This is it. The knockout rounds of the 2015 Copa America are upon us and we begin with a huge last eight encounter in the Estadio Nacional in Santiago.
Undefeated host nation Chile take on reigning champs Uruguay in what will be a tight, tense affair in front of an expectant home crowd.
[ FOLLOW LIVE – Chile vs. Uruguay ]
After days of thick smog forced city officials to declare an “environmental emergency” in the Chilean capital due to high pollution levels, this game has never been in doubt of taking place. Especially because Jorge Sampaoli’s men have seen the draw open up for them as the unpredictable tournament to crown CONMEBOL’s champions continues. The winner of this quarterfinal will face the winner of the unlikely lads, Peru or Bolivia, in the semifinal, and whoever prevails on Wednesday will be red-hot favorites to make the final.
Chile’s star names Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal (who remains on the team despite his arrest for DUI after smashing up his Ferrari) will look to get past La Celeste after drawing with them 1-1 in the group stages of the 2011 Copa America and losing 4-0 to them in 2014 World Cup qualifying soon after. However, the last time these two teams met was in Santiago in 2013 and Chile won 2-0.
[ MORE: Unpredictability to continue in Chile? ]
In team news, Uruguay are obviously without their star man Luis Suarez who continues his nine-game international ban following his bite on Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup last summer. The man who was tipped to emerge from Suarez’s shadows and lead Uruguay to glory in Chile, Edinson Cavani, may not even play as his father was arrested after a fatal car accident. Cavani is said to be in no fit state to lead Uruguay but Uruguay’s coach Oscar Tabarez is confident he can convince “El Matador” to play. One bonus for La Celeste is that captain Diego Godin will return from suspension to take his place in the center of defense. As for Chile, Sampaoli has no fresh injury worries, just the pressure of an entire nation weighing on his shoulders.
Chile hasn’t got past the quarterfinal stage of the Copa America since 1991. If they beat Uruguay on Wednesday they will not only make the final four but take a huge step towards making the final on home soil on July 4. Do they need any more motivation than that?
Hit the “follow live” link above to stay up to date with what is going on in Santiago from 7:30 p.m. ET onwards, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the Copa America quarterfinals on ProSoccerTalk.