Chile Squeaks by the Defending Champs, Uruguay, 1-0
by Shea Baldwin
The quarter-finals of the Copa America 2015 kicked off Wednesday night when the defending champions, Uruguay, took on the tournament hosts, Chile at Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile. Chile made the quarter-finals by winning Group A, while Uruguay surprisingly got in by the skin of their teeth, placing as a top-two, third-place team to qualify for the quarters.
After a consistent reputation of upsets and excitement, the Copa America tournament has evolved into the “March Madness,” of summer soccer. The hosts, Chile knocked out the defending champs in a 1-0 victory on Wednesday night. It was the first time Chile had defeated Uruguay in the Copa America since 1983.
Much distraction and off-field issues have plagued the Uruguay squad, which created some skepticism about whether or not they could repeat. Uruguay struggled in group play without their star, Luis Suarez, and Edinson Cavani wasn’t expected to play in the quarter-final match against Chile due to his father’s recent arrest following a fatal car arrest. Their was no guarantee if Arturo Vidal would be playing as well, after allegedly drunk driving his Ferrari and crashing it in Santiago.
As soon as Chile found their feet, Uruguay’s pressure disappeared. At the 33′ mark, Alexis Sanchez had a chance at the far post when a cross was able to find his head, but the attempt went just wide. Four minutes later Arturo Vidal fires in a missile that was well-saved by Uruguayan’ keeper, Fernando Muslera.
Emotions were high, and play was physical throughout the first half. The official issued four yellow cards (two to each side), one of the recipients being Uruguay striker, Edinson Cavani who’s availability for the match was uncertain. The match got ugly real quick.
In the 63′ mark, Cavani was shown off the field for his second yellow card after he slapped Gonzalo Jara in the face. It had appeared Jara placed his hand in an inappropriate manner on Cavani’s backside, prompting the reaction. The official only saw Cavani’s actions, and Uruguay went down a man for the rest of the match.
With Cavani gone and Uruguay down a man, they were forced to play in the defensive as Chile attacked with everything they had to capitalize on the advantage. They finally did at the 81′ mark, when Muslera was able to punch a cross away from his goal, but it went right to Valdivia, who laid it off for Mauricio Isla. Isla cannoned a shot into the bottom-right corner to give Chile the lead, and the victory to advance to the semi-finals.
In a tense, hard-fought match, only one can be the victor during the knockout rounds. It’s win or go home, and that’s what makes the Copa America so special, a dramatic beginning in the elimination round to say the least.
The Copa America Madness continues Thursday, June 25th when Bolivia takes on Peru in Temuco, Chile.
Photo: Associated Press, Reuters.