The stage is set for the Copa America Semifinals. Chile is looking to become the first host nation to reach a Copa America Final since Colombia won back in 2001. Chile are going up against a scrappy Peru side that has been one of the big surprises of the tournament. In the other semifinal game, Argentina and Lionel Messi will take on Paraguay.
Chile dominated the quarterfinal game against Uruguay, but only walked away with a 1-0 win after a late winner by Mauricio Isla. Isla got the opportunity to score after a bad clearance by the Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. Muslera came out to punch a cross from the Chilean left side, and punched it straight to Jorge Valdivia, who passed the ball to Isla who was just outside the penalty box. Isla took a couple of steps with the ball inside the area and then struck the ball with his right foot into the back of the net.
Peru pushed Brazil in the opening group stage game, and it took a goal by Douglas Costa in added time in the second half to secure the 2-1 win for the Brazilians. That game was a good indicator that Peru could hold its own against the bigger sides in South America.
They won against Venezuela, 1-0 before drawing 0-0 to Colombia in the final group game. The Peruvians got a favorable opponent in the quarterfinals as they ended up with Bolivia. Bolivia did a great job in reaching the quarterfinals, but the team just wasn’t strong enough to handle Peru.
Paolo Guerrero scored a hat trick as Peru dispatched of Bolivia 3-1. It was a pretty one-sided affair and when Guerrero scored twice within a couple of minutes in the middle of the first half, then it felt like it was a done deal. Chile will be a real tough test for Peru, as they not only have to go up against a really strong team led by Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, but the thousands of home fans that will pack the Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos to the brim.
In the other semifinal, Argentina will take on another surprise team in Paraguay. Paraguay knocked off Brazil on penalties in the quarterfinals to get back in the semifinals for the second straight tournament. Back in 2011 when the last tournament was held (in Argentina), they went all the way to the final but fell short against Uruguay 3-0.
The Brazilians were without their best player and biggest star Neymar who was handed a four-game suspension after getting sent off in the group stage against Colombia. He was missed as Brazil does not have another player of his caliber. They did take the lead against Paraguay in the quarterfinal game with an early goal by Robinho, but Paraguay came back and tied it up from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute. Derlis Gonzalez converted from the spot and after 90 minutes we headed to penalties. Brazil missed a couple of shots and Paraguay came out victorious.
Argentina needed penalties in its quarterfinal against Colombia. Lionel Messi is chasing his first big title with the national team, but they had a difficult time against Colombia, despite having a vast majority of the possession. Messi & Co. had 10 shots towards David Ospina in the Colombian net, but only three of them went on target.
The Colombians were pressed so far back into their own end and weren’t given any opportunities to hit Argentina on the counter attack, and they only mustered one single shot on target. Argentina failed to convert any of the opportunities given, and it was scoreless after 90 minutes. Argentina were cool from the penalty spot and Carlos Tevez scored the winning penalty kick for Argentina.
If Paraguay can show the same tenacity as they did against Brazil, then they can create some trouble for Argentina, but there’s no doubt that the boys in white and baby blue are the heavy favorites.
June 29: Chile – Peru
June 30: Argentina – Paraguay