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Argentina Outlast Chile in Epic 1-0 Victory at MetLife

A roaring sold-out crowd of 81,106 packed MetLife Stadium Tuesday evening as the ever-tense rivalry between Chile and Argentina played out for Group A's second Matchday at Copa América USA 2024. The match ended with the reigning world and tournament champions overcoming 1-0 after Lautaro Martínez scored two minutes away from the final whistle.

This match was a rematch of the 2016 Copa América Centenario final held at the exact same venue. There, Chile overcame penalties, secured their second straight tournament, and denied Lionel Messi his third-straight attempt at a title with the Argentine national team.

Argentina was dominant in the first half. The squad held ultimate confidence in Lionel Messi in the first ten minutes, allowing him to push towards the middle and Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo directly. The Albiceleste seemed very contained then. While that did change later on in the match, the backbone of it all was the quad of Lisandro Martínez, Cristian (Cuti) Romero, Nicolas Tagliafico, and Alexis Mac Allister, who all knew how to organize at a long distance from each other as the opening Chilean response remained to measure.

By minute 12, La Roja was gnawing at the possession with 68 percent. However, the Chileans soon started to crumble. They very much depended on group work, and so far, the offense was solely the work of Eduardo Vargas and Victor Dávila. For now, this meant that 'the reds' were stuck on one side.

At minute 21, Julián Álvarez shot a heel, blocked easily by Bravo. Shortly afterward, at 26-27, the defending champions stopped depending on Messi's straightforward advances and instead went to their trademark spread-out game, variations of which they would use throughout. This translated well into three shots--one on target--for the first thirty minutes, while Chile had none. In the closing minutes of the half, Nahuel Molina joined the initially mentioned network, allowing Argentina's offense to temporarily work disconnected yet efficiently from the rest of the team while the defense kept shutting Chile out. By the end of the period, Chile was well-put in clusters and tied up as the match entered halftime scoreless.

Chile was starting to de-cluster by five minutes into the second half. Despite that, they were very well stifled by the expansive blue-and-white presence. As Argentine attacks intensified, Bravo's performance in the box was spectacular. By contrast, talisman Alexis Sánchez was largely absent--as usual--save for the opportunities at shooting on goal when he could pick it up at the ends.

He would be substituted at minute 65 by Marcos Bolados.  La Roja spent the rest of the half unfolding, making space for challenging, physical play against the Argentines that temporarily took down several major players. Perhaps the most nail-biting was the minute 46 clash, where Nicolás González was hit by Igor Lichnovsky in the temple. The leader of Chile's offense was Vargas, and him alone doing the work contrasted greatly with the new Messi-Álvarez duopoly. Almost to no avail, Ben Brereton Díaz was subbed in at minute 86 to replace Isla, the primary victim of the reprisals to said attacks.

Argentina's control of the match waxed and waned, but the constant of Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni throughout the competition was the subbing in of fresh players nearing the end who were reliable enough to hold the ship down. Giovani Lo Celso came in for Enzo Fernandez at minute 64, and Ángel di María came onto the pitch, replacing González at 72.

The team was challenged by Chilean shapeshifting at times around minute 60, but with an 89 percent pass precision mark, they focused on attacking via the left with whoever was at hand, knowing that their opponent would go nowhere. The final trick that facilitated their victory in the first place was alternating between that and using the whole field for the final ten minutes.

However, this did not spare them confusing moments, with Emiliano Martínez saving two almost-own goals (and sending the crowd wild.) Eventually, however, Lautaro Martínez scored his goal of a save from Bravo following a corner kick, creating a picturesque memory in the Jersey crowd's eyes and a roar heard throughout the Meadowlands.

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