THE DAY REPLAYED – Sixty-one years to the day after stunning Brazil to win the 1950 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, a remarkable 2-1 victory that is known in football history as the Maracanazo, Uruguay showed they have lost none of their ability to spoil a party. Their victims on this occasion were neighbours Argentina, whose hopes of winning the 2011 Copa America on home soil vanished when they lost out in a penalty shootout after 120 minutes of football had failed to separate the teams.
The Uruguayans ousted Argentina the last time they staged the competition, in the semi-finals in 1987, and now go forward to meet Peru, who surprisingly edged out Colombia in another game that ended all-square after 90 minutes.
The long-running rivalry between Argentina and Uruguay reached new levels of intrigue yesterday evening, with the two sides contesting a Copa America quarter-final tie in front of a packed house in Santa Fe. The River Plate adversaries lived up to the history of the fixture, serving up another gripping encounter that went all the way to penalties.
Uruguay the dogged
Reduced to ten men late on in the first half, the Uruguayans had no option but to summon up their fabled fighting spirit once more, redoubling their efforts in defence to negate a talented Argentina side. Wearied by their efforts, Alvaro Pereira and Arevalo Rios were both substituted with ten minutes of extra-time remaining, while Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez chased and harried up front, exerting what pressure they could on the hosts’ back-line. Their efforts paid off, as Los Charrúas continued the remarkable renaissance they began in South Africa last year.
Rodriguez has the last laugh
Colombian dangermen Radamel Falcao Garcia and Fredy Guarin have given Peru central defender Alberto Rodriguez plenty of problems in recent times. Rodriguez has been playing his club football for Braga in Portugal, where the Porto duo reigned supreme last season, but it was a different story in Cordoba last night. Things might have turned out differently had Falcao converted a second-half penalty conceded by Rodriguez for a foul on Dayro Moreno. The Porto striker fired wide of the target, however, allowing Peru and Rodriguez, who has now moved to Sporting Lisbon, to march on to the semis.
Lobaton ruins Martinez’s record
Colombia had gone through the group phase without conceding a goal, a feat they extended in normal time of their tie with Peru. Carlos Lobaton put paid to that record 12 minutes into extra-time, however, thrashing the ball home after the previously unbeaten Luis Martinez dropped a high ball in the box.
Fernando Muslera (Uruguay)
Uruguay’s defenders put in such a heroic shift in Santa Fe that it is hard to single anyone of them out for special praise. It was goalkeeper Muslera who tipped the balance in La Celeste’s favour, however, denying Carlos Tevez in the shootout after keeping out virtually everything that came his way in normal time. His most miraculous intervention came in the final minute of normal time, when he stuck out a providential left boot after team-mate Alvaro Pereira had deflected Tevez’s fizzing long-range free-kick, before leaping off the ground to block Gonzalo Higuain’s follow-up with his chest.
Goal of the day
Colombia-Peru, Juan Vargas 111
Colombia goalkeeper Luis Martinez hit a long pass to Camilo Zuniga only to see it intercepted by Jose Guerrero, who surged into the box and cut the ball back to the waiting Juan Vargas. Taking a touch, the Peru skipper then fired the ball into the roof of the net from 15 yards out, sealing his side’s place in the last four.
22 - The record number of Copa America matches the tireless Javier Zanetti has now played, one more than Oscar Ruggeri and Jose Salomon. The left-back has yet to win a major title with La Albiceleste despite having collected 144 caps, a national record. Zanetti clocked up 1,000 career appearances in May in a Coppa Italia game for Inter Milan, where a steady stream of winners’ medals have come his way.
What they said
“I thought things would turn out the other way because we were down to ten men. In the end we fought more than we played. Both teams came here with the aim of being champions, but people shouldn’t see this game as a final. It was a quarter-final and we still want to be the champions,” Uruguay captain Diego Lugano.
The semi-final line-up will be decided on Sunday evening when Brazil take on Paraguay and Chile meet Venezuela.