South American correspondent Tom Webber brings you all the action from the Copa America.
Argentina was a nation in shock last night as the first two Quarter Finals of the tournament provided upsets. Colombia faced Peru in Cordoba in the first game of the evening, followed by Argentina vs Uruguay in an exciting tie to be played in Santa Fe. Colombia had looked strong in the Group Stages, managing to win their group that included hosts Argentina. Peru qualified as the best placed team to finish third in their group.
Colombia were favourites heading into their game against Peru. They have troubled defences with Dayro Moreno, Adrian Ramos and Radamel Falcao playing as the forward three. In the last 5 Copa America’s however, Peru had reached at least the Quarter Final stage. They would be hoping to go a step further as they look to improve on their impressive record.
Colombia dominated the game in the first half but could not get the final ball to work. The best chances of the half came from Juan Manuel Vargas and Dayro Moreno. Vargas’s shots were a constant worry for Neco Martinez in the Colombia goal, he had to stay on his toes as the Peruvian captain could, and would, shoot from anywhere. Moreno hit the ball into the side netting after it fell to him in the box from Fredy Guarin’s corner.
The second half was more eventful. Moreno was proving to be the main threat for Colombia. He got in behind the defence but hit his cross shot wide before winning a penalty for his team by chasing a long ball that was bouncing high in the area. Porto hitman Falcao stepped up to convert the penalty but missed the target, shooting wide to Martinez’s right. Both Moreno and Guarin hit the woodwork for Colombia in the closing stages as they continued to search for a goal. However, neither team could find one and so extra time ensued.
After Ramos could not convert a good chance for Colombia, Peru used a long free kick to pump the ball in to the box. Martinez made a hash of his attempted diving clearance, leaving the ball bouncing out of the corner of the box. Carlos Lobaton latched on to the ball with a superb rising volley that found the top corner of the open goal. Peru took the lead in the 101st minute of the game.
Ten minutes later, in the second half of extra time, a miscommunication between Martinez and his defence led to his goal kick falling short of its target allowing Jose Paolo Guerrero to steel in ahead of the defender and charge for the by line. He cut back in and managed to poke the ball to Vargas before the onrushing defender could close him properly. Vargas unleashed a superb striker that finds the top corner putting Peru into the Semi’s where they would face the winner of the following Quarter Final between Argentina and Uruguay.
With the game only two minutes old, Diego Perez of Uruguay was lucky to still be on the pitch. He produced at two footed tackle that would likely have been given a red in the Premiership, but was only awarded a yellow card for the challenge. Just three minutes later the midfield terrier was on hand to give his nation the lead after Alvaro Pereira’s header from a Diego Forlan free kick could not be effectively turned away by Sergio Romero in the Argentine goal. Nicolas Burdisso tried to keep the weak attempt from crossing the line but it was to no avail as Uruguay took the lead.
Argentina responded well to going behind and were level within twelve minutes. Lionel Messi, cutting in from the right hand side, dinked a beautifully weighted ball in to the area. Gonzalo Higuain managed to get his head on the delightful ball and dispatched the chance, bringing Argentina level. Perez was then giving his marching orders in the 38th minute for a blatant block whereby he stopped an Argentina counter attack.
Despite having the man advantage over their fierce rivals, Argentina could not find the second goal that would likely have secured their progression. Instead, in the 87th minute Mascherano made a clumsy tackle in the middle of the pitch when there was no need. He received his second yellow card and the teams would be level for extra time.
Extra time passed by without a goal meaning that the hosts and favourites for the tournament had to win a Penalty Shootout. Both teams scored the first two penalties; Messi and Burdisso for Argentina, Forlan and Luis Suarez for Uruguay. Next it was Carlos Tevez, the subject of much debate before the tournament as to whether he was to be included. The typically clinical striker missed his penalty, not finding the corner and putting it at a nice hit for Fernando Muslera to save. All the following spot kicks were saved and so Argentina were eliminated.
July 16th is a date of great memories in Uruguay as it was the date of their 1950 World Cup win in Brazil, beating the hosts in the final. This Uruguay squad will now hope to build on this triumph and start writing their own history. Sergio Batista has also refused to call the campaign a failure and putting emphasis on qualifying for the World Cup, he will be lucky to still be in the job for that period. Argentina will need to improve defensively and include more creativity if they hope to overcome this barren spell and begin winning silverware again.
So it is Uruguay vs Peru in the first Semi Final, the two underdogs. They have shown how open this Copa America has been and will now be dreaming of victory in Buenos Aires at the Monumental on July the 24th.
Read more from Tom at his excellent blog Purple Patch