Chile have qualified for the semi-finals of the Copa América after a tempestuous 1-0 win over defending champions Uruguay.
Mauricio Isla scored the only goal of the game in the 81st minute to send Jorge Sampaoli’s men through with the game heading for penalty kicks. Opponents Uruguay offered very little threat going forward and were rightly reduced to nine players after both Edinson Cavani and Jorge Fucile were shown two yellow cards for bookable offences. Manager Óscar Tabárez was also sent to the stand for his behaviour in a 10 minute on-pitch squabble between both sets of players and staff.
PSG striker Cavani will be particularly disgusted with himself for the manner in which he was sent off. The first yellow was deservedly shown after he reacted petulantly to a decision against him whilst tussling with Arturo Vidal and voiced his dismay by screaming in the linesman’s face and purposely bumping into the official.
His second was equally as ill-mannered. Irked by the constant antics of Gonzalo Jara and Gary Medel all game, Cavani was provoked into slapping the former West Brom and Nottingham Forest defender. The incident took place in clear sight of the referee and the man in charge had no choice but to send the Celeste forward for an early bath.
At time it looked like attack v defence at the Estadio Nacional with Uruguay’s backs against the wall for large periods of the match. The holders, who have now lost their crown, rarely enjoyed bouts of pressure on La Roja’s goal and only looked threatening from their limited set pieces into the box.
Without Luis Suárez and Diego Forlán to rely on, due to suspension and retirement respectively, Uruguay lack any cutting edge in the final third. Cavani had just one shot on target in four matches and leaves the tournament under a black cloud after failing to score. He will now return to his homeland where he will assist his father with a serious drink driving case.
Uruguay look a completely different side to the one that lifted the Copa title four years ago. The fact that everyone expected Tabárez to set up his side in such a negative style demonstrates how far the 15-time champions have fallen in recent years.
There is no doubt they are currently enduring a tough transition within eras. The display against Chile – which verged on anti-football at times – is further evidence that the current side are a far cry from the national team that achieved so much in Argentina in 2011.
Chile, on the other hand, will be thoroughly relieved they were not made to pay with a penalty shootout.
In the first 45 minutes, Sampaoli’s side enjoyed almost 80% of the ball but managed just three shots on goal as they were contained by Tabárez’s strictly regimented defensive unit. Palmeiras playmaker Jorge Valdívia was a joy to watch as he nutmegged, feinted and dummied his way through the opening periods.
Throughout the second half, particularly after going a man down with 30 minutes to play, Uruguay dropped deeper and deeper into their own area and at times had almost all their players bar Hull City’s Ábel Hernández inside their box.
However, Chile’s work-rate, exemplified by Man of the Match Alexis Sánchez eventually paid off. Nando Muslera’s punch clear landed at the feet of Arturo Vidal, who calmly toe-poked the ball to Isla on the edge of the box. The Juventus defender put his foot through the ball and found the bottom right corner with the Galatasaray number one still out of position and unsighted by a wall of bodies.
Chile advance to the final four for the first time since 1999, whilst Uruguay produce the worst defence of the Copa América title since Brazil also exited the competition at the quarter-final stage back in 2001.