio Nacional not be settled within 90 minutes.

This Chile crop, meanwhile, are playing their first final together and there is no telling how they will handle the occasion.

Many of this Argentina squad have won big domestic trophies with their clubs too, so they know better how to prepare for such a fixture.

La Albiceleste have already been pushed all the way to penalties in this tournament by Colombia too – though there was no extra time played in the quarter-finals.

However, they came through on top in the penalty shoot-out and that, too, will provide confidence should they find themselves in the situtation again on Saturday.

Chile’s biggest test

There can be no doubting that Argentina will be the highest-quality side that La Roja will face in this competition.

They made light work of progressing through a group including a Mexico side missing a number of key names, an injury-hit Ecuador squad and Bolivia – who finally ended an 18-year wait for another victory at the Copa América this time around.

Sampaoli’s men did eliminate the defending champions at the quarter-final stage, but they did not have Luis Suárez or Diego Forlán – both of whom were pivotal to their triumph in 2011 – in their ranks.

Peru gave Chile a difficult game in the semi-finals but, playing with 10 men for 70 minutes of the match, they were always facing an uphill battle.

Therefore, Argentina will be the first elite nation that La Roja have faced in the tournament.

It will be the first true test of their title credentials, and it comes with the added pressure of it being in a final.

Both nations will have plenty at stake on Saturday, which is sure to make for a truly fascinating and memorable affair.

Bron: ca2015.com