Copa America 2016

Football: A more exciting Copa America final expected

Argentina's Lionel Messi (right) celebrates with teammates after scoring a free-kick against USA during their Copa America Centenario semifinal football match.
Argentina's Lionel Messi (right) celebrates with teammates after scoring a free-kick against USA during their Copa America Centenario semifinal football match.PHOTO: AFP

Chile get job done with early goals and will meet Argentina in repeat of 2015 showdown

CHICAGO • Chile overcame a severe storm, a 21/2-hour delay and a battling Colombia to advance to the Copa Centenario final with a 2-0 win on Wednesday.

On a late night at Soldier Field - the game did not finish until after 11.15pm local time - Chile did their most important work early on, scoring two quick goals and defending well enough to frustrate a fitful Colombia.

Chile will play Argentina in Sunday's final in East Rutherford, New Jersey, a reprise of last year's title match in Santiago, when Chile beat Argentina in a penalty shoot- out after the game ended 0-0.

With Argentina having scored 18 goals in their five Copa matches so far, including four times in each of their past two games, and Chile's attack in good form, it is hard to envision another goal-less stalemate.

Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Charles Aranguiz opened the scoring in the seventh minute before Jose Pedro Fuenzalida made it 2-0 after 11 minutes.

"It's a good feeling to be back in the final again after overcoming difficult opponents," Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said. "We got off to a good start, played aggressively and had a lot of anticipation. That helped us score the goals."

Chile's explosive start to the contest was overshadowed by the intervention of Mother Nature at half-time, as a powerful electrical thunderstorm rolled into downtown Chicago and halted play.

Tens of thousands of spectators were ordered to take shelter inside the stadium, leaving the ground empty as torrential rain pounded the stands.

For a while it looked as if play would be abandoned, with the teams forced to return to the venue yesterday to complete the remaining 45 minutes.

However, a break in the weather allowed teams of ground staff to set about clearing excess water from the field, and after a delay of almost 21/2 hours, the second half resumed at 10.25pm local time.

The closing stages of the game descended into a niggly encounter, with referee Chicas Aguilar of El Salvador eventually issuing eight yellow cards and one red.

Colombia's Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 57th minute - a mistimed challenge that did not deserve a yellow card, especially given the difficulty of playing on a pitch resembling a paddling pool.

"It's one of those nights where you feel a certain amount of unfairness," Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. "We made mistakes and we paid for them in the beginning."

Argentina had beaten the Chileans 2-1 in their opening Group D match earlier this month.

Colombia will face the United States in the third-place game tomorrow in Glendale, Arizona.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline 'A more exciting final expected'. Print Edition | Subscribe