Copa America 2019: Player ratings as Alexis Sanchez fires Chile into semis with winning penalty

Andy West 29/06/2019
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Alexis Sanchez fired Chile into the Copa America semi-finals by converting the winning penalty in a shoot-out following a goalless draw against Colombia.

Defences were on top during the 90 minutes, with neither team creating many chances and star forwards kept quiet.

Find out how all the players rated in Sao Paulo.

COLOMBIA

Ospina 6. Got away with a clanger for Chile’s disallowed goal and had little else to do other than catching Vargas’s late chip.

Medina 6. Had his hands full with Sanchez, picking up a yellow card for fouling him, and couldn’t get forward much.

Mina 7. Towering performance in the centre of Colombia’s defence, comfortably dealing with Vargas and never looking troubled.

Sanchez 6. Rescued by the offside flag after a poor attempted clearance but otherwise a solid enough performance.

Tesillo 6. A reliable presence defensively in his left-back position but sent his shoot-out spot-kick horribly wide.

Cuadrado 6. Prominent early presence on the right of midfield, but was erratic with his final delivery into the box.

Barrios 7. Solid disciplined display in front of his back four, keeping it simple in possession and picking up plenty of loose balls.

Uribe 5. Tried to get forward to support Falcao in the box, but his influence was limited and he was the first man replaced.

James 6. Showed his class with some sumptuous touches and curled a free-kick into the side-netting. Frustrated later on.

Falcao 6. Started well and had an early effort well blocked, but gradually faded and was replaced after 75 minutes.

Martinez 6. Plenty of direct attacking intent from the left wing, but he couldn’t find a way through and was replaced late on.

Subs

Cardona 6. Added yet more physicality into an already intensely contested midfield. Netted his penalty in the shoot-out.

Zapata 5. A late entrant as the focal point of Colombia’s attack, but barely touched the ball as Colombia retreated.

Diaz 5. Came on for the final few minutes but was unable to make much impact as the game petered out to penalties.

James Rodriguez

CHILE

Arias 6. Rarely troubled by a toothless Colombian attack, not having to work too hard to maintain his clean sheet.

Isla 6. A growing attacking presence as Chile settled into the game, offering a consistent outlet down the right.

Medel 6. Typically feisty and committed display from the veteran skipper, who will probably still be playing in 2119.

Maripan 8. Made a great early block to deny Falcao and defended with calm authority. Came close with a first half header.

Beausejour 6. Had a good tussle with Cuadrado and came out with honours more or less even, although attacking impact was limited.

Vidal 7. Fired a decent chance wide late in the first half and unlucky to have a second half goal disallowed. Strong showing.

Pulgar 6. Neat and tidy in the heart of midfield, doing a good job to nullify the threat of James as the game wore on.

Aranguiz 6. Worked hard and regularly sprang forward from midfield to threaten the penalty box, but was rarely found.

Fuenzalida 5. Could not make much impact down the right wing and was replaced with 15 minutes remaining.

Vargas 5. Barely had a kick in the first half. Later misjudged a cross when given a great chance and came close with a late chip.

Sanchez 6. Buzzed around with plenty of enthusiasm and always looked dangerous, but had no clear sights of goal.

Subs

Pavez 5. Came onto the right flank for the final stages as Chile’s only substitute, but didn’t add much to the action.

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Copa America 2019: So near, yet so VAR for Colombia as Chile reach semi-finals

Andy West 29/06/2019
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Chile booked their place in the Copa America semi-finals with a penalty shootout victory over Colombia in Sao Paulo, keeping alive the reigning champions’ hopes of claiming a third consecutive title.

It was a game of few clear chances at either end, but Chile will feel aggrieved they did not win the game inside 90 minutes after having two goals ruled out by VAR.

And so, sadly, it is with technology that the talking points from the action begin.

VAR TEMPORARILY RESCUES COLOMBIA…TWICE

Colombia dodged two bullets, starting midway through the first half when VAR came to their rescue to disallow an opening goal for Chile.

The first ‘goal’ came when Arturo Vidal swept a pass to Alexis Sanchez on the left wing, and he weighted a pass into the path of overlapping left-back Jean Beausejour. Colombia keeper David Ospina and centre-back Davinson Sanchez got in each other’s way as they defended the cross, and the loose ball was turned over the line by Charles Aranguiz.

But Chile’s celebrations were in vain as technology intervened to rule that Sanchez was offside – by a matter of millimetres – when he received the pass from Vidal.

It was such a marginal call that critics of VAR will leap upon the incident as a misuse of the system, and as the offside occurred several seconds before the goal it also raises the question of exactly how far back into a move the cameras should interrogate.

Another Chile goal was ruled out after 70 minutes, when Guillermo Maripan was adjudged to have handled just before Vidal thrashed home a loose ball inside the penalty area.

It was another tough decision to take for the holders, although in truth the controversy was caused less by VAR and more by the ongoing ambiguity of the handball law – the ball certainly hit Maripan on the elbow, but equally, clearly, there was no intent.

CHILE THE PENALTY KINGS

Chile

Copa America plus penalty shootouts has been a happy equation for Chile in recent years, adding up to back-to-back title triumphs in 2015 and 2016 with spot-kick victories in finals against Argentina to give La Roja their first major trophies.

So Chile will not have been at all disappointed to take this game to penalties, which arrived earlier than usual after the 90 minutes stalemate with no extra time contested in the quarter-final stage.

And the reigning champions could not have done a better job in the shoot-out, converting all five of their spot-kicks with confident and excellent strikes from Vidal, Eduardo Vargas, Eric Pulgar, Aranguiz and finally Sanchez to advance into the last four.

Considering the two disallowed goals they suffered during normal time, Chile will feel the outcome was fully merited and that justice was eventually served.

And, heading into a probable quarter-final against Uruguay, they will feel confident of marching all the way to a three-peat…especially if they can keep on forcing shootouts.

COLOMBIA LOSE ATTACKING EDGE

James Rodriguez

Colombia were favourites heading into the game after an impressive trio of victories in the group stage and – with the aforementioned help of VAR – they maintained their defensive solidity by recording yet another clean sheet, meaning they have still not conceded a goal in the tournament.

But this was a disappointing attacking performance from Carlos Queiroz’s men, who started off brightly with Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado all prominent in the opening 15 minutes and Falcao showing early threat with a snapshot from the edge of the box.

But as the game wore on, Los Cafeteros gradually lost their attacking intent and retreated onto the back foot, ending the game as a passive force while Chile seized the initiative and looked much more likely to force a late winner.

Substitute Duvan Zapata, such an impressive performer in the group stage, barely touched the ball after replacing Falcao, while James ended the game as a marginal presence, picking up a yellow card as his frustration spilled over.

In the end, Colombia’s increasing negativity condemned them to the penalty shootout, where a bad miss from William Tesillo allowed Sanchez to stroke home the winner. And they can have no complaints.

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Copa America 2019: 'LM' dazzles for Argentina, but it's Lautaro Martinez not Lionel Messi

Andy West 29/06/2019
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Are they finally finding a winning formula?

Argentina’s performance in their 2-0 quarter-final victory over Venezuela was by far their best of the Copa America so far, and it was made even more encouraging that they did it despite an off-night from skipper Lionel Messi.

After a long time in the doldrums, La Albiceleste appear to be on the charge – and they’re heading for a mouthwatering collision course with fellow South American giants Brazil in the competition’s last four. Find out more with our post-match talking points.

MESSI BANISHES MARACANA NIGHTMARE? KIND OF…

Lionel Messi

The easy headline to draw from the game is that Messi banished the nightmare memory of his previous trip to the iconic Maracana stadium for the 2014 World Cup final.

But branding this game as Messi’s ‘Rio Redemption’ would be overselling his contribution, because in truth he was unable to make much of an impact and – aside from a deep outswinging corner which led to the opening goal – he had little direct influence over the outcome.

The second goal is a good example of how the game largely passed Messi by: Rodrigo De Paul did well to retrieve possession on the right wing and drove forward, bypassing Messi to cut a square pass into Sergio Aguero on the edge of the box.

Rather than laying off the ball for Messi, the Manchester City striker turned to shoot, and when Venezuela keeper Wuilker Farinas badly fumbled the ball, Gio Lo Celso was on hand to convert.

Messi particularly struggled during the first half, when the front pairing of Lautaro Martinez and Aguero enjoyed a much better connection with each other than either of them did with Messi, and at times it appeared the Barcelona captain was unsure whether he should drop into midfield to pick up possession or stay high up the pitch to link with the strikers.

On the whole, this was probably his worst performance of the season…but he will have enjoyed, at least, the outcome.

ARGENTINA FINALLY FINDING BALANCE

Argentina

Perhaps perversely, Messi’s rather subdued performance might not be such a bad piece of news for Argentina. In fact, it could be the best thing that has happened to them for a very long time.

So often in recent years, La Albiceleste’s tale has been a case of ‘Messi or nothing’. Either their captain would come to the rescue, or they would fail. That led to a culture of dependency which reached extreme levels during last summer’s World Cup finals in Russia and the opening couple of games in Brazil for this Copa America.

Throughout that period, Argentina seemed to have no collective plan other than trying to give the ball to Messi and hoping for the best. On the occasions they couldn’t give the ball to Messi, they floundered horribly, lacking any kind of functional team structure to work effectively without the input of their star player.

Finally, though, they seem to have stumbled across the one key element which has been so badly missing for so long: balance. In this game, Messi did not play well but it didn’t even matter, because Argentina’s overall structure was good enough. If that continues, they may yet go all the way.

NO LM? NEW LM

Lautaro Martinez shone for Argentina.

Lautaro Martinez shone for Argentina.

Although the expected ‘LM’ superstar was unable to step up and prove decisive, another one certainly did as Lautaro Martinez continued his ascent with a well-taken opening goal and an eye-catching all-round performance.

Martinez has been on the fringes of the Argentina team for a while now, but missed out on a place in last year’s World Cup squad behind veterans Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, and also came into this tournament as a back-up to Aguero after a mixed season with Inter Milan.

But after failing to play any part in the opening loss against Colombia, Martinez was swiftly elevated to the starting eleven by manager Lionel Scaloni and has stayed there ever since, getting on the scoresheet with an early opener in the qualification-clinching victory over Qatar.

He was outstanding in this quarter-final, starting off by teeing up an early chance for Aguero and then pouncing on a miss-hit from Aguero to cleverly flick home the opener.

His mobility, movement and work rate dovetailed nicely with Aguero, and their blossoming partnership adds another dimension to an attack which has been over-reliant on Messi for too long. Finally, Argentina are starting to look like a team and Martinez is playing an integral part.

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