Monday, November 19, 2007

Chilean Football Gets Historic Result Against Uruguay

Nearly beats local team but ends with a valuable 2-2 draw in Montevideo

Another round of the South American qualifying tournament that will hopefully end with Chile going to play in the next World Cup to be held in 2010 was held between November 17 and November 18. On Saturday the first match ended with an expected 3-0 win by Argentina over Bolivia at the "Monumental" Stadium in Buenos Aires.
The second match began shortly after at the "El Campin" Stadium in Bogota, Colombia where the home team could only defeat up and coming Venezuela by 1-0 after Ruben Bustos scored from a free kick with only eight minutes of play remaining.
The last match was held in the evening at the "Defensores del Chaco" Stadium in Asuncion, capital of Paraguay, where the host team demolished Ecuador by 5-1. This result caused the resignation of the Ecuadorian coach Luis Fernando Suarez, that in the previous tournament managed to qualify Ecuador to the 2006 World Cup. In spite of the respect that Suarez has among the Ecuadorian fans, the coach just could not continue after his team has had 11 goals scored against it and has lost the first three matches.
On Nov. 18 at 4:00 p.m. local time, Chile faced Uruguay at the mythical "Centenario" Stadium in Montevideo, the same where the "Sky Blues" (as the Uruguayans are nicknamed) won the first World Cup in 1930.
After this first World Title, the Uruguayans have built up a reputation for being one of the toughest teams in S.America and its players are renowned for their fighting spirit. On the week prior to the match the main topic for conversation among Chilean fans and football reporters was whether the national team could finally change the course of history and manage to get a positive result at the "Centenario", since it has lost all four previous World Cup qualifying matches played there. Sebastian Abreu, a Uruguayan striker, also known as "El Loco" (the Madman) added further controversy as he accused the Chilean players of being scared to go onto the pitch at the Centenario and that the pressure would help his team win the match. After 40 minutes of play, most Chilean fans felt that history would repeat itself as Luis Suarez scored with a hard low shot for Uruguay. In the second half Chile's coach Marcelo Bielsa made a long awaited substitution as Eduardo Rubio gave his place to Carlos Villanueva, the leading goalscorer in his country's first division championship. Bielsa´s move paid off as in the 58th minute Villanueva made a great cross from the left wing to team captain Marcelo Salas that scored with a spectacular diving header. However the best was yet to come as ten minutes later Matias Fernandez (Villarreal,Spain) dribbled into the Uruguayan area and was brought down by Diego Lugano. With all the calm earned through years of experience in such famous clubs as River Plate(Argentina), Lazio and Juventus (Italy) Salas scored the penalty with a precise left footed shot. The three thousand Chilean fans that traveled to Montevideo (some for as long as 50 hours by bus) went into ecstasy since now it seemed that their team would end up with the three points for the first time in history. With twenty minutes of play left, it seems that finally the pressure of playing at the "Centenario" took its toll on the Chilean players as they began to make incredible mistakes, bad passes and avoidable fouls against he locals, that once again made use of their traditional fighting spirit and equalized in the 80th minute as Sebastian Abreu finished off a fast counterattack. The last ten minutes seemed like an eternity for the brave three thousand that were at the Centenerio as well as for millions that were watching the live television broadcast. Chilean goalkeeper became the hero of the afternoon as he thwarted Uruguay from scoring on several occasions, including a one on one situation with a Uruguayan striker that nearly scored after leaving the defenders behind.
Finally the magic moment came as the referee blew the final whistle to end the match, that left Chilean fans with the feeling that the national team could have ended up with the victory. A fan interviewed by a TV crew in a bar in Santiago described the match perfectly. "After all it was the Uruguayans that drew the match, we were winning, they were the lucky ones." Now Chile gets ready to face Paraguay on Nov 21 at the National Stadium in Santiago, and it seems that under the firm leadership of Marcelo Bielsa, many may be getting their baggage ready to travel to South Africa in 2010. The final match was played in Lima, Peru as the local team obtained a respectable 1-1 draw against five time World champions Brazil, and now the points table is as follows:

1) Argentina (9 points)
2) Paraguay (7 points)
3) Brazil (5 points)
4) Colombia (5 points)
5) Uruguay (4 points)
6) Chile (4 points)
7) Venezuela (3 points)
8) Peru (2 points)
9) Bolivia (1 point)
10) Ecuador (0 points)

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