It is a fair bet that Carlos Tevez had flashbacks of his fateful night in Santa Fe as he ran up to take Argentina’s seventh penalty in the Copa America Chile 2015 quarter-final against Colombia Saturday.
At the same stage of the competition four years ago, Argentina had dominated a similar game against Uruguay, which was also decided on penalties.
On that occasion El Apache was the third Albiceleste player to step up to the spot and he opted to blast the ball to his left, only for Fernando Muslera to guess correctly and make the save.
To compound Tevez’s misery, that miss was ultimately responsible for his team’s elimination from the tournament in front of their home fans.
The repercussions did not end there for Tevez. That defeat cost Sergio Batista his job in the Argentinian national-team dugout, with Alejandro Sabella appointed as his replacement.
The rest of the story is well known: the new coach overlooked the cult hero often known as El Jugador del Pueblo (the People’s Player), who spent almost four years in the international wilderness before Gerardo Martino recalled him in 2014.
Speaking after his side had secured their berth in this year’s semi-finals, Martino readily admitted that he had sought to protect Tevez when choosing his list of penalty-kick takers for the encounter against Colombia in Vina del Mar.
“I didn’t put him among the top five [takers] because he had missed the last time when we got knocked out. We tried to avoid him having to take one but there were so many twists and turns, so many were taken, that he ended up doing so.
“Tomorrow you [journalists] will all be talking about redemption,” Martino said his prediction was just as accurate as Tevez’s winning kick.
And what a way to redeem yourself. After Lucas Biglia and Marcos Rojo both spurned the opportunity to seal the win, there was Tevez hoping to make it third time lucky.
Once again, like in Santa Fe, El Apache went for power and smashed his kick to his left, but this time the flight of the ball was different and the strike eluded the despairing dive of David Ospina, Colombia’s hero up to that point.
“That’s football for you, it always gives you a chance to make amends,” the striker said shortly after his moment of glory, which came on the back of a 0-0 stalemate over the 120 minutes.
“What happened, happened, and today I’m happy about the victory and pleased for my team-mates. We put in a fantastic performance and I’m proud to be part of this team,” added the forward, who will make a return to his beloved Boca Juniors from Juventus at the conclusion of the tournament in Chile.
For the time being, though, Tevez is relishing the current experience of helping his country in their attempt to win their first piece of senior silverware for 22 years.
Not even a substitute’s role, something he is not used to, can dim his enthusiasm: “If an opponent that reached the quarter-final of a World Cup only has one shot at your goal, that means you’re doing something right.
“It’s impossible to get into this team when we’re playing the way we are. You just have to enjoy it from the outside, and then when you’re brought on, try to do your best for the good of everyone.” Tevez did just that when put on the spot, exorcising his demons in the process.