SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Only four teams are left in the Copa America and whichever lifts the trophy next weekend, one thing is guaranteed — the winning coach will be an Argentine.
With Brazil’s shock exit in the quarter-finals on Saturday, the semi-final lineup is complete. Hosts Chile will face Peru in Santiago on Monday before favourites Argentina take on Paraguay in the southern Chilean city of Concepcion on Tuesday.
All four teams have Argentine coaches. Chile are led by Jorge Sampaoli, Peru by Ricardo Gareca, Argentina by Gerardo Martino and Paraguay by Ramon Diaz.
“It’s a source of great happiness for the whole country that we not only have top-class players but also top-class coaches,” Diaz said after his side disposed of Brazil in a penalty shootout on Saturday.
Buoyed by a home crowd, Chile will be favourites to beat Peru but are still waiting to hear if their centre back Gonzalo Jara will be cleared to play.
He is at the centre of the now infamous incident after television images showed him sticking his finger up an opponent’s backside during Chile’s quarter-final victory over Uruguay.
The South American football federation is reviewing the case and is expected to rule on it before the semi-final. The chances are that Jara will be banned for at least one match.
That would be a blow to Chile’s chances of containing Peru’s”fantastic four” — strikers Paolo Guerrero and Claudio Pizarro and attacking midfielders Jefferson Farfan and Juan Vargas.
They have turned an otherwise unremarkable team into serious title contenders and Guerrero in particular is in fine form having scored a hat-trick in their quarter-final defeat of Bolivia.
Argentina looked good in their last match against Colombia but once again struggled to find the net, despite having attacking talents Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria in their starting lineup.
In the end it was their reserve striker, Carlos Tevez, who eased them into the last four with the decisive penalty in a shootout.
Their opponents Paraguay are perhaps the most unlikely of the semi-finalists, although they have already faced the three most successful sides in South American football history — Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay — and come through unbeaten.
Tuesday’s match will be a repeat of their group clash against Argentina, when they battled back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw.
Thirteen players go into the semis on yellow cards and if they are booked would miss the final. They include Messi, his Argentine team mate Javier Mascherano and Chile’s influential playmaker Jorge Valdivia.
Editing by Toby Davis