Views: 1094, Date:23/Jun/2016

No Arturo Vidal, no problem as Chile beat Colombia en route to Copa final

CHICAGO -- Chile defeated Colombia 2-0 in the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario and will play Argentina in Sunday's final at MetLife Stadium in a rematch of last year's final. Early goals by Charles Aranguiz and Jose Fuenzalida staked La Roja to an early lead, and though Colombia created their share of chances, they couldn't make the breakthrough to climb back into the match.

Here are three thoughts on La Roja's impressive win.

1. Shorthanded Chile finds a way

Chile's 7-0 hammering of Mexico in the quarterfinals came at a price -- or so it was thought. Midfield mainstay Arturo Vidal picked up his second yellow card of the tournament and was suspended for the semifinal. Complicating matters was the fact that Vidal's midfield running mate, Marcelo Diaz, injured his hamstring and couldn't recover in time to make Juan Antonio Pizzi's starting lineup.

The two absences figured to have a severe impact on La Roja's ability to press high up the field, but they didn't, as a pair of early goals put Chile in front.

Pizzi dropped Aranguiz into Diaz's deep midfield role alongside Francisco Silva, and Chile didn't miss a beat, thanks to an unlikely hero. Fuenzalida continually bombed forward early and often from the right wing, and he had a hand in both goals. His cross in the seventh minute was inexplicably headed back across goal by Colombia attacker Juan Cuadrado, which allowed Aranguiz to ghost in and volley home. Just four minutes later, Sanchez juked his way past a Colombian defender. He rattled the post with his shot, but Fuenzalida was perfectly positioned to tap home the rebound to make it 2-0.

At that point, Chile showed they can win games by defending low as well as pressing high. Colombia soon found their rhythm and began carrying the play, yet La Roja were perfectly content to defend deep and dare Colombia to break it down, especially after Pedro Pablo Hernandez was forced out of the match with a knee injury.

Severe thunderstorms that passed through the Chicago area saw a weather delay imposed by tournament organizers that lasted more than two hours, with fans instructed to seek shelter. It made for a bizarre night. When play resumed after halftime, it was Chile that coped more readily with the conditions. Credit must go to Aranguiz and Silva for their performances. They might not be as effective as Vidal and Diaz, but it was enough, especially in the second half, when they did plenty to disrupt Colombia's attack.

Overall, the performance was a far cry from the quarterfinal demolition of Mexico, but given the number of key players who were missing, Chile will gladly take the win and move on to the final.

2. Colombia couldn't find a way past inspired Bravo

Colombia will no doubt rue the opening 11 minutes, because from that point forward, they created the first half's better chances and for the most part controlled the tempo. James Rodriguez began finding pockets of space between Chile's backline and midfield, and forward Roger Martinez began pulling the Chilean defense apart with some determined, angled runs. Edwin Cardona also proved to be influential.

But for all of Colombia's impressive approach work, they couldn't put any shots past Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. Bravo suffered through a steep drop in form during the group stage, which led to calls that he should be dropped. He was culpable on at least one of the goals in Chile's 2-1 defeat to Argentina and let in two soft goals in a 4-2 win over Panama.


Bravo was sensational between the posts for Chile, as he made several top saves to preserve the victory.

But Pizzi repeatedly defended Bravo, and it paid off, as the Barcelona keeper came up big. He parried away a low shot from Martinez in the 23rd minute and got a hand to Santiago Arias' effort 10 minutes later. He finished the first half with a flurry of saves and punches and did well to touch Sanchez's dipping drive wide of goal. On a night when Bravo needed to be at his best, he delivered. That spell just before the end of the first half proved to be a critical stretch.

Colombia needed to score before halftime to give them hope and sow some seeds of doubt in Chile. But the weather did Colombia few favors, as Los Cafeteros never regained the rhythm they showed prior to the lengthy delay. Any hope Colombia had of getting back in the match vanished in the 57th minute, when Carlos Sanchez was ejected for receiving his second caution. Chile's defensive prowess took over from there and smothered Rodriguez for the rest of the evening. His late free kick that he slammed straight into the wall summed up his night.

All told, Colombia seemed to lose its way after the first two games of this tournament and failed to score during the knockout stage. Now all that's left for Colombia is the third-place game against the U.S. on Saturday in Glendale.

3. Rematch of 2015 Copa America final looms

Chile and Argentina have been the best teams in the tournament by a long way and will deservedly contest Sunday's final. It will be a chance for La Albiceleste to exact a bit of revenge after they lost last year's Copa America final to hosts Chile via a penalty shootout.

La Roja will no doubt receive a boost from Vidal's return. Perhaps Diaz will have recovered in time too; regardless, the rest of the squad looks to be approaching peak form. On the downside, Chile will have one fewer day of rest, and it remains to be seen how the lengthy delay will impact the team physically.

Argentina will certainly be favorites -- not just because they opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Chile. Argentina played that entire match without the services of Lionel Messi, who was still recovering from a rib injury. Although the loss of Ezequiel Lavezzi to an elbow injury is a blow, Tata Martino's squad has more than enough reinforcements, so there will be little to no discernible drop-off.

Argentina will have more pressure on them than Chile. La Albiceleste most recently won a major trophy when they claimed the Copa America crown in 1993. Since losing the most recent World Cup and Copa America finals, Argentina will be looking to make amends. As for Messi, the opportunities to win silverware at international level are running out. Sunday will bring a huge chance to fill in that part of his résumé.


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