Seeking tribute to late uncle

Gonzalez wants final spot even more as relative dies while celebrating win

CONCEPCION (Chile) - Paraguay striker Derlis Gonzalez has more reason than others to give his all against Argentina in their Copa America football semi-final tonight.

The Basel midfielder scored Paraguay's penalty in normal time, before taking his chance from the spot in a shoot-out, to secure a famous 4-3 win over five-time world champions Brazil in last Saturday's quarter-finals.

Paraguay's Derlis Gonzalez celebrating with goalkeeper Justo Villar after the midfielder scored the winning penalty in their shoot-out against Brazil. His uncle died of a heart attack celebrating the surprise result back home.
Paraguay's Derlis Gonzalez celebrating with goalkeeper Justo Villar after the midfielder scored the winning penalty in their shoot-out against Brazil. His uncle died of a heart attack celebrating the surprise result back home. PHOTO: REUTERS


But his joy was short-lived after being informed that his uncle Irrazabal Manuel died of a heart attack while celebrating the team's surprise victory back home.

KEEPING DREAM STILL ALIVE

To see my team-mates with tears in their eyes, you can't put a price on that. Nobody trusted in us when we arrived here... now we're thinking about taking Argentina down.

- Derlis Gonzalez of Paraguay, on the team's amazing progress

"Why today uncle? Why? You left me after a heart attack because I gave you so much joy and so much happiness. I can't believe it," Gonzalez, 21, wrote mournfully on Twitter.

The tragedy has made Paraguay even more determined to beat Argentina as a tribute to his late uncle.

"We know Argentina. They are the world's best team with the world's greatest player in Lionel Messi. But we will go into battle to win," said Paraguay coach Ramon Diaz.

"We know we are going to face a great team, but this team has great spirit and we are going to fight for all Paraguay people."

Paraguay had been punching above their weight this tournament. They are unbeaten in their three matches against former World Cup winners Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

Tonight's match will be a repeat of their group clash against Argentina, when they battled from two down to draw 2-2.

Gonzalez, who served notice of his burgeoning talent last season by scoring a Champions League goal for Basel against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, paid tribute to his team-mates after their progress into the semis.

"To see my team-mates with tears in their eyes, you can't put a price on that," he said.

"Nobody trusted in us when we arrived here. But we're a very united team and we have more to give in this tournament... now we're thinking about taking Argentina down to go into the final."

Argentina looked good in their last match against Colombia but once again struggled to find the net, despite having attacking talents Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria in their starting line-up.

"It's terrible what it's costing me to get a goal," Messi, accustomed to breaking scoring records in Spain and Europe with Barcelona, said after Argentina beat Colombia 5-4 on penalties following a 0-0 draw in their quarter-final.

In the end it was their reserve striker, Carlos Tevez, who eased them into the last four with the decisive penalty in a shoot-out.

Interestingly, whichever team lift the trophy next weekend, one thing is guaranteed - the winning coach will be an Argentinian.

All four semi-finalists have Argentinian coaches. Chile are led by Jorge Sampaoli, Peru by Ricardo Gareca, Argentina by Gerardo Martino and Paraguay by Ramon Diaz.

Thirteen players go into the semis on yellow cards and if they are booked would miss the final.

They include Messi, his Argentina team-mate Javier Mascherano and Chile's influential playmaker Jorge Valdivia.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2015, with the headline 'SEEKING TRIBUTE TO LATE UNCLE'. Print Edition | Subscribe