CHILE could end their 99-years of frustration by lifting the Copa de America if they beat Argentina tonight.
Since its foundation in 1916, Chile are yet to hoist La Copa – footballs’ oldest piece of silverware – despite finishing as runners up an agonizing four times.
The tournament hosts, however, edged ever closer to winning the tournament on home soil after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Peru saw them reach their first Copa final in 28 years, thanks to a brace from former QPR striker Eduardo Vargas.
In the other semi-final, Argentina continued to prove why they are tournament favourites with a ruthless 6-1 thrashing against Paraguay and remain on course to win their first title since 1993.
Chile will be buoyed by the outcome of their gritty win against Peru and the match certainly epitomised the two teams’ fierce rivalry – traditionally known as ‘Clasico del Pacifico’. Peru fought with resilience against the hosts despite going down to ten men early on when Peruvian defender Carlos Zambrano was dismissed just twenty minutes into the game after a late challenge on Charles Aranguiz.
Peru, who were furious by the decision to send Zambrano from the field, were angered even more when Vargas scrambled in a Sanchez’s shot before half-time after replays showed that the Chilean striker had come from an off-side position.
Peru bravely equalised on the hour mark after former Cardiff midfielder Mendel turned a Chilean cross into his own net, but Peru’s celebrations were short lived when Vargas fired a stunning second, looping his shot over Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
The luck of the ‘Golden Generation’?
Some are calling this current Chilean side the best the country has ever produced in decades, others are even likening the team to a ‘golden generation’ of talent. La Rioja’s players, therefore, will want to live up to the reputation they have rightly earned themselves throughout this tournament and will carry the weight of a nation on their shoulders going into final against Argentina. Could this be their time to finally lift the Copa? Or has much of their tournament success so far been down to fortunate refereeing decisions?
Chile’s semi-final clash was the second game in a row where at least one of their opposing players has been sent off. The hosts started the game without Gonzalo Jara, who had already begun a ban after he deliberately poked his finger up the backside of Uruguay striker Edinson Cavan in their quarter-final clash, who was also sent from the field along with fellow Uruguayan team mate Jorge Futile. In their semi-final encounter, the controversial decision to send Zambrano off largely overshadowed the rest of the match and was one which turned the game the hosts’ way. Arturo Vidal, however, was lucky to escape punishment for shoving his hand into the face of Zambrano in the build up to Peru’s only goal.
Impeding Impressive Argentina
With the string of refereeing decisions that have gone Chile’s way in this tournament so far, Argentina will want to keep their cool and not let tempers fray tonight if they want to deny Chile in front of a home crowd at Santiago’s national stadium.
Although Gerard Martino’s side haven’t been as goal-prolific as expected in the tournament prior to their semi-final victory, they comprehensively hit Paraguay for six in what was a dazzling attacking display – arguably the best of their tournament so far.
Marcos Rojo put Argentina ahead from a Lionel Messi free-kick and Javier Pastore soon made it 2-0 with a powerful low drive after receiving an inch-perfect pass from Messi, who again was the provider.
Paraguay managed to pull one back through Lucas Barrios right before the break, but a brace from Manchester United’s Angel Di Maria comfortably put Argentina into the driving seat early on in the second half.
Sergio Aguero headed in a fifth and Gonzalo Higuain came off the bench to blast in a sixth.
It was an impressive victory from Gerardo Martino’s side, who will now play what will be their third Copa America final throughout the last four competitions.
Can Messi captain Argentina to the Copa?
Lionel Messi undoubtedly played an important role in his team’s dismantling of Paraguay. Although he didn’t get on the scoresheet, he played a part in five of his team’s goals and the four-time World Player of the Year now has the chance to win his first international honours in the final.
While Messi has scored for fun with his club – it’s a completely different story when he wears his national colours. In six major tournaments – three World Cups and three Copa Americas, he has netted only eight goals in 30 games, with his last for Argentina coming more than a year ago.
It’s not a surprise, then, that Messi’s trophy cabinet is certainly lacking signs of silverware on the international front.
Having failed to score so far in La Copa, tonight’s final could be the moment when Argentina – and Lionel Messi, have a taste of victory, one which they haven’t enjoyed in quite a while.
Featured photo: cubasi.com