Back Chile to end a century of hurt in football
Despite Vidal's stupidity, Chileans are real Copa contenders
(Charles Aranguiz 3, Alexis Sanchez 37, Eduardo Vargas 66, Gary Medel 79, Ronald Raldes 86-og)
Chile's anger towards Arturo Vidal doesn't quite match the frustration after a century of failure.
Vidal smashed his Ferrari after a drinking session at a casino. The Chileans haven't won a trophy in 105 years.
Morality was always going to be less important than the match itself.
So the casino clown played and the Copa America hosts threw down a marker. The tournament's biggest loser may end up an unlikely winner.
After a century of despair, there is hope of deliverance for Chile. Their 5-0 stroll against Bolivia yesterday morning (Singapore time) underlined their silverware credentials.
Jorge Sampaoli's men were magnificent, equal parts athletic and aesthetic.
Argentina and a Neymar-less Brazil must be taking note. The heat is with Chile.
With a quarter-final against the best third-place team from either Group B or C next week, the hosts know that momentum is with them. If destiny is also in their corner, then the trophy drought may end in Santiago.
But the moral cost is a tricky one to calculate.
It would be inconceivable for a shamed Lion from either Singapore or England to be selected less than 72 hours after an irresponsible drink-driving car crash.
But the Chileans are nothing if not pragmatic. They placed the onus on Vidal to redeem himself. Play now for the penance. Pay later for the failure.
The banner in the Santiago stand summed up the national mood: "If you don't score, you will s*** on all of Chile."
Alexis Sanchez said as much before the game. Vidal owed the country. More importantly, he owed the men around him in the dressing room.
The Juventus midfielder had to stand up. In the end, his teammates stood taller. The siege mentality proved contagious and Chile delivered the outstanding performance of the Copa America.
After the haphazard 3-3 draw with Mexico, Sampaoli went to work on defence, opting for a back four with additional support from the omnipresent Marcelo Diaz. Between Diaz and Gary Medel, Chile were impenetrable.
With his bullet-headed appearance, Medel always came across as a wolf among timid sheep at Cardiff City, but he's progressed from influential to indispensible at Inter Milan.
His chested takedown and cheeky flick for Chile's fourth goal provided the frilly bow. Medel is a gift for his country.
Sanchez nodded in his first of the tournament after Charles Aranguiz's early goal had started the rout. But, his withdrawal at half-time revealed more about Chile's subtle evolution.
Sampaoli's wise decision to rest Sanchez and Vidal with the game virtually in their hands actually improved the side.
Aside from his goal, Sanchez laboured a little and Vidal's contribution was marginal on the left, which may trigger further debate about his inclusion.
The inconvenient truth remains that the Juve midfielder was more impactful at the casino bar.
But the arrival of Angelo Henriquez and Matius Fernandez revealed Chile's newfound strength in depth. La Roja scored three times as they danced to Jorge Valdivia's hypnotic tune.
Palmeiras skipper Valdivia controlled the contest, playing in the hole and leaving the Bolivians flailing around in theirs.
Faint echoes of Barcelona's pass and movement drifted across the Santiago turf as distant memories of La Roja hatchet men and cynical stereotypes faded away.
Sampaoli's winning formula is an appealing one. The attacking triangle of Sanchez (and then Henriquez), Eduardo Vargas and Valdivia enjoyed terrific support from Aranguiz on the right and Jean Beausejour on the opposite flank.
Indeed, Beausejour's first-half forays with Sanchez in particular highlighted Vidal's shortcomings. He was often bypassed.
Beausejour and Sanchez sidestepped the man in the middle of a scandal.
After such a euphoric occasion, Vidal remains a nagging ache for Sampaoli.
The midfielder's head wasn't in the right place at the casino, nor were his feet at the Estadio Nacional.
But Vidal's demons are a dilemma for another day.
Chile were otherwise flawless, decisive at the back and delightful going forward. The Promised Land is no longer a pipe dream, but a legitimate tournament goal.
From the shadow of Vidal's stupidity, Chile's dark horses stepped into the light.
Brazil have much to ponder
The last time Brazil lost Neymar at a major tournament they were humiliated 7-1 by Germany at the 2014 World Cup and coach Dunga's task is to prevent a similar meltdown in their Copa America match against Venezuela today.
The Barcelona forward (above) was banned for four games on Friday after receiving a straight red card and then insulting the referee after Brazil's 1-0 loss to Colombia two days ago.
Brazil are appealing the ban, which will rule him out of the rest of the Copa, starting with their last group game today.
Meanwhile, Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho seems the most likely candidate to get a chance in the creative role for the five-time world champions and the midfielder promised he was ready.
"We are all prepared, focused on what we want," the 23-year old said, yesterday. "We have lost our main player but the group is strong and we are all focused on overcoming Neymar's loss in the next game."
Brazil's players said much the same thing when they lost Neymar after a tumultuous game against Colombia, in the quarter- finals of the 2014 World Cup.
In the next game they suffered their biggest ever World Cup reverse and their most embarrassing defeat.
Coach Dunga will not stand for more of the same this time and will come down hard on anyone he believes is not mentally prepared to cope with Neymar's absence.
Venezuela, of course, are a much less daunting prospect than Germany. Yet if Brazil do qualify for the quarter finals - and they have never lost a Copa America match to Venezuela - they will still face a tough task in the remaining games of what is an unpredictable tournament. - Reuters.
"Worst of all was that after the match he waited for the referee in the tunnel and insulted him, which aggravated the matter and led to the longer ban."
- Alberto Lozada, a member of the disciplinary committee, explaining why Neymar received a longer ban