Argentina are through to the last four of the Copa América winning 5-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw with Colombia in normal time.
After a goalless draw over 90 breathless minutes, the game headed straight for spot-kicks. Both sides netted with all three of their opening attempts before Colombia were the first to blink as Luis Muriel blazed well over. However, Lucas Biglia missed Argentina’s vital fifth.
Blanks from Zuñiga and Rojo took the penalty takers further down the pecking order and after Jeison Murillo’s shot sailed metres over the crossbar, it was left for Carlos Tevez to score – on the day Boca Juniors announced his return to the club – and seal his nation’s place in the semi-finals.
The striker, nicknamed Apache, will treasure that moment as he made up for the decisive penalty miss against Uruguay at the same stage of the competition four years earlier.
Argentina controlled the tempo of the match from the start in a frantic encounter in Viña del Mar and were unfortunate not to be ahead at the break as David Ospina pulled off a magnificent double save to prevent Sergio Agüero and Lionel Messi from scoring from close range in quick succession.
The Arsenal stopper kept out Agüero at the near post before somehow reacting to tip Messi’s downward header over the bar when the Barça forward surely should’ve scored.
Following the two ill-tempered quarter-final games which preceded this fixture, the officials in charge were clearly instructed to clamp down on indiscipline.
However, the Mexican referee Roberto Garcia, who has now awarded 14 yellow cards in two matches in this year’s tournament, put in a confusing and inconsistent performance as six players were booked before the half time whistle.
James Rodríguez, Colombia captain for the day as Radamel Falcao dropped to the bench, was the first name in the referee’s book on 12 minutes after disputing the decision regarding a throw-in. The officiating barely improved from then on and infuriated the Argentine players who were on the receiving end of physical battle all across the pitch.
It’s astonishing Colombia’s Juan Cuadrado escaped with just a booking in this match after he was involved in so many poorly timed tackles directly in front of the referee.
José Pékerman’s main decision ahead of this fixture was over the first-team worth of the under-performing Radamel Falcao. The experienced manager, who lead Argentina to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2006, has shown the Monaco great faith during his reign but after poor performances throughout the group stage, his skipper was replaced with Jackson Mártinez in attack.
Unfortunately for Los Cafeteros, the Atlético-bound forward contributed possibly even less to proceeding and was replaced after 75 minutes. Colombia were so blunt in attack it was frightening, especially regarding the forward talent amongst this supposed ‘golden generation’.
They are eliminated from the tournament having scored just one goal in 360 minutes of action in Chile – and even that was from a set-piece. Admittedly, Pékerman was missing key defensive lynchpins Edwin Valencia and Carlos Sánchez for this match but he was unable to find a formula that worked effectively right through the competition, despite being able to boast one of the strongest front-lines. Falcao, Mártinez, Teó Gutierrez, Carlos Bacca, James Rodríguez and Juan Cuadrado all left their shooting boots at home and leave the competition goalless with a whimper.
Argentina will now face either Brazil or Paraguay in the second semi-final. Tata Martino’s men were far more dangerous going forward compared to recent matches, yet once again, weren’t ruthless enough in front of goal and were almost made to pay for their missed opportunities during the shootout.