Can Chile win the Copa?

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-3 5:03:02

Hosts have best chance yet to end years of despair

Chile's forward Eduardo Vargas celebrates after scoring against Peru during their 2015 Copa America semifinal match in Santiago, Chile on Monday. Photo: CFP

Selfies, unwanted digital probing, shameful geography lessons and a rather embarrassing run-in with the police. It's been a funny old Copa America, that's for sure, but in between the incidents we have been treated to some pulsating attacking football. It all comes down to one last game on Saturday night when the public gets what it wanted all along, the hosts against the pre-tournament favorites. Chile face Argentina at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago to decide the 44th Copa America.

Argentina have not won the Copa America title for 22 years. The fact that keeps being pulled out is that during that barren period the nation has won the U-20 World Cup five times and were also runners-up at last summer's World Cup. The team wants to go one better in this tournament and seems to be clinking into gear at the right time, after scoring just four times before their semifinal against Paraguay, the Albiceleste turned up the heat and won 6-1.

Despite Argentina's late run of form and their favorites tag, Chile have much more on the line. The hosts knew going into the tournament that this would be the perfect opportunity for them to end their 99-year wait to finally lift the trophy. The team has delivered despite some setbacks, most notably Arturo Vidal's bizarre and embarrassing arrest for drink driving, and are in the final on merit, however holders Uruguay might feel about Gonzalo Jara's actions in the buildup to the sending-off of Edinson Cavani.

Chile hold their own statistically. The hosts are the top scorers in the competition with 13 goals. Striker Eduardo Vargas is currently leading the race for the golden boot on four goals, followed by compatriot Vidal and Argentina striker Sergio Aguero on three each. When it comes to assists, players from the finalists head the pack, too. Leo Messi tops the list with three assists he provided in the semifinal, where he was also involved in the other three goals, but the Barcelona superstar's total is matched by the hosts' midfielder Jorge Valdivia. The same goes for clean sheets, both Chile's Claudio Bravo and Argentina's Sergio Romero have kept three shutouts apiece, while Argentina have conceded just three times, one less than the hosts.

The statistics point to it being a close run thing, as finals so often are, while the teams' disciplinary records mean it could also be a feisty encounter. It's likely to come down to an individual being able to turn in a performance for the hosts that will make the difference. The home crowd will give their all in the stands but who will match that on the pitch?

Claudio Bravo - Goalkeeper

The Barcelona keeper comes off a fine season that saw him win La Liga, while Marc Andre ter Stegen was preferred in the cups. His performances in Chile have included three clean sheets and he will want to make sure he adds another at the expense of club teammate Messi.

Alexis Sanchez - Forward

The Arsenal forward is Chile's main man but has underperformed by his own high standards at this year's Copa America. His manager backs him to snap out of a slump that could be put down to his electrifying start to his first season in England and the pressure of a nation that wants to end nearly a century of disappointment.

Artuto Vidal - Midfielder

The Juventus midfielder will want another winner's medal to his collection after missing out to Barcelona in the Champions League but more important is what he owes to his country. Vidal crashed his Ferrari while drunk and then intimated to the arresting officer that his liberty was integral to Chile's hopes of lifting the trophy. He has apologized to the nation but victory would speak much louder.

Eduardo Vargas - Forward

The tournament top scorer has put a year of despair on loan at QPR behind him while in Chile. He ­netted a brace, including a stunning winner, against Peru in the semi­final. The Napoli man has been linked with a move to join up with Sanchez at Arsenal and Wenger will be pleased with a player who is in the Copa's top three shot takers.

Charles Aránguiz - Midfielder

The Internacional midfielder came into the Copa America with less of a reputation than his flashier teammates but was tipped to shine. He has done just that while setting Chile's tempo from the center of the park and is another player ­heavily linked with Arsenal. Whatever ­happens, this won't be the last we see of him.

Jorge Valdivia - Playmaker

The classic No.10 is a throwback to Copa Americas past but Valdivia has proved worthy of coach Jorge Sampaoli's continued faith. It's an indulgence that has worked with three assists, including a sumptuous layoff for Mauricio Isla's decider against Uruguay in the quarters. Not bad for a player who retired from international football after Chile were knocked out of the last World Cup.

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