Uruguay end drought but can't burst Chile's bubble

By Sports Desk June 21, 2021

For a period in the build-up to the 1-1 draw between Uruguay and Chile, it was anyone's guess as to whether the game would go ahead or not, with the Chilean ranks appearing to be in chaos.

While the Football Federation of Chile (FFC) accepted a group of unnamed players had broken its COVID-secure bubble by bringing a barber into the team hotel, further allegations refused to go away.

Media reports claimed there was a second breach that revolved around several women being brought into accommodation, and head coach Martin Lasarte was apparently considering resigning over the matter.

It didn't stop there. The Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) is said to have asked CONMEBOL to check security footage from the hotel to see if there was only the one breach, seemingly in the hope of being awarded the three points in the event of major sanctions.

As it was, three of the Chile players allegedly involved were named in the starting XI in Cuiaba, and perhaps it was predictable – in more than one sense – that one of them put La Roja in front.

Eduardo Vargas latched on to Ben Brereton's clever first-touch offload and burst into the right side of the penalty area. Having noticed he had no one else in support, the Atletico Mineiro forward lashed a right-footed striker beyond Fernando Muslera and into the top-left corner.

Vargas wheeled away and, just before sharing a strong embrace with Chile's unlikely new hero Brereton, the goalscorer made a 'talking' gesture with his hand, presumably showing his disapproval of the chatter surrounding he and his team-mates in the last few days.

In converting, Vargas moved above the likes of Gabriel Batistuta in the Copa America's all-time leading scorers rankings, going joint-fifth with Paolo Guerrero on 14 – the record, shared by Norberto Mendez and Zizinho with 17, is certainly within his reach.

Vargas' need to be withdrawn could play a role in that regard, however, as the 31-year-old went off just before the hour clutching the back of his thigh.

Nevertheless, his job was done to a certain extent, Vargas' goal a devastating show of clinical finishing that Uruguay just haven't seen in recent times – and not just in the Copa America.

La Celeste went into the game without scoring in their previous four games, a run that stretched back to November when Darwin Nunez netted the last in a 3-0 win over Colombia.

They were especially toothless in attack – despite the presence of talismanic duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani – in their first match against Argentina, their 0.1 xG (expected goals) a tournament-low figure only previously achieved by Venezuela (against Brazil and Colombia) in this year's competition.

In fact, at the halfway point on Monday, Suarez and Cavani had only managed one shot on target between them in 135 minutes of Copa football – that solitary accurate attempt coming in the first half in Cuiaba as Claudio Bravo made a necessary, albeit expected, block to deny the Atletico Madrid man.

Of course, a key nuance to the struggles of Uruguay's front two would be that the service to them had been underwhelming – so much so that Suarez appeared determined to try and take matters into his own hands as a cross forced the Chile defence into action just before the break, while he also played a match-high three key passes over the course of the 90 minutes.

It arguably wasn't until the inexperienced Facundo Torres – making just his fourth appearance for Uruguay – came on in the 60th minute that La Celeste started to look genuinely lively in attack, though.

The 21-year-old quickly saw a rasping volley tipped wide by Bravo, and his lovely delivery from the resulting corner was flicked on by Matias Vecino, and the ball subsequently found its way in via a combination of Suarez and Vidal, who was ultimately credited with the own goal.

While further chances came and went at either end, a stalemate felt a fitting end to a match largely lacking in real quality.

But such situations are surely a by-product of the tournament's jeopardy-sapping format, with all but two of the 10 teams involved across the two groups set to reach the quarter-finals.

 

For those in Group A, it's a case of 'do better than Bolivia and you're through' – over the course of their four games, it would be a major shock if either Uruguay were to fail in that regard, while the point here sealed Chile's route through to the next round.

The main thing here for Uruguay was to finally get a goal on the board, even if it was given to Vidal, as it should provide something of a boost to their mentality, especially after significant criticism in the wake of that defeat to Argentina.

As such, it was all hugs and smiles between the two teams at full-time, with Chile and Uruguay well aware that dropping points here won't permanently burst their Copa bubble.

Related items

  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic dedicates Milan's Scudetto to Raiola as Swedish star defies doubters Zlatan Ibrahimovic dedicates Milan's Scudetto to Raiola as Swedish star defies doubters

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic declared his Milan mission accomplished as the Rossoneri were crowned Serie A champions for the first time in 11 years – but the veteran has not ruled out playing for another season.

    The 40-year-old Swedish striker embarked on the second spell of his career with Milan in December 2019, and said that was at the behest of his long-time agent Mino Raiola, who died in late April.

    Ibrahimovic dedicated his title success with Milan to Raiola, who he said had backed him to lift Milan from the doldrums.

    The former Juventus and Inter player's impact at San Siro has been remarkable, with a glut of goals early on serving to lift spirits at the club and set the tone for the success that has followed.

    Last season, Ibrahimovic scored 16 goals in 26 games as Milan finished second in Serie A, while this term he has also featured 26 times, albeit starting only 12 games and netting eight times.

    The returns have been diminishing and injuries have been a problem, with knee and Achilles trouble disrupting his season this time around, but Ibrahimovic's effervescence continues to be infectious as he proves a positive dressing-room presence.

    "When I got back here, I remember a journalist at a press conference saying that usually those who go back to where they have been can do only worse," Ibrahimovic told DAZN after the title-clinching 3-0 win at Sassuolo.

    "I replied that I would fight to get the club back up and to win the Scudetto. Nobody believed it, but we are here, we have worked hard and made many sacrifices, proving that thanks to work nothing is impossible."

    Ibrahimovic was Milan's main man when they won the 2010-11 Serie A title, having previously been a table-topper in Italy with Juve and Inter. He has since starred for Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and LA Galaxy, where it was widely assumed he was winding down his career, albeit with a glut of goals. The return to Milan has proved otherwise in that regard.

    He recognised his playing efforts this year had been less influential than in the past two campaigns, and his contract is due to expire next month.

    "But I think I have been useful to this group off the pitch," he added.

    Milan collected gained 86 points in Serie A this season, and only in 2005-06 (88 points) have they managed more in the era of three points for a win.

    Speaking about Raiola, Ibrahimovic said: "The dedication is to Mino Raiola. This is the first trophy I have won without him.

    "When I returned to Europe, I was close to Napoli, and then I asked him where I could go to make a difference and he replied that only I could save Milan."

    Ibrahimovic puffed on a cigar and celebrated with champagne after Milan secured the Scudetto. If that suggested a sense of finality, Ibrahimovic seemingly did not intend it that way.

    He will have his body checked out now the season is over, and said: "If I'm fine, this wasn't my last match. I'll consider whether to have surgery."

  • Cagliari suffer Serie A relegation as Salernitana survive for first time despite Udinese thrashing Cagliari suffer Serie A relegation as Salernitana survive for first time despite Udinese thrashing

    Cagliari were relegated from Serie A after only managing a draw against Venezia as Salernitana retained their top-flight status despite being thrashed by Udinese.

    Salernitana looked in serious danger of going down when Davide Nicola took charge in February, sitting bottom of the table with three wins from 23 games.

    Nicola inspired a resurgence, though, with his side picking up 15 points in a run of seven league games to head into the final matchday two points clear of Cagliari.

    However, Udinese were rampant as Gerard Deulofeu, Ilija Nestorovski and Iyenoma Destiny Udogie put Nicola's side 3-0 down before half-time on Sunday.

    Udinese captain Roberto Pereyra added a fourth after the interval as the Friulians achieved their best Serie A points haul (47) since the 2012-13 season (66).

    That meant Cagliari would have stayed up with a win at already-relegated Venezia, but Alessandro Agostini's could only muster a draw as the Rossoblu were relegated to Serie B for the sixth time in their history.

    Cagliari's failure handed Salernitana their first-ever Serie A survival, having failed to do so on their other two attempts in 1947-48 and 1998-99.

    Salernitana also became the first team to stay up despite conceding at least 78 goals in a single top-flight campaign after Livorno (79 in 1929-30) and Lucchese (82 in 1947-48, 79 in 1949-50).

    Meanwhile, Cagliari join Venezia and Genoa in Serie B and the trio will aim to bounce straight back up next season.

  • Outrageous rabona strike among five for Balotelli in historic final-day display Outrageous rabona strike among five for Balotelli in historic final-day display

    Mario Balotelli finished the Turkish Super Lig season in stunning fashion with the first five-goal haul in Adana Demirspor's top-flight history.

    Ninth in the table heading into Sunday, Balotelli's ADS had little to play for against already-relegated Goztepe but put on a show.

    Vincenzo Montella's side ran out 7-0 winners, with Balotelli hitting five to finish the season on 18 league goals – behind only Kasimpasa's Umut Bozok (20).

    The Italy international's outstanding display represented a club first, while Alex in May 2011 had been the last Super Lig player to net five in a match, for Fenerbahce against Ankaragucu.

    This was Balotelli's first hat-trick since scoring three for Manchester City against Aston Villa in December 2010, making him the first foreign player to hit a treble for ADS.

    As if these achievements were not enough, Balotelli's fifth goal was an outrageous effort perhaps set to be considered for the FIFA Puskas Award.

    Seven step-overs tied Atakan Cankaya – who had earlier scored an own goal – in knots, finally working space seemingly for a left-footed shot before the striker executed a sublime right-footed rabona finish across the goalkeeper and into the bottom-right corner.

    "Five goals for me today," Balotelli posted on Instagram. "There was no better way to finish the championship! Thank you to everyone."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.