South American correspondent Tom Webber brings you all the action from the Copa America.
The final matches Group C took place last night as Chile, Uruguay, Peru and Mexico all vied for a place in the quarter finals. Mexico needed a win to have any hope of qualification, but could have still not qualified from a 3rd place finish. Uruguay had to win to assure their place in the next round, whereas Chile and Peru had already progressed. Last night was all about gaining the best position to achieve a better draw for the next round.
The first game of the evening was Chile versus Peru. It was a fairly uneventful game, owed to the vast amount of changes made by both coaches as they looked to avoid any suspensions from existing yellow cards, as well as offering rest before the quarter finals. Both teams had chances throughout the game to score, however the most clear cut opportunities for both teams were of the same ilk. Chile’s first chance came from a quick exchange between Jean Beausejour and Humberto Suazo down the left, allowing the Birmingham player to get in behind the defence at the byline. He squared the ball across the face of the goal but Esteban Paredes could not divert the ball goalwards and the chance vanished.
Peru had a similar opportunity later on in the first half. A free kick from Michael Guevara, curled in from the left, was left by Chilean defender Waldo Ponce at the back post. The ball was knocked back across the goal towards Josepmir Ballon, who also could not get a good enough connection to give his team the lead.
Another chance for Chile in the dying minutes came from Alexis Sanchez’s work. He was brought on as a substitute with roughly half an hour to play, just before a double sending off for Beausejour and Giancarlo Carmona of Peru. A fairly innocuously challenge seemingly sparked outrage from the Chileans and in the fallout that followed, both Beausejour and Carmona were deemed to have behaved inappropriately and were consequently sent off. Sanchez was a livewire and had troubled Peru since his introduction. He began a pass and move play before darting into the box and receiving the ball, whereupon he squared the ball across the face of the guy. Peruvian defender Christian Ramos got a touch that took the ball away from Suazo, who would have put the ball into the net, and out for a corner.
From the resultant corner Andre Carillo inadvertently sent into his own net after the ball ricocheted of his legs. The second choice goalkeeper, Salomon Libman, did not cover himself in glory as he flapped at the ball, completely missing it. An unexpecting Carillo was struck by the ball, giving Chile the lead and handing them top spot in the group in the 92nd minute. Peru then had to wait and see if they could hold on second place as a Uruguayan win would move them above the Peruvians and set up a tie with Argentina in the next round.
That is precisely what occurred. In a game that was dominated by Uruguay, the took the lead in the 15th minute. Diego Forlan delivered a poor free kick from the right hand side og the box, despite the lack of quality it was deflected towards the Luis Michel in the Mexico goal. Michel was wrongfooted by the change of direction but managed to get down to the ball. Despite all his efforts, he could not hold onto the ball and Alvaro Perreira was on hand to poke it in. Uruguay had plenty of time to expand upon their lead and plenty of chances to match, but could not find the net again. A 1-0 victory was enough to see them through and set up their quarter final tie with Argentina. Chile and Peru will discover who their opponents will be tonight as the group stages draw to a close.
Mexico bowed out of the tournament without a point, but they could hardly have expected more with such an inexperienced side. Their Gold Cup win last month will be more than enough to keep their fans happy. Chile may well be a team to watch in the knockout stages, but there 3 man defence may come under heavy fire if they face Argentina or Brazil later in the tournament. They will face the runner up of Group B which could well be Venezuela or Paraguay, an outcome that would be much preferred to potentially facing the Brazilians.