After failing to win a major tournament in his fourth try, Argentine superstar Lionel Messi was talking about retiring from international soccer early Monday morning.
Messi and his Argentina teammates were denied yet another championship Sunday night, losing to neighboring rival Chile in the Copa America Centenario at MetLife Stadium.
The Chileans recorded a 4-2 shootout win against the top-ranked team in the world after playing to a scoreless draw after 120 minutes before a sellout crowd of 82,026, a record for a New Jersey soccer crowd.
“In the locker room I thought the national team is not for me,” a distraught Messi said after the disappointing result.
“It’s difficult in this moment to do any analysis [about his national team future].’’
Whether he will decide not to play for Argentina again at the age of 29 remains to be seen. It was an emotional night for Messi. After calming down and thinking about it, he could be wearing the colors of Argentina when qualifying for the 2018 World Cup resumes in September.
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino was optimistic that Messi will be back.
“It’s tough and overbearing,” he said. “Athletes have risen themselves back up and I’m sure he’ll do it again.”
Messi had plenty of reasons to be upset after the match.
The man considered the greatest player of his generation — if not all time — missed his penalty kick in the tiebreaker. After firing Argentina’s attempt wide right of the mark, Messi was so upset with himself that he stood in stunned silence for the rest of the tiebreaker while holding his head in his hands.
“It’s a great sadness that it happened again, the fact I missed a PK that was important,” he said.
Despite huge success with his club team, Barcelona, in which he has been honored as FIFA World Player of the Year a record five times, Messi still has failed to win a major international title with his national team.
This was the fourth time that Messi stumbled in a final, which included the 2007 and 2015 Copa Americas and the 2014 World Cup, when the Argentines lost to Germany, 1-0, in Brazil.
Messi’s misery has been paralleled by Argentina, which lost in an international final for the third consecutive year. The South American powerhouse, which has won two World Cup championships, hasn’t won an international title in 23 years since Copa America 1993.
“It’s incredible the fact that we can’t win,” he said. “It happened to us again.”
Pedro Pablo Hernandez, Charles Aranguiz, Jean Beajusejour and Francisco Silva (game-winner) converted their shots for Chile.
In the first round of penalties, Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved Arturo Vidal’s attempt before Messi botched his.
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, the tournament’s Golden Glove winner, saved Lucas Biglia’s attempt, setting up Silva’s winner.
The Chileans outlasted the Argentines in last year’s final, winning in penalties, 4-1, after another scoreless draw.
Chile national coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, who is Argentine, praised his rivals. “Argentina is a great national team,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the best in history. It’s close. They have the best player in history.”
When asked to elaborate about Messi, Pizzi replied, “Besides having an admiration of Messi, I guide myself by the numbers. Messi’s numbers aren’t and cannot be equaled for life. It’s hard to achieve.
“I believe Messi is the best player in history. I think the numbers are irrefutable.”