Chile's route to final easier than Brazil, Argentina's

Brazil's Thiago Silva (top) believes their Copa America quarter-final opponents Paraguay will be tough to beat but the Selecao will also have to deal with either Argentina or Colombia to get to the final.
Brazil's Thiago Silva (top) believes their Copa America quarter-final opponents Paraguay will be tough to beat but the Selecao will also have to deal with either Argentina or Colombia to get to the final.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A nation expects, as huge billboards on a Santiago building, with the faces of stars Arturo Vidal (left) and Alexis Sanchez, highlight the confidence of Chile to win the Copa America on home ground.
A nation expects, as huge billboards on a Santiago building, with the faces of stars Arturo Vidal (left) and Alexis Sanchez, highlight the confidence of Chile to win the Copa America on home ground.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SANTIAGO - If Brazil are to win their fifth Copa America in seven editions, they are going to have to do it the hard way.

The South American powerhouses will press on without talismanic Neymar in the knock-out stages, which kick off today, after they decided not to appeal his four-match suspension.

But even with Neymar on board, they still need to negotiate a tough half of the draw, which sees Brazil on the same side as World Cup finalists Argentina - ranked third in the Fifa world rankings - and Colombia, rated fifth.

Argentina and Colombia, on the other hand, have been hardest hit, with the two highest-ranked sides facing each other in the last eight.

Whoever progresses will expect to encounter Brazil in the semi-finals, as the Selecao are up against Paraguay.

Paraguay may have reached the final four years ago but have been in free fall since, failing to reach last year's World Cup Finals.

Brazil will expect to progress and the players are eager to exact revenge, having lost to Paraguay on penalties at this very stage four years ago.

"It's going to be a tough match," said centre-back Thiago Silva.

"Paraguay got to the last Copa America final on merit, beating us along the way.

"Beating them on Saturday will have a special meaning."

Paraguay are liable to provide stubborn resistance, having already held Argentina and Uruguay to draws in the pool phase, while beating Jamaica.

Hosts Chile appear to have a far easier route to the final, with only their quarter-final opponents Uruguay - the defending Copa champions and eighth in the Fifa rankings - as their lone threat.

Should they beat Uruguay today, they will face either 61st-ranked Peru or 89th-placed Bolivia in the semi-finals - none of whom reached last year's World Cup Finals like Chile did.

This gives Chile their best chance to win this tournament - in which they have been four times beaten finalists, most recently in 1987.

They are not only playing at home but are also blessed with a golden generation who beat Spain at the World Cup Finals last year.

Boasting Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez and Juventus midfield linchpin Arturo Vidal anchoring a talented outfit, Chile play with pace and verve and thrashed Bolivia 5-0 in their final group game.

They certainly will not be overawed by Uruguay, whose form has also been a bit patchy of late.

They are missing star striker Luis Suarez, still serving a ban for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.

Edinson Cavani has yet to get off the mark for the shot-shy Uruguayans, who mustered just two goals in three pool games.

Tomorrow, outsiders Bolivia and Peru, both former winners of the competition, meet in Temuco.

On Friday, Vina del Mar will be the setting for the Argentina vs Colombia clash.

Argentina have not exactly shone so far but, with an attacking arsenal comprising Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel di Maria, Javier Pastore, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain, they have a great chance to end their 22-year wait to lift the Copa America.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'Chile's route to final easier than Brazil, Argentina's'. Print Edition | Subscribe