The Copa America Centenario final was not a pleasant experience for the Argentina national team, losing on penalties to Chile for the second straight summer, making this their third straight major final loss in as many summers. With the Argentine Football Association in chaos and the national team a constant source of frustration, Lionel Messi shocked the world by announcing his retirement from international football -- and Gonzalo Higuain is reportedly joining him.
The Napoli forward had an excellent Copa America run, with a brace in each of Argentina's quarterfinal and semifinal matches, but Higuain struggled in the final, including a heart-wrenching miss of what was his team's best scoring chance in the first half. That marks his third straight major final with a major missed chance, with multiple missed sitters against Chile last summer and Germany two years ago haunting his memory.
That's not why Higuain is reportedly leaving the Argentina national team, though, and he's far from alone in doing so. A total of eight major Argentine stars reportedly plan to quit the national team -- Higuain, Messi, former Napoli forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lazio midfielder Lucas Biglia, vice-captain Javier Mascherano, Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero, and Ever Banega. The mass departure comes amidst mounting chaos in Argentine football, with FIFA taking over the AFA after election scandals, years of financial turmoil, and organizational chaos that leaves the shape of the Argentine Premier League in major doubt for next season.
There's a myriad of major issues plaguing Argentine football and their national team, and this exodus of major talent including Messi and Higuain -- their all-time leading scorer and sixth-leading scorer, respectively -- is only going to add to their woes. There's a chance that this is a staged attempt by the group of players to try and force positive change in the national team, but there's just enough of a ring of truth to this that there's a very real chance that the Argentina national team just got gutted of almost all of its best talent in one fell swoop.