SÃO PAOLO – Beforehand, Colombia was seen as one of the favorites to win the Copa América. Chile went as champion to Brazil, but with little expectations, even in their home country. How the world has changed for Chile after a thrilling quarterfinal against Colombia, where penalties decided the outcome.
Where rivals as Brazil and Argentina are struggling with manifesting their form, Chile has convinced from the very first match at this Copa América. After the thriller against Colombia, the current champion can call itself once again the favorite to go home with the South American title. Who said that the golden generation has turned grey?
Chile fought more than just the eleven Colombians on the pitch in the Morumbi stadium on Friday night it seemed, as twice Argentine referee Néstor Pitana cancelled a Chilean goal after consulting the VAR. Both times, the decision was doubtful. The bigger was the euphoria after Alexis Sánchez decided over Colombia’s faith when he scored the fifth penalty.
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Passion After a 20-minutes Delay
The game started with a 20-minutes delay, as the Chilean squad got stuck in Brazilian rush hour. The patience of the fans got rewarded with a spectacular match, full of the passion soccer fans missed in the first matches of the Copa América.
Colombia, with standouts as Radamel Falcao and James Rodríguez in their starting eleven, got the best of chances in the first minutes of the game. Chile did what it does best during these tournaments: they grouped together, defended with heart and soul and most important, they survived.
But in a show of mental strength, Chile turned the game around in the 16th minute when Charles Aranguíz scored the 1-0, after Colombian Davison Sánchez failed to clear away a cross from Jean Beausejour. After celebrations from the Chilean side, referee Pitana was attended by the VAR that Aranguíz had been offside. Without consulting video footage himself, the Argentine cancelled the goal.
The decision caused for a furious La Roja, who tried to take their sportive revenge. The two central defenders of Colombia, Davinson Sánchez and Yerry Mina had their hands full, with shots from Eduardo Vargas, Alexis Sánchez, José Pedro Fuenzalida and Arturo Vidal. The whistle for half time felt like relief for Colombia.
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After the VAR Came the Penalties
With shots from Juan Cuadrado and James Rodríguez, the Colombians got the best of chances at the start of the second half. Chile survived, although the creativity of the Colombian squad caused for harsh moments in front of the goal of the heavily criticized goalkeeper Gabriel Arias.
If Chile has shown something this Copa América, it is their ability to score out of nothing. Vidal found the far corner in the 70th minute and Chile seemed to finally get what they deserved this match: the opening goal. But as the VAR and referee Pitana seemed to be another opponent this night, this time the goal was cancelled because hands was detected. Again, a doubtful decision.
Penalties had to decide the outcome, as in this Copa América edition, teams don’t play extra time in the quarterfinals. A prospect La Roja could approach with confidence, as the last two Copa América finals got both decided with a penalty series, both won by Chile.
And that Chile and penalties is a good combination, was confirmed on the pitch. Colombian goal keepers had no answer to the rockets produced by the Chileans, while Chilean goalkeeper Gabriel Arias got closer and closer to stopping a Colombian penalty. When Colombian defender Tesillo shot his penalty wide of the post, it was up to Alexis Sánchez, the star of the tournament so far, to decide the game.
Memories revived from the Copa América 2015 final, when Sánchez brought the country the title by scoring the fifth penalty against Argentina. And this time, in the quarterfinals against Colombia, El Niño Maravilla did what was asked of him and shot Chile to the semifinals, where they will face neighbor Peru on Wednesday, July 3, at 20.30.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.