RÍO DE JANEIRO – In the last 10 minutes of their third Copa América match, Chile lost the first place in the group to Uruguay. Despite being the better team, a late goal by Edinson Cavani decided the game’s outcome. Nevertheless, La Roja can look back satisfied on the group phase.
After the victories against Japan (4-0) and Ecuador (2-1), Chile was already qualified for the quarterfinals of the Copa América in Brazil, and the game against Uruguay would only decide Chile’s next opponent. A draw or victory would mean facing Péru, a loss would mean facing Colombia. And until the 82nd minute, it seemed like La Roja would be facing its Peruvian neighbors in the next round.
But Uruguay’s strength is being able to count on two top-class assassins, strikers playing at the highest international level at Paris St. Germain and FC Barcelona. The entire match, Chile managed to control Luis Suárez and Cavani, but one moment of inattention was enough for Cavani to sneak away from Igor Lichnovsky and score the only goal of the match.
Result Didn’t Reflect The Match
This was a result that by far did not reflect the balance on the pitch. From the very first minutes, La Roja controlled the game, had the best of chances, and managed to keep the Uruguayan strikers away from the still insecure goalkeeper Gabriel Arias. The intentions of Reinaldo Rueda were clear: with a defensive line-up with five defenders, the aim was at least a draw. Players such as Mauricio Isla, Arturo Vidal, and Jean Beausejour were placed on the bench to rest.
Alexis Sánchez, who did play, danced over the pitch like in his younger years. After the first match against Japan, Chile Today spoke of the rebirth of El Niño Maravilla and it seems that Sánchez really has gotten back his form in time for the Copa. Especially in the first half, Sánchez was a constant danger for the Uruguayan defense. Always helping teammates, working hard and pressing the Uruguayan defenders—just not fortunate in his shots on goal.
That was the story of La Roja yesterday: control on the pitch, but the last pass and the space to surprise Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera were missing. And when Paulo Díaz managed to do so in the second half with a header out of a corner, his attempt got cleared just before it passed the line.
Uruguay, an experienced squad with players as Martín Cáceres, Nicolás Lodeiro, and the Atlético Madrid defending duo, Diego Godín and Jose Gimenez, seemed to be satisfied with a 0-0. But after Gary Medel and Gonzalo Jara got substituted, the fundament of the Chilean defense was replaced. And out of nothing, being the classic number 9 he is, Cavani sneaked away and scored the 1-0.
Perspectives For Colombia
Although Chile lost the match and first place in its group, the game offered enough perspectives. Sánchez was even better than in the previous two matches, other players of the Chilean squad could make their minutes, we finally saw that passionate Copa América ambiance in a packed Maracana Stadium and the overall play offered hope and perspectives. Especially for this Friday, June 28, when Chile faces Colombia at 7:00 p.m.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.