By: Steve Mitchell
Hosts off to a good start, Argentina held
Hosts Chile got off to the perfect start despatching Ecuador 2-0 on opening night thanks to goals from Arturo Vidal and Edu Vargas. The other game in Group A finished goalless between Mexico and Bolivia.
Group B opener between defending champions Uruguay and competition debutants Jamaica was expected to be a one sided affair, but the Reggae Boyz dug in deep and frustrated their more illustrious opponents. It took a 52nd minute goal from Cristian Rodríguez to separate the teams, Uruguay picking up three vital points.
Argentina raced into an early two goal lead against Paraguay in the group’s second match. A Sergio Agüero strike and a penalty from Lionel Messi looked to have sealed the game before half-time but a spirited fightback from Los Guaraníes, coached by former Argentinian playing legend Ramón Diaz, stunned the pre-tournament favourites and left Group B wide open.
Neymar Inspires Brazil, Colombia are stunned
Brazil coach Dunga made radical changes to his squad pre-tournament but the man who the team is built around, the brilliant Neymar lived up to top billing as he inspired his team to come from behind to beat Peru in Group C. Many people’s pick to lift the trophy in three weeks’ time Colombia, looked to have a routine opening game against Venezuela. Unfortunately, nobody told coach Noel Sanvicente whose team frustrated Los Cafeteros then beat them thanks to a goal from JoséRondón.
Heavyweight clashes on Matchday 2
The second round of matches threw together some real heavyweight match ups and it didn’t disappoint. Chile came from behind twice in the first-half against Mexico, once again inspired by Vidal. The Juventus star then gave his team the lead with a 55th minute penalty to leave him as the tournament’s current top goalscorer. Mexico were not finished however, and a goal by Vicente Vuosorescued a point to give them hope of qualification to the knock-out phase.
Argentina went into their “must win” game against Uruguay still smarting from the points they dropped in their opening fixture. Messi told the media that his side would bounce back against the holders and they did, just, thanks to a wonderful 56th minute header by Agüero. Paraguay join La Albiceleste at the summit of Group B after a 1-0 win over Jamaica who are now eliminated.
The tournament’s most eagerly anticipated match was the Group C clash in Santiago between Brazil and Colombia. Their last meeting at the 2014 World Cup quarter-final ended in a 2-1 win for Brazil but was marred by a crude challenge by Colombian defender Juan Zúñiga on Neymar which ended the player’s participation in the competition.
Neymar sees Red
Played in a pressure cooker atmosphere the game was as expected, a bad tempered affair.It was settled in the 36th minute by Colombia’s newly signed Inter Milan defender JeisonMurillo who inflicted the first defeat on Brazil since Dunga took charge. Neymar had earlier been booked for a deliberate handball which meant he would miss his country’s final fixture against Venezuela. The 23-year-old superstar was also in the thick of the action after the final whistle when frustration got the better of him as he deliberately placed a head-butt on Colombia’s Carlos Bacca. The Seville striker retaliated and both players were shown the red card as tempers boiled over. Neymar now risks missing the quarter-final should his country progress. Peru’s 1-0 victory over Venezuela on Thursday eveningmeans that all four teams in Group C have three points going into the final round of matches.
After a wonderful start to the tournament in which he carried the hopes of an entire nation, Arturo Vidal’s world fell apart on Tuesday evening after he crashed his Ferrari whilst allegedly under the influence of alcohol. An emotional Vidal, whose wife was also in the car, broke down in tears at a press conference on Wednesday saying he was sorry for letting his country down.He could still face a criminal prosecution.
Both parties escaped the crash with minor injuries and the player is available for selection for Chile’s final group match against Bolivia.