Saturday 25 June 2016, 19:19

Chile, Argentina braced for rematch

The Copa America Centenario will reach its conclusion on Sunday with a repeat of the 2015 final, when hosts Chile won the competition for the first time. Facing the defending champions once again will be FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking leaders Argentina, who, as well as finishing runners-up at Chile 2015, also came in second at Brazil 2014.

It promises to be a very special occasion, with both sides and their many star players having found their best form. looks ahead to the encounter, to be preceded by the third-place play-off between USA and Colombia on Saturday evening.

The match*Argentina-Chile Sunday 26 June, 20.00 (local time), MetLife Stadium, New Jersey*

The stakesFavourites heading into the competition, Argentina have done everything to do justify that tag. At their commanding best since arriving in USA, La Albiceleste have turned in some convincing performances and shown plenty of power up front. After easing through a group phase in which they beat Chile 2-1, they cruised to respective 4-1 and 4-0 wins over Venezuela in the quarters and USA in the semis.

Beaten in their last two finals, at Brazil 2014 and Chile 2015, the Argentinians are intent on lifting some major silverware for the first time in 23 years. Their hopes of doing that have been boosted by the princely form of Lionel Messi, who has five goals to his name and is in the running to become the tournament’s top scorer, while Gonzalo Higuain’s sharpness up front and the solidity of a back line that has only conceded twice to date are further causes for optimism.

La Roja have improved as the tournament has gone on. Beaten by Argentina in their first outing, they needed a late penalty to then see off Bolivia. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s charges hit their stride in the knockout phase, however, inflicting a crushing 7-0 defeat on Mexico and securing a hard-fought 2-0 win over Jose Pekerman’s Colombia.

In Eduardo Vargas, the reigning champions boast the tournament’s leading scorer with six goals, while Alexis Sanchez has been in consistently good form, Arturo Vidal at his scheming best and Claudio Bravo as secure as ever between the posts. After lifting the trophy for the first time last year, La Roja are keen to show that was no one-off.

The duel Claudio Bravo (Chile) v Lionel Messi (Argentina) With their elaborate build-up play and resolutely attacking approach, Chile and Argentina are two sides that come to life when given a sight of goal. It is there in the danger areas that Messi turns on all his magic and Bravo exudes security and confidence. The Barcelona team-mates have got to know each other’s games inside out and Sunday’s battle between them promises much. In last year’s final in Santiago, La Pulga was unable to find a way past Bravo, though he did manage to convert his spot-kick in the shootout that saw Chile take the title.

The stat 3 - ​The number of times Argentina have reached a final in the last two years. Beaten 1-0 by Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ Final, they then lost on penalties to Chile in the deciding match at the 2015 Copa America. Three is also the number of consecutive Copa America finals Albiceleste coach Gerardo Martino has now reached. As well as taking Argentina to the same stage of the competition last year, Tata steered Paraguay to the 2011 final.

What they said“We’ve gone into finals before in pretty good shape and lost by very small margins. I think we’re looking really good this time, though. It’s not going to be easy. We’ve just been in two finals and though it always comes down to the question of whether you win or lose, it’s a great achievement to reach three of them in a row. When you get this far, winning is all that matters. That’s the way the fans see it. We’ve got a third opportunity and we all want to win.” Argentina captain Lionel Messi.

“We’re playing really well. I’m delighted at everything we’ve achieved, at all the good work we’ve been doing and because we’re on top form going into the final. We’ve got every chance of winning the trophy for the second year in a row. We’re confident we can come away with the same result as we did last year in Chile,” Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal.