Copa America Mains. Colombia Vs Chile. The flavours from the Caribbean sea to the end of the Andes
June 22, 2016
There is a long way to go from Colombia to Chile and the almost five thousand kilometres between these two countries can leave you in the same sensations that the players of these two squads have felt through their participation in the United States, and like you were travelling such a long way by any mean of transportation, playing there have also been full of expectations, hopes but also exhaustion. All of this is still coming up.
With three victories and a loss for each one during the Centenario competition, Colombia and Chile are facing each other again in a Copa America semifinal. The previous one was in 1987 in Argentina where Chile won 2-1 thanks to Fernando Astengo and Jaime Vera's goals in extra time in an exciting comeback after Bernando Redín put Colombia in front with a penalty. Chile were the runner-up at the end with Uruguay lifting the continental trophy.
Jose Pekerman's Colombia trip from the group-stage with today's stop in Chicago started by defeating USA and Paraguay, but then was beaten 3-2 by Costa Rica in the final match of the first phase going all the way into a penalty shootout to get past Peru in the quarterfinals.
The South American Roja couldn't take off the same way losing 2-1 to Argentina but after that, Juan Antonio Pizzi lads exploded with a victory over Bolivia and Panama securing the semis' spot with a 7-0 carnage over Mexico.
Trying to assess how can the teams arrive at the Soldiers Field we are going to imaginarily travel around with Barranquilla, Carlos Bacca's place of birth as our departure point.
Well know for his extraordinary finishing skills, the AC Milan striker is one of the most dangerous pieces of the Cafeteros' strategy. Despite having found the net just once so far, playing upfront, Bacca will terrify Chile's defence, especially when playing against teams like Chile because in words from Colombian journalist Gerson Toninho, "these are teams that go into the pitch with an offensive tactic and Colombia know how to manage their timing and pace. They have skilful and fast players attacking through the wings. A perfect game for guys like James Rodríguez with great vision and a strong kick, a combination that could work for Carlos Bacca to take advantage of his explosive pace inside the box."
"Colombia like these kind of games" added Toninho, "playing against Chile is so different than confronting Peru or Uruguay because Chile play and allow the rival do it as well. Confronting Chile, Brazil or Argentina is perfect to experiment quick transitions. A game where Marlos Moreno could fit in very well either from the start or from the bench during the second half."
Moreno is a 19-year-old striker that can also play as a winger. Emerging from his home city Medellin's Atlético Nacional academy he is one of the Colombia rising stars that according to Toninho, could erupt during the game taking advantage of the absence of midfielder Arturo Vidal. "He is a very skilful and fast youngster that could break Chile's defence" he pointed.
Born in Santiago, the Bayern Munich key player will miss the game after picking his second yellow card during the clash against the Mexican "Tri". But despite the absence, Colombia know about their rivals quality and Bacca made it clear while addressing the media in the training ground saying that the know "what Vidal brings, but they have excellent players. Individually, [Chile players] are great, but they are a team and that is why they are [reigning Copa America] champions."
Vidal has scored two goals during the tournament, four less that Eduardo Vargas, a Hoffenheim midfielder with a great ability to play wide or in the centre and a real threat to the opposition. Having him or the well known Alexis Sánchez in command surely are enough reasons for BBC's world journalist José Miguel Pinochet to feel confident about Chile's chance to progress to the final to play a rematch against Argentina defending the title conquered last year.
"This game is very important for Chile because it will prove that what happened last year wasn't luck or because they were the Copa hosts", he said. "They are demonstrating that quality of their football is something that has been persisted. It's something that it is also recognised by the pundits that have talked about Copa America while working in the Euro Cup."
Pinochet remarks the words of former players that put Chile as an example because the way they play pressuring the rivals counterattacks to win back the ball, an important aspect of the game "that the coaches have changed maintaining Chile's style. That give them a slightly chance over Colombia," he pointed.
On the other hand,"for Colombia, this game is more important" adds the also Talk Sport's Premier League commentator; "it's the opportunity to go to the final, a chance to believe in the raising of another generational cycle demonstrating that the team of [Brazil] 2014 were a real one. They know that they have to push Chile from the very beginning to see which squad will prevail during the game."
Head to head, both sides have achieved balanced results during the qualifying games between them but maybe hinting what could happen today, Pinochet made a point about how the dominance of any of them have been reflected over the ground. He remembered a Brazil 2014 qualifier played in Barranquilla where each team clearly dominated one-half of the game with Colombia producing a historic comeback scoring three goals during the second half to secure a place in the last World Cup finals. Both teams are strong and have wonderful and valuable players and at the end, this game could be a pretty close call to any of them.
Nationals from both countries acknowledge the nature of this game but despite the possibility of an adverse result they are proud of what his representatives have achieved so far like Alexandra Rentería who told us that "In Colombia, we are very proud of our National Team and of José Pekerman's work. Despite losing to Costa Rica at the end of the group phase I think that the likes of Juan Cuadrado, James Rodríguez and our super goalkeeper David Ospina could bring joy to Colombians with the chance to dispute our first final since 2001." A press correspondent in London, Rentería added that this squad is the best team in recent year and rated them as very capable to beating Chile despite they are in-form after their victory over Mexico."
This fantastic trip from Barranquilla to Santiago trying to solve the equation of what could happen in Chicago, allowed me finding that two iconic figures of both countries had somehow a strange link not just with the old game but also with food.
In an article titled "The Oath"published in El Universal, Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Marquez tells how he succumbed to a couple of friends invite to visit a football stadium for the very first time on June 14 of 1950. The game? a Colombian league match between Junior de Barranquilla and Millonarios. His friends never imagined that Gabo will be converted from a very civilised man into a "crazy mad fan" that in his own words, helped him lose "the sense of ridiculousness." The author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" became then a passionate supporter of Club Junior.
In terms of food and despite he mentioned in an interview in 1988 something a about a "perpetual diet" due either he was very keen to dieting or because at some point he simply couldn't afford to eat, according to the Huffington Post quoting store’s owner María Nevett (who is, for full disclosure, the mother of HuffPost Latino Voices editor Ana Benedetti), "níspero ice cream — a local fruit — from Gelatería Paradiso" in Cartagena was his favourite dessert. But this isn't all. García Márquez also dedicated parts of his many awarded novels to food episodes described by Johanna Fanzoni on The Daily Meal website from where we picked The eating contest in 100 Years of Solitude "where Aureliano Segundo almost kills himself by eating too much during an eating contest but is bested by a mysterious woman called The Elephant, who discovers that the only way to eat massive quantities of food is to find inner peace." In a sort of ways, maybe Colombia should find their nirvana to surpass Chile.
In Chile people have always discussed poet Pablo Neruda approach to football with some evidence that connects the also Nobel Prize to Atlético Magallanes. Furthermore, his extensive legacy as a writer includes a strange and sad poem titled The Players, Los Jugadores that maybe dedicated to gamblers more than footballers; but also his country gastronomy inspired him dedicating verses to a fish soup called "Ode to Conger Chowder".
Both teams have great players and have tasted success either as individuals or as a group. The American dream will end for one of them today in Chicago but we are sure that everyone in both sides will honour the name of today's venue.
Please find a recipe for the Chowder that despite been in spanish you could it's easy to follow.
And her there is a Colombian dish from the Caribbean side, fried fish with coconut rice and patacones.