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Chile vs Bolivia: Stuttering La Roja out to maintain Copa dominance over La Verde

By Sacha Pisani

Cuiaba (Brazil), June 18: Chile have become draw specialists as they look to kick-start their Copa America campaign against Bolivia in Cuiaba on Friday (June 18).

La Roja recorded their third consecutive 1-1 draw after Eduardo Vargas' equaliser cancelled out Lionel Messi's superb free-kick against Argentina on Monday (June 14).

Copa America champions in 2015 and 2016, Chile have struggled for form since the 2019 tournament, winning just three games (L5, 6D).

Encouragingly for Chile, they have dominated Bolivia in the Copa America amid a run of five wins and a draw in CONMEBOL's showpiece event.

Copa America 2021: Full Schedule, venues, groups, dates, time in India, telecast and live streaming detailsCopa America 2021: Full Schedule, venues, groups, dates, time in India, telecast and live streaming details

"We must improve the possession of the ball and do it more calmly, not be so direct in some parts of the game because that causes us a lot of wear and tear," Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo said following the draw with Argentina, which included six players that featured in the 2015 Copa triumph over La Albiceleste.

"Without possession of the ball we are a very uncomfortable team and we have to continue to maintain that and continue to be aggressive."

Chile head coach Martin Lasarte, who took charge in February, added: "This team didn't want to be beaten, even though they didn't play well. These players are defiant."

Bolivia's Group A campaign got off to a disappointing start – beaten 3-1 by Paraguay on Monday.

Already missing captain and talisman Marcelo Martins due to coronavirus, Bolivia had teenage debutant Jaume Cuellar sent off while leading as Paraguay capitalised on their numerical advantage in the second half.

Bolivia – the 1963 champions who have not progressed from the group stage since 2015 – are set to be without Marcelo again in a situation the country's all-time leading goalscorer is unhappy with.

Marcelo used social media to hit out at CONMEBOL, which relocated the Copa to Brazil from Argentina and Colombia, despite the country being one of the worst hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

"Thanks to you at CONMEBOL for this," Marcelo said in an Instagram post that was later deleted. "It's all your fault. If one person dies, what are you going to do? What matters to you is only money. Is the player's life worth nothing?"

Copa America 2021: Full Squad of 10 teams, groups and players listCopa America 2021: Full Squad of 10 teams, groups and players list

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chile – Eduardo Vargas

With Alexis Sanchez sidelined for the entire group stage, Vargas is carrying the load up front.

Only Sanchez (46) has scored more international goals for Chile than forward Vargas (39).

Vargas' equaliser against Argentina saw him move level with Gabriel Batistuta in the list of the most goals in Copa history. The 31-year-old is only four goals away from matching record holders Zizinho and Tucho Mendez (17).

Bolivia – Ruben Cordano

The unheralded 22-year-old goalkeeper was on the receiving end of three goals last time out, but he still impressed.

No goalkeeper made more saves than Cordano in the opening round of Copa games – eight, double that of Bravo and Venezuela's Joel Graterol in the top three.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Chile are unbeaten in five games against Bolivia at the Copa America (W4 D1), including a 2-1 victory for La Roja in the last meeting during the 2016 edition. The two nations are playing for the third time in Brazil, winning one game apiece.

- Chile have lost just one of their 13 games versus Bolivia in all competitions (W9 D3). However, they are winless in the last two meetings with Bolivia (L1 D1), their worst winless run in this process.

- Bolivia have scored in six of their previous eight games played in the Copa America. However, they failed to keep a clean sheet in those matches (L8).

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Story first published: Friday, June 18, 2021, 11:32 [IST]
Other articles published on Jun 18, 2021