Chile beat Colombia and a two-and-a-half hour break during an electrical storm to reach the Copa America Centenario final, where they face Argentina for the second year running.
Last year’s champions were convincing winners in Chicago, although they were made to wait for victory after racing into an early two-goal lead, after lightning, heavy rain and the threat of tornados forced the players to stay inside after half-time, while fans took shelter in the stadium.
‘Dangerous weather is approaching. Seek shelter immediately,’ read ominous messages shown on the big screens at Soldier Field, so supporters headed to the concourses to drink and sing while the Windy City rode the storm out.
Copa America champions Chile got off to a dream start after seven minutes thanks to Charles Aranguiz
The Chile midfielder (right) fired his side ahead from close range at Soldier Field on Wednesday night
The 27-year-old calmly finished past Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina during the semi-final in Chicago
Aranguiz was promptly mobbed by his team-mates who ran over to congratulate him on his strike
Colombia: Ospina 6.5; Arias 7, C. Zapata 6, Murillo 6, Fabra 5.5 (S Perez 73), C Sanchez 5.5, Torres 6, Cuadrado 5.5 (Bacca 80), Rodriguez 6.5, Cardona 5 (M Moreno 46, 5.5), Martinez 5.5.
Subs not used: R. Zapata, Mina, Celis, , Aguilar, Medina, Dayro Moreno, Roa,Bonilla.
Booked: C Sanchez, Rodriguez, Bacca.
Sent off: C Sanchez.
Chile: Bravo 7, Isla 5.5, Medel 6, Jara 6, Bose 6.5, Aranguiz 7, Silva 6.5, Hernandez 6 (Pulgar 30, 6), Fuenzalida 7.5 (Puch 75), Vargas 6.5 (M Gonzalez 88), A Sanchez 7.5.
Subs not used: Toselli, Roco, Pinilla, Castillo, Orellana, Diaz, Herrera.
Booked: Bravo, A Sanchez, Beausejour, Puch, Silva.
Goals: Aranguiz 7, Fuenzalida 11.
Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)
Chile had picked up where they left off after the 7-0 rout of Mexico, while Colombia started embarrassingly slowly. It took just seven minutes for La Roja to open the scoring, even without suspended lynchpin Arturo Vidal, who would have loved the wet and wild conditions in the second half.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men were pressing high up the pitch and it was clear from the opening stages that they planned on controlling the game. When Jose Pedro Fuenzalida piled down the wing and lofted in a neat ball to a deep position, Juan Cuadrado headed it back across his own box foolishly, and Charles Aranguiz was there to fire home from close range.
The goal didn’t make Chile ease off and four minutes later they doubled their advantage. This time Fuenzalida was the scorer, knocking the ball in after Alexis Sanchez’s shot was tipped on to the post and bounced back to the midfielder.
Claudio Bravo, who has had a bad tournament for Chile, arguably guilty in one way or another for every goal they had let in until now, was back to his best form as he denied Roger Martinez, after the man standing in for the injured Carlos Bacca got behind the defence, following James Rodriguez’s pass.
Wednesday’s match was a special one for Alexis Sanchez (right) – who won his 100th cap for Chile
Chile’s No 7 runs with the ball during the early exchanges of the first half at Soldier Field
Jose Pedro Fuenzalida clenches his fist with delight after doubling Chile’s lead after 11 minutes
Chile’s No 6 was duly jumping for joy with his team-mates after making an electric start against Colombia
Chile were dealt a blow midway through the first half when Pedro Hernandez was forced off due to injury
He made a double save before half-time, denying Carlos Sanchez and then Edwin Cardona after Cuadrado crossed for his team-mate. Colombia improved as the half went on, but the damage was pretty much done. In football terms, at least – the storms were just beginning.
With lightning and heavy rain starting the second half was delayed, then delayed again and again, with fans told to shelter in the concourses for their own safety.
Tornados had been spotted elsewhere in the state and the bad weather left the pitch in shabby condition, with a dozen men needing to brush the water off it with contraptions halfway between a washing up sponge and a broomstick.
There were discussions about holding the rest of the game on Thursday afternoon, but eventually the weather began to abate.
A sign warns fans to seek shelter due to bleak weather conditions at Soldier Field during half-time
Fans leave the stadium as a result as they awaited the resumption of the Copa America semi-final
After the near three-hour wait play resumed, but Colombia midfielder Sanchez may as well have not come out at all. Just over 10 minutes after the restart he clattered into Aranguiz and was booked for a second time. It was a little insensitive from the referee, given the slippery pitch.
Between that and Mauricio Isla tripping Daniel Torres in the box, Colombia can consider themselves unlucky, but the truth is Chile were the better team before the storm and, after it, neither side was clearly on top, as reflected by when the goals were scored.
Some smart saves by Bravo kept Colombia at bay, although Ospina was also called into action on occasion, but Sanchez’s red card made Colombia’s comeback chances slim.
This will go down as a good tournament performance by them, but an even better one from finalists Chile and if they can beat Argentina again in the final, it will be a huge triumph for coach Pizzi, after taking a job many believed was extremely tricky, stepping into Jorge Sampaoli’s shoes.
Chile’s Francisco Silva (bottom) tackles Roger Martinez in the wet during the start of the second half
Colombia captain James Rodriguez (right) tries his luck from range as they sought a way back into the game
Colombia’s evening went from bad to worse when Carlos Sanchez (second left) was sent off
The Aston Villa midfielder’s appeals fell on deaf ears as referee Joel Aguilar showed no remorse