In a hard-fought quarterfinal on Friday June 26, 2015, Argentina edged out Colombia on penalties to inch one step closer to the title contention in the 44th edition of Copa America, which is the main international football tournament for the national teams in South America. Earlier on June 24, 2015 hosts Chile also made it to the semifinals by shocking defending champions Uruguay and next day, Peru defeated Bolivia 3-1 to make the grade. The fourth semifinalist will emerge on Saturday, when Brazil plays Paraguay at the municipal stadium, Concepcion. As per the Copa America schedule, the two semifinals will be played on June 29, when Chile Take on Peru at Santiago and on June 30, when Argentina lock horns with either Brazil or Paraguay at Concepcion.
In the match played at Vina Del Mar, Argentina dominated the proceedings for the better part though no goals could be scored either by Argentinians or the Colombians in 90+4 minutes of regulation time. The penalty shoot-out followed immediately and ended with a 5-4 victory in favor of Argentina. But these bare facts do not tell the real story of the astonishing game. The one person, who almost denied Argentina, was Colombia’s goalkeeper David Ospina, whose performance between the posts was exemplary. He made a number of amazing saves with fantastic anticipation, quicksilver reflexes and an uncanny presence of mind.
Colombian coach, Jose Pekerman took a bold decision in dropping Radamel Falcao from the starting line-up. Falcao’s selfish game had been hurting Colombia since he was unable to play in tandem with James Rodrigues. Pekerman was unhappy with Colombia’s group stage performance as lack of coordination between forwards on account of Falcao’s preference of playing as a solo striker. Pekerman preferred Jackson Martinez instead in the game against Argentina. Colombia began with a 4-4-2 with Martinez and Teo Gutierrez up front and Alexander Mejia was the only defensive presence in the midfield. This didn’t work as Argentina wrested control and dominated the ball possession. After about 20 minutes, Pekerman was forced to withdraw Gutierrez in favor of Edwin Cardona in an attempt to bolster his midfield. That didn’t work either since time and time again, Lionel Messi, Javier Pastore and Angel Di Maria ran through the defense. Pekerman finally brought Falcao with 19 minutes remaining in place of Martinez. Nothing happened in the match until the regulation time as David Ospina kept thwarting the Argentines. Penalties were finally required to elicit a decision.
Colombia began with James Rodrigues, who made it 1-0 for his team but Lioel Messi made it 1-1. Falcao was next. He didn’t miss and it was 2-1 for Colombia. Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay restored the 2-2 parity with a right-footer that found the top left corner. It was 3-2 for Colombia, when Juan Cuadrado converted next. But the score was back to 3-3 with Ever Banega converting for Argentina. Then Colombia missed as Luis Muriel skied his penalty high. Argentina consolidated with Ezequiel Lavezzi finding the target. Colombia made it 4-4 as Edwin Cardona converted next. Argentina squandered the advantage, when Lucas Biglia missed. With the score at 4-4, both Colombia and Argentina missed their next chances. But the real miss came, when Jeison Murillo fired his shot far too high. Now it was the turn of as Carlos Tevez with scores tied at 4-4. The guy carried a stigma of his team’s quarterfinal defeat against Uruguay, 4 years ago, but on Friday, he redeemed himself by finding the target and taking Argentina to a 5-4 shoot-out victory.
Earlier, in a match played with frayed tempers, Copa America hosts Chile defeated defending champions Uruguay 1-0 to enter the semi-finals. Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani was red-carded for reacting objectionably to an incident involving Chile’s Gonzalo Jara. Chile took a 1-0 lead in the 81st minute through Mauricio Isla’s goal that remained the score at fulltime. Chile will meet Peru for a place in the final. On their part, Peru defeated Bolivia 3-1, riding on a hat-trick by Paolo Guerrero, who scored in 20th, 23rd and 74th minutes. Bolivia pulled one back through Marcelo Moreno in the 84th minute.
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