Chicago: Riding on a couple of first half goals, defending champions Chile strode into the finals of the Copa America Centenario football tournament defeating a 10-man Colombia 2-0 in the semis at the Soldier Field Stadium here. Charles Aranguiz (7th minute) and Jose Fuenzalida (11th) struck in the early stages on Thursday to take Chile into the final for the second time in a row. The defending champions will battle Argentina for the title in a repeat of last year’s final. Chile pipped Argentina via penalty shootout in the final of the 2015 edition and the ‘Albcieste’ will be hungry for revenge this year.
Argentina thrashed hosts US in the other semi-final on Wednesday. Colombia will take on US in the play-off for third place. The stadium was hit by a severe storm during the half-time break and the start of the second half was delayed for over two hours due to the threat of lightning. Earlier, Chile decimated Mexico 7-0 in the quarter-finals and they carried that devastating form into the last-four stage.
The defending champions packed the midfield with five players which allowed them to dominate the attacking third and were extremely fast on the counter which caught the Colombian defence off guard time and again. The Colombian forwardline, on the other hand, were off-colour and did not look too threatening, specially in the second half. Chile enjoyed a dream start when Pedro Fuenzalida picked up a loose ball and made a run down the right before cutting in and whipping in a cross into the Colombian penalty box. Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado’s attempted clearance went awry, allowing Aranguiz to place the ball ino the net from close range.
Chile doubled their lead soon after when star striker Alexis Sanchez received a long goal kick and deftly out-foxed a defender on the edge of the penalty area before firing in a shot at the near post. The rebound fell kindly for an unmarked Fuenzalida who made no mistake. Colombia never recovered from there. After the second half was delayed by severe thundershowers, both sets of players struggled to adjust to the wet outfield. Things turned from bad to worse for Colombia in the 57th minute when Carlos Sanchez was sent off after receiving a second yellow card. That knocked the winds out of Colombia’s sails and Chile held on for a well deserved victory. –IANS
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