The 2015 Copa America comes to a conclusion in Santiago on Saturday, with two of the pre-tournament favourites fighting it out for the trophy.
Hosts Chile are on form and brimming with confidence as they seek to win the competition for the very first time, while star-studded Argentina, who turned on the style in their semi-final defeat of Paraguay, are aiming to lift their first Copa in over two decades.
With a place at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 also at stake, neither side will be lacking in motivation ahead of the latest instalment in their long-running rivalry.
FIFA.com looks ahead to the last weekend of Chile 2015, which also includes the third-place play-off.
Match for third place
Friday 3 July, 20.30 (local time), Estadio Ester Roa Rebolledo, Concepcion
Saturday 4 July, 17.00 (local time), Estadio Nacional, Santiago
Chile could not be in better shape heading into the final. In disposing of Uruguay in the last eight and Peru in the semis, La Roja showed that all the talk of them being title candidates was justified. Coached by the Argentinian Jorge Sampaoli, the hosts boast the tournament’s top scorer in Eduardo Vargas, who has four goals to his name, the wizardry of Jorge Valdivia and the matchwinning abilities of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, both of whom are on top of their games. Appearing in their fifth Copa America final, the Chileans are anxious to break with the past and win the competition for the first time, which would make them the first hosts to lift the trophy since Colombia in 2001.
Argentina have gathered momentum as the tournament has progressed. Only showing glimpses of their best football in the group phase, they saw off Colombia on penalties in the quarter-finals before finally hitting top gear in the 6-1 demolition of Paraguay in the semis. With Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi back to their very best in that game, the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ runners-up have good reason to be confident as they bid to end their 22-year trophy drought in all competitions. Saturday’s match will be coach Gerardo Martino’s second consecutive appearance in a Copa America final, El Tata having taken Paraguay to the deciding match of Argentina 2011.
Marcelo Diaz (Chile) v Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
With both sides intent on playing attacking football, midfield supremacy will be crucial to the outcome, which means much will hinge on the tussle between Marcelo Diaz and Javier Mascherano. Both have played vital parts in their teams’ campaigns so far, with the Hamburg player, who has started every match in the tournament, bringing balance to the Chile line-up, while the Barcelona man is one of the undisputed leaders of the Albiceleste pack and a firm favourite with the fans.
0 - the number of times Chile have beaten Argentina in 24 previous Copa America meetings, La Roja drawing five of those games and losing the other 19. The Chileans have also failed to score in their last six Copa encounters with La Albiceleste.
“We’re not scared of anyone but we do respect all our opponents. We’re not going to hold anything back. If we don’t go in believing we can win and we turn our back on our identity, then we’d be handing the final on a plate to them. We’re very comfortable about the way we’re playing and if we don’t continue in that vein, we’ll be giving away a game we’re desperate to win,” Claudio Bravo, Chile captain.
“Chile have already shown what they’re about and they play the same way against everyone. Like us, they try to play good football. I think it’s going to be a very even game, and I hope I can finally get on the scoresheet. We played the World Cup final not so long ago and now we’re in the Copa America final. It would be fantastic to win it,” Lionel Messi, Argentina captain.
The consolation prize
Peru and Paraguay have been the revelations of the tournament. Arriving in Chile with new coaches and little preparation under their belts, the two outsiders reached the semi-finals on the back of some impressive team performances. After earning places on the podium at Argentina 2011, when La Albirroja finished runners-up and La Bicolor third, both sides are anxious to repeat the feat.