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Last-Minute Goal Sends Argentina to Copa America Quarterfinals

In a thrilling conclusion to the Conmebol 2024 Copa America group stage match, Argentina clinched a dramatic 1-0 victory over Chile, thanks to an 88th-minute rebound goal from Lautaro Martinez. The intense match took place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, with an attendance of 81,106 fervent fans, most of whom were cheering for Argentina’s squad led by the legendary Lionel Messi.

Lautaro Martinez’s decisive goal was his second of the tournament and his 26th for the national team. The moment was not immediately celebrated as players on the field stood in anxious anticipation for three minutes while the goal was confirmed through a meticulous video review. The confirmation led to an outpouring of joy from the Argentine team and their supporters.

Argentina now sits atop Group A with six points, a standing they share with Canada. Chile and Peru trail behind with just a single point each. This latest victory has secured Argentina’s progression to the quarterfinals, ensuring they remain a strong contender in their defense of the Copa America title.

The match saw Argentina dominate in terms of statistics, taking 21 shots compared to Chile’s three and earning 11 corner kicks, while Chile had none. Argentina’s relentless offensive pressure was a testament to their determination and skill on the field.

Lionel Messi, celebrating just a day after his 37th birthday, showcased his enduring brilliance. From expertly maneuvering past defenders to orchestrating key plays, Messi was at the heart of Argentina’s efforts. His closest attempt to score came in the 36th minute when a powerful 30-yard shot struck the post to the left of Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

Chile’s defensive line, led by the 41-year-old Bravo, who became the oldest player in Copa America history during this match, managed to hold Argentina at bay for most of the game. Bravo, in his 150th international appearance, made eight critical saves, more than any other in his team. His efforts, however, were ultimately overshadowed by Martinez’s late strike.

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Bravo and Messi, having shared years of camaraderie as former Barcelona teammates, were seen chatting amiably as they led their teams onto the pitch for the national anthems. Despite the eventual loss, Bravo’s performance was a standout, earning him respect and applause from fans.

For Lionel Messi, the win brought back memories of both triumph and heartache at MetLife Stadium. This venue was where Argentina faced a tough loss to Chile in the 2016 Copa America final, a defeat that led Messi to announce his short-lived retirement from international football. His return has been nothing short of remarkable, as he continues to demonstrate why he is regarded as one of the best players in football history.

The game was played on a newly installed grass field, replacing the stadium’s usual artificial turf, albeit with some visible brown patches behind one of the goals. These patches did not affect the match’s quality but were noteworthy as the venue prepares for the 2026 World Cup, which will require a broader field than typically used at this stadium.

Argentina will face Peru in their final group stage match at Miami Gardens, Florida, on Saturday, while Canada’s national team is scheduled to take on Chile in Orlando, Florida. The outcomes of these matches will finalize the stage for the quarterfinals.

Reflecting on the game, Argentina’s offensive strategy was clear: relentless pressure and frequent attempts on goal. Apart from Martinez’s clinching goal, Messi’s attempts, including a shot blocked by Bravo in the 62nd minute after a fine pass from Messi to Nicolas Gonzalez, highlighted Argentina’s continuous threat in front of goal.

Chile, coached by Martin Lasarte, appeared defensively solid but lacked offensive rhymes, only recording their first shot on target in the 72nd minute. Rodrigo Echeverría’s best efforts around that time were thwarted by Argentina’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez, who made a significant save to maintain the clean sheet for his team.

This win marks a significant moment as Argentina continues to honor the legacy of their first World Cup victory 46 years ago. As the fans chanted and celebrated, it was clear that the spirit of that historic win lives on through this team, inspired and led by one of football’s greatest, Lionel Messi.