Chicago (AFP) – Eduardo Vargas will aim to extend his astonishing goalscoring record in the Copa America on Wednesday when holders Chile face Colombia in the semi-finals at Soldier Field.
After a remarkable four-goal display in the 7-0 destruction of Mexico in the quarter-finals, Vargas has now amassed 10 goals in two editions of the Copa America in the space of a year.
The Hoffenheim forward spearheads one of the most potent attacking units in the tournament, with Chile scoring 14 goals on their way to the last four after steadily improving following an opening defeat by Argentina.
Vargas has been supported by Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez, who took his tally to three goals against Mexico in a performance which suggested Chile are hitting form just at the right time.
Vargas said, however, that Chile were already looking forward to the threat posed by Colombia.
“The match against Mexico is already ancient history,” Vargas said.
“We don’t see ourselves as favorites on Wednesday. Even if we did play well against Mexico, it’s going to be a different story against Colombia. We’re expecting a tough game.”
Charles Aranguiz echoed Vargas’s comments.
“Beating a team 7-0 gives you confidence, sure, but there are four teams left in the tournament who all want to win the title. It’s not just Chile,” the Bayer Leverkusen defender commented.
– Ospina primed –
Chile’s task may be complicated by the absence of Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal, the combative presence at the heart of their side who is suspended after collecting a second yellow card in the win over Mexico.
Sanchez, meanwhile, must find a way past Arsenal team-mate David Ospina, the outstanding goalkeeper of the tournament so far.
Ospina has emerged as a key figure in Colombia’s journey to the last four, providing a crucial last line of defense at a time when their talented forwards have struggled to produce their best form.
The 27-year-old spent much of last season as an unused understudy to Arsenal’s first choice goalkeeper Petr Cech, but his displays in the United States have been a timely reminder of his talents.
Ospina saved a decisive penalty in Colombia’s shoot-out victory against Peru in the quarter-finals and also pulled off a fine point-blank save in injury time to keep Colombia in the tournament.
The goalkeeper’s performance against Peru extended an impressive run which has seen him concede just two goals in 630 minutes (seven games) including five clean sheets.
Ospina pinpointed Chile’s ability to turn defense into attack swiftly as an area of concern.
“They are very fast and effective when they transition from defense into attack and their players play for some of the best clubs in the world,” he said.
Colombia will hope for a big performance from James Rodriguez, the Real Madrid forward who has so far failed to reproduce the sort of attacking brilliance which made him one of the stars of the 2014 World Cup.
Colombia striker Carlos Bacca says his team will start as underdogs.
“Chile are the favorites, they are the holders,” the AC Milan player said. “We will give them the utmost respect. It should be a great duel.”
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