Uruguay and Argentina put on a thrilling display in Saturday’s Copa America quarterfinal in Santa Fe. The hosts will be distraught at their early exit from a tournament they hoped to win. Uruguay played more than half the match, which remained deadlocked through overtime, with ten men but proved strong at the back.
Uruguay opened the scoring early with a goal from Diego Perez. Argentina hit right back: in the 18th minute, Leo Messi danced down the right wing before delivering a cross past Uruguay’s defense, off the head of teammate Gonzalo Higuain and into the back of the net. A few minutes later, the referee dismissed Uruguay’s goal-scorer, Perez, for overzealous tackling. Argentina attacked and attacked but couldn’t find a way past Uruguay’s young goalie Fernando Muslera, who was superb throughout.
The Lazio keeper’s best moment came right at the end of regulation when he saved Carlos Tevez’s powerful freekick from distance and then used his face to keep out Higuain’s shot from the rebound.
After extra-time ended deadlocked, the game went to penalties. Tevez, who shot third for Argentina, was the only player to miss. He sent his spot-kick too close to Muslera, who made a diving save. Martin Caceres, a defender, converted the winning penalty with a beautiful shot into the top-right corner. The highlights are here.
Uruguay, who lost in the 2010 World Cup semi-final, will fancy their chances of a place in the Copa Final. They play Peru in the semi on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Argetina’s coach, Sergio Batista, must head back to the drawing board. Penalties are a crap-shoot but a team with Argentina’s attackin talent should have been able to make the final, especially on home-ground. Batista’s tactics didn’t convince and Messi couldn’t replicate his sensational form with club side Barcelona. He doesn’t look as comfortable playing without Xavi and Iniesta. The team will have to make some changes for their World Cup Qualifying campaign.