Copa America: Uruguay let defending campaign slip through fingers

Chile scrape 1-0 win in ill-tempered quarter-final as La Celeste see two men sent off

Agencies June 26, 2015
Isla celebrates scoring the only goal of the game just nine minutes from time as Chile go through to the semi-finals. PHOTO: AFP

SANTIAGO: Chile sent nine-man Uruguay crashing out of the Copa America on Wednesday, winning an ill-tempered quarter-final 1-0 as controversy over lurid provocation tactics rocked the tournament.

An 81st-minute strike from Juventus defender Mauricio Isla settled a pulsating encounter at Santiago’s Estadio Nacional as holders Uruguay saw striker Edinson Cavani and defender Jorge Fucile sent off.

Fucile’s dismissal for a second yellow card in the closing minutes triggered a mass confrontation, with even Uruguay’s veteran coach Oscar Tabarez coming onto the pitch.

But the post-match commotion focused around the dismissal of Cavani, who flicked a hand into the face of Chile defender Gonzalo Jara after a clash midway through the second half.

Camera footage leading up to the flashpoint, however, appeared to show Jara attempting to insert his finger into Cavani’s anus, prompting the Uruguay player’s reaction.

Tabarez later defended the actions of the Paris Saint-Germain striker, arguing he had been provoked. “For the expulsion of Cavani, you can see what happened and what the challenge was,” said Tabarez. “The referee has not seen it, but the linesman had to be able to see it from his position.”

It is not the first time Jara has been involved in such controversy. In 2013, Luis Suarez punched the defender after the Chilean reportedly grabbed the Uruguay striker’s genitals during a World Cup qualifier.

Tabarez said the dismissal of Cavani at 0-0, turned the tide against his team. “We had the game under control but when we were left with 10 men it became a little more difficult because it limited our opportunities to attack,” said Tabarez.

Uruguay reacted to Cavani’s dismissal doggedly, and kept the hosts at bay with a superb defensive performance led by centre-back Diego Godin. But as the match entered the final 10 minutes, Chile pounced on Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera’s failure to clear a cross.

Chile playmaker Jorge Valdivia slipped a pass to Isla, who drilled in a low finish to spark wild celebrations.

It got worse for Uruguay a few minutes from time when Fucile clattered into Chile star Alexis Sanchez for his second bookable offence.

The Arsenal forward later revealed a Uruguayan player had apologised for the rough treatment he had been given. “They like to fight, argue, go forward all out; one player told me in the first half ‘Move you wimp’ — but then later he said to me: ‘I am sorry’,” said Sanchez.

Messi up against the man who gave him his debut

The pupil faces up to the master when Lionel Messi leads Argentina against Jose Pekerman’s Colombia in their Copa America quarter-final.

Former Argentina coach Pekerman gave Messi his international debut 10 years ago and took him to his first World Cup finals in Germany in 2006. And with 100 caps now under his belt Messi has nothing but praise and gratitude towards Pekerman. “He gave me a lot of advice that I don’t forget.”

It should be an open match which both sides favouring attacking tactics. “Colombia have a game that can favour us because they play and come out [of defence] more than the majority of our rivals,” said winger Angel Di Maria.

Pekerman is now working with another classy number 10, James Rodriguez, top scorer at last year’s World Cup and the man some believe should have been named best player instead of Messi. “We all know they have good players but I think it’s going to be 50-50,” said Rodriguez. 

Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2015.

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