By RYAN TOLMICH
Despite all of the turmoil off of the field to this point, Chile has been one of the strongest team’s at this summer’s Copa America, earning a quarterfinal matchup against another South American heavyweight.
The host nation’s run through the tournament continues Wednesday night in a final eight matchup with Uruguay, who could be left shorthanded due to an off-the-field tragedy.
Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani may miss Wednesday’s contest after news broke Tuesday that his father was involved in a car crash that killed a 19-year-old motorcyclist. If Cavani were to miss the matchup with Chile, it would leave Uruguay without the team’s premier striker, especially given the absence of the suspended Luis Suarez.
Even with Cavani, the group stage proved to be quite a challenge for La Celeste, who finished third in the group on four points, behind both Argentina and a surprising Paraguay team.
Should Cavani miss out, much of Uruguay’s hopes would rest on the shoulders of Atletico Madrid’s Cristian Rodriguez and Bordeaux youngster Diego Rolan, who have generally featured in a front three with the PSG star. Off the bench, either Christian Stuani or Abel Hernandez could feature in Cavani’s place, as the duo have each made substitute appearances up top in the group stage.
Chile, meanwhile, enters with it’s attack firing on all cylinders.
The hosts cruised through Group A with a win and a draw in the opening two contests before throttling Bolivia, 5-0, to round out the opening round.
Arturo Vidal, arrested for drunk driving in the middle of the group stages, has been all but unaffected by the incident on the field. The Juventus midfielder has provided three goals thus far while continuing to lead the way for a midfield that was dominant in the first three games.
Joining Vidal was Alexis Sanchez, who contributed a goal in the Bolivia match after putting in Man of the Match worthy performances in the opening two contests. In addition, forward Eduardo Vargas and midfielder Charles Aranguiz have both been stellar through the opening games, leading a fluent and dynamic Chile attack that has, to this point, been the best in the tournament by a considerable margin.
For Uruguay, the key will be limiting the damage from that attack, with much of that responsibility falling into the steady hands of centerback Diego Godin.
Godin is widely considered one of the best defenders in Europe, and for good reason, as the Atletico Madrid star has established himself as a calm, capable leader and organizer against the world’s best teams. Partnered with youngster and fellow Atletico Madrid star Jose Gimenez, Godin and Uruguay surrendered just two goals in the knockout round, including a holding of the heralded Argentina attack to just a Sergio Aguero finish.
With that being said, Godin and Gimenez are expected to be under siege throughout most of the contest, especially due to the abilities of the Chile midfield. Led by Vidal and an absolute bulldog of a midfielder in Gary Medel, Chile should earn their share of possession and attacking chances, putting Uruguay under pressure to bend and not break.
Chile’s ability to move the ball and attack in waves could be too much for the visitors, as the winner of this game earns themselves a spot in the semifinals and a favorable draw going forward against the winner of Peru’s matchup with Bolivia.