‘Best team of first round’ Chile a worry for Uruguay

The most successful team in the history of the Copa America take on the most impressive side from the first round when Uruguay face Chile in the first quarter-final.
Chilean midfielder Marcelo Diaz, right, agrees that ‘Chile were the best team in the group stage, but that’s over now’. They face Uruguay at Santiago tonight. Carlos Succo / EPA
Chilean midfielder Marcelo Diaz, right, agrees that ‘Chile were the best team in the group stage, but that’s over now’. They face Uruguay at Santiago tonight. Carlos Succo / EPA

The most successful team in the history of the Copa America take on the most impressive side from the first round when Uruguay face Chile in the first quarter-final Wednesday.

The Uruguayans are the defending champions and have won the competition 15 times – more than Argentina or Brazil.

Hosts Chile have never won it but finished unbeaten and top of Group A having scored 10 goals in their opening three matches – twice as many as any other side in the competition.

“The statistics are clear. Chile played very well in the group stage,” Chile’s midfielder Marcelo Diaz said. “So, yes, I agree that Chile were the best team in the group stage but that’s over now. Now we start the games of life and death.”

The winners of today’s tie at Santiago will face either Peru or Bolivia who meet in the southern city of Temuco on Thursday.

On the other side of the draw, Argentina and Brazil could be heading for a semi-final showdown.

The Argentines take on Colombia in their quarter-final at Vina del Mar on Friday and Brazil face Paraguay in Chile’s second city, Concepcion, on Saturday.

Argentina were enigmatic in the group stage.

They played superbly in the first half against Paraguay before surrendering a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2. Similarly, against Jamaica, they took an early lead but failed to kill off the match and had to settle for a 1-0 win.

“We’re lacking a killer instinct,” coach Gerardo Martino said after the Jamaica match. “You can’t account for players with the ability that ours have, missing so many chances.

“The fact that we didn’t finish off the match, plus the physical issues we’re having towards the end of the games, leaves me feeling a bit uneasy.”

Martino’s men will take on a Colombia side who are also failing to fire and needed a helping hand from Brazil in the final round of group matches to avoid elimination.

Playmaker James Rodriguez has not had much of an impact, and they will play the rest of the tournament without key midfielder Edwin Valencia, who tore a cruciate ligament in Sunday’s drab goalless draw with Peru in Group C.

Brazil finished top of that group but have yet to set the Copa alight. They beat Peru and Venezuela by a single goal and lost to Colombia.

They have also lost their star striker Neymar, suspended for the rest of the tournament for his part in a fracas against the Colombians.

Robinho took Neymar’s place in their last match and is likely to start against Paraguay.

Neymar yesterday denied insulting a referee after being sent off in the game against Colombia and said the incident was a mix-up. He received a four-game suspension after the incident in last week’s group game.

Conmebol said Neymar was given such a lengthy ban because he grabbed the referee by the arms and insulted him in the tunnel to the changing rooms.

But Neymar said he only waited in the tunnel to ask the referee why he was sent off and claimed that a commotion started after people thought he was going to do something else to the referee.

“Almost nothing happened in the tunnel,” Neymar told Globo TV. “I knew that (the ref) was coming, so I ended up waiting for him to ask why he sent me off. But then there was a commotion, with security and other people thinking that I was nervous and maybe was going to hit him or something like that.”

A Conmebol official said Neymar’s punishment was aggravated by him waiting for the referee inside the tunnel.

The Barcelona star was sent off after kicking the ball towards Colombia’s Pablo Armero after the referee blew for full-time in the Group C game in that Brazil lost 1-0.

Neymar also appeared to try to butt another player who came to confront him, igniting a brief brawl. Colombia’s Carlos Bacca, who shoved Neymar from behind, also was sent off.

“Brazil can still win matches, can still win the Copa America,” Neymar said. “Brazil still has great players. They can handle this.”

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Published: June 23, 2015 04:00 AM

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