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.
14 – Eduardo Vargas anotó su gol 14 en la historia de Copa América: es el quinto mayor goleador del torneo, empatado con Paolo Guerrero y con tres goles menos que Zizinho y Norberto Méndez (17), los máximos goleadores. Turbo. pic.twitter.com/o0z2xiBrMK
— OptaJavier (@OptaJavier) June 21, 2021
Vargas’ need to be withdrawn could play a role in that regard, however, as the 31-year-old went off just before the hour clutching the back of his thigh.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.
1- En los 135 minutos que Uruguay
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