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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chile, Peru almost to QF of Copa America

While favourites Argentina and Brazil struggle for form, Chile and Peru are awakening from years of slumber at the Copa America after moving to the brink of the quarter-finals on Friday.

Peru won the last of their two South American championships in 1975 in the halycon days of the gifted Teofilo Cubillas, who would go on to prove a star turn at the 1978 World Cup. Chile, meanwhile, have been bridesmaids at four finals but never the continental bride.

That may change if promising starlet Alexis Sanchez has his way. The Barcelona target scored to land a precious 1-1 draw with fancied Uruguay and leave the Chileans with four points — surely enough to start looking forward to the last eight.

Peru are joint top of Group C with the Chileans, having earned four points of their own after Paolo Guerrero's second goal of the tournament saw off inexperienced Mexico 1-0 in Mendoza.

With both joint leaders having held Uruguay and defeated the Mexicans, regular special guests at the South American event, Peru and Chile can look forward to a Pacific "clasico" on Tuesday with the pressure largely off. A draw will send both sides through while Uruguay will have to beat Mexico to ensure their own passage.

A third straight draw would leave Diego Forlans' Charruas, like Argentina chasing a record 15th title, perched on the precipice. Sanchez came to the event trying hard to put aside reports of interest in his talents from European champions Barcelona.

But his instinctive finish just after the hour mark to level Alvaro Pereira's opener eight minutes into the second half served to underline the talent of the 22-year-old from Tocopillo.

Chile coach Claudio Borghi is emerging as the would-be purist at the championships as his side have turned in some of the most entertaining football compared to the sterile fare of the hosts and Brazil.

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