Host nation Chile closing in on historic Copa America crown
In 99 years of Copa America history, Chile have incredibly, never managed to lift the coveted South American crown, slipping up in four final appearances, but Jorge Sampaoli’s current crop of stars are just one more step away from a historic triumph on home soil.
Six different nations have tasted victory as hosts in the competition’s long-standing history, with the last being Colombia in 2001, but Chile will look to put their disappointing Copa past behind them by becoming the seventh, when they proudly march out in the Estadio Nacional in front of almost 50k passionate home fans.
La Roja are even-money with Coral to clinch their maiden Copa crown and make history on Sunday, putting almost 100 years of hurt behind them, and they possess every aspect needed in order to do so in their ranks.
As a whole, Sampaoli’s squad have been sublime, and sometimes ruthless, but have also showed the grit and defiance required to emerge as the winner in games where they are under severe pressure. These qualities were showcased perfectly in the semi-final triumph over Peru, edging by their persistent South American counterparts with a narrow 2-1 triumph.
Capping off a personally sensational club campaign with Juventus, midfield engine Arturo Vidal has been the driving force for Chile, having been somewhat sketchily allowed to continue on in the competition following drink-driving controversy during the group stage (11/2 to finish top scorer).
Vidal helped the Turin titans to lift both Serie A and Coppa Italia titles, but was the victim of a simply colossal Barcelona side in the Champions League final, and he has continued his club form on to the international stage with his three goals and inspiring presence pushing his nation closer to history.
In attack, Alexis Sanchez came into this summer’s Copa America on the back of a sublime debut season for Arsenal in the Premier League. The in-form forward netted 25 goals in all competitions, including a decisive strike at Wembley, which helped secure back-to-back FA Cup triumphs for the Gunners.
Although, despite the prowess of both Sanchez and Vidal, who could both be featuring at the Emirates next season, there have been key performers from possibly unexpected sources. Eduardo Vargas will be a name not widely regarded by QPR fans, with the former top-flight attacker having just ended a torrid season-long loan spell at Loftus Road.
Still only 25 years of age, Vargas seems to only showcase his true potential after donning his national colours, having been loaned out three times since arriving at Serie A side Napoli in 2012, including a brief stint with Valencia.
The clinical Chilean has struck an impressive four times this summer on turf, most recently following up his semi-final opener against Peru by smashing home a thunderous winner to seal a first final appearance for his nation in 28 years (odds-on 3/10 top scorer).
Vargas is a completely different animal from his underwhelming spell in London, having netted just three times in 22 lacklustre outings for the R’s, as they were ultimately relegated to the Championship. However, his superb showings for Chile have edged them closer to a historic triumph.
Another player who has faltered at club level but shone on the international platform is Mauricio Isla, another QPR loanee last term, with the Juventus defender having struggled massively to make an impact, before scoring the late quarter-final winner against Uruguay recently.
With the entire Chile squad passionately gelled together ahead of the final and, with momentum on their side, Sampaoli’s La Roja are stepping ever closer to making Copa America history in their own backyard.