Chile Lucky to Beat Peru and Must Improve Before Copa America Final

Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2015

Chile's Gary Medel, second left, scores an own goal past Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, left, under pressure from Peru's Andre Carrillo, second right, during a Copa America semifinal soccer match at the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, Monday, June 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Andre Penner/Associated Press

ESTADIO NACIONAL, SANTIAGO, Chile — The numbers don't show it, but Chile were lucky to reach the Copa America Final after a weak performance in a 2-1 win over rivals Peru on Monday.

Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal were off their games, just as they were in the quarter-final against Uruguay. And if a team's two biggest stars don't shine, it means trouble.

Luckily for the hosts, they had Eduardo Vargas and what some would call a kind referee to help them out on a brisk night in the national stadium before a crowd that expected more.

Whether Chile play Paraguay or Argentina in the final, they know that they need to raise their game to back where it was a week ago.

Andre Penner/Associated Press

Statistically, Chile are impressive, as they've reached their third Copa America Final and are hoping to win the competition for the first time since it began 99 years ago.

In the first half, they only played 21 bad passes, recording a 91.3 per-cent accuracy rate, per Opta. They have also recorded the fifth-highest goal tally in the competition's history en route to the final. They have scored 13, only outscored by Argentina in 2004 and 2007, and Brazil in 1997 and 1999.

But of those strikes, Alexis has only scored one.

The Arsenal man put in a limp display and in fact it was Napoli forward Vargas, who spent last season on loan with Queens Park Rangers, who took control.

Luis Hidalgo/Associated Press

To be fair to Alexis, he had an important part in the first goal, with his low cross hitting the post and falling nicely for Vargas to squeeze home.

A key moment in the buildup was a cunning step-over by Charles Aranguiz, who let the ball bypass him en route to hitting the base of Pedro Gallese's left-hand post.

Chile were playing against 10 men after referee Jose Argote dismissed Carlos Zambrano for leaving his boot high on Aranguiz.

It was a controversial moment, with some believing the referee had overstepped the mark by dismissing the defender. Others argued that having his boot high enough to hit Aranguiz's back was in itself reason for punishment.

Jorge Saenz/Associated Press

Andre Penner/Associated Press

Vargas' first goal was also later shown to be offside, although he was denied a strike in the second half for that reason when he was in line with the defence.

Peru had started the game well and created more chances than Chile, playing with purpose and intent on the break.

Jefferson Farfan hit Claudio Bravo's post after slipping away from the defence, and it looked for a moment like the pressure was getting to Chile in front of a stadium filled with their own fans.

But the red card after 20 minutes left Peru in a tight spot, and Vargas eventually proved too much, netting twice to sink Ricardo Gareca's plucky side.

An own goal from Gary Medel in between the Vargas strikes briefly blew the game open, but a spectacular strike from a player who has really taken advantage of the chances given to him ended the Peruvian dream.

So Chile will contest the final in front of their own fans and have another chance to finally quench their thirst for glory. But they will need their best players to find their best form.