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Preview: Chile vs. Uruguay

Sports Mole looks ahead to the first Copa America quarter-final between hosts Chile and holders Uruguay.

Having advanced through to the quarter-finals as winners of Group A, hosts Chile are now just two encounters away from reaching their fifth Copa America final.

Standing in their way in Santiago during the early hours of Thursday morning will be holders Uruguay, who despite struggling in their group, progressed as one of two best third-placed nations.


Head coach Jorge Sampaoli of Chile reacts after his team's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B match between Spain and Chile at Maracana on June 18, 2014© Getty Images

There hasn't been a dull moment, both on and off the pitch, since Chile got this year's Copa America underway eleven days ago.

On the negative front, star midfielder Arturo Vidal was perhaps lucky to have escaped more severe punishment than only losing his driving licence after crashing his car while the influence of alcohol. In Chile, such an offence can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

But, in contrast on the pitch, the Juventus midfielder is the competition's leading goalscorer to date, with three goals to his name.

His contribution helped the Chileans to pick up seven points from a possible nine and score 10 goals from their three group matches, which is six more times than any other country managed to find the net during the same period.

It's that attacking outlook that has seen many people tip Chile to win a first ever Copa America title this summer, having lost on each of their four previous appearances in the final.

The big question now is, with the bigger teams awaiting them - starting with Uruguay, will head coach Jorge Sampaoli encourage his team to play in a more conservative manner? Speaking to reporters, he responded: "Chile will not change its style for the quarter-finals. Playing like this is the only way to beat the big teams we will meet from here on."

One a more cautious note, though, it must be said that Chile have been defeated in their last three quarter-final outings, having lost out to Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela respectively.

Recent form: LLWWDW


Uruguay's coach Oscar Tabarez sits on the bench during a Group D football match between Uruguay and Costa Rica at the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 14, 2014© Getty Images

While Chile may have won themselves many admirers with their swashbuckling performances, the same cannot be said of Oscar Tabarez's Uruguayan charges.

As champions from four years ago, there was much anticipation surrounding La Celeste, who are gunning to become the fourth nation to retain the Copa America trophy since 1991.

From their three group encounters, they collected one of each possible result, which was only enough to see them qualify for the last eight along with Colombia as the best third-placed finishers.

Although, on reflection, that may not be a bad thing because despite the fact that they face the hosts, Group B winners Argentina take on the unpredictable Colombians, while runners-up Paraguay are up against five-time world champions Brazil.

As predicted, Luis Suarez's suspension has had an adverse impact on Uruguay. In the Barcelona striker's absence, the goalscoring burden was passed to Edinson Cavani, but the Paris Saint-Germain frontman is still awaiting his first goal of the competition. In defence of the 28-year-old, he has not received great service from the team's more creative players.

But, while their displays so far may not have set the world alight, they can at least take confidence from their recent Copa America quarter-final record. They have reached this stage in six of the last seven editions and won on each occasion.

Recent form: WWWWLD

Team News

Diego Godin for Atletico Madrid on October 22, 2014© Getty Images

Experienced centre-back Diego Godin was banned for the 1-1 draw with Paraguay last time out, but he is expected to return to the Uruguay defence for this clash.

He should replace Sebastian Coates, but Hull City centre-forward Abel Hernandez is in contention to keep his place following his first start of the tournament against the Paraguayans.

Following Vidal's recent antics, there had been reports that he would be dropped by Sampaoli, but he surprisingly started the final group game against Bolivia and he is now likely to retain his spot in the starting lineup.

It also remains to be seen if Sampaoli will hand a recall to Matias Fernandez. The midfielder started Chile's opening game against Ecuador, but he was red carded and has not been able to regain his place.

He came off the bench against Bolivia, but the form shown by the likes of Vidal and Charles Aranguiz, who scored twice in that match, may well see Fernandez start among the substitutes again.

Chile possible starting lineup:
Bravo; Isla, Medel, Jara, Beausejour; Aranguiz, Diaz, Valdivia, Vidal; Sanchez, Vargas

Uruguay possible starting lineup:
Muslera; M Pereira, Gimenez, Godin, A Pereira; Sanchez, Gonzalez, Arevalo, Rolan; Hernandez, Cavani

Head To Head

The first 11 meetings between these nations all ended in Uruguayan victories, eight of which came in the Copa America.

Overall, Uruguay have won 43 times to Chile's 17 triumphs, although in recent years the tide has started to turn.

Of the last eight encounters, Uruguay have celebrated just two wins - the same amount as Chile during that time.

In the Copa America, they last faced off in 2011 in the group stages when Chile talisman Alexis Sanchez cancelled out Alvaro Pereira's opener to secure a 1-1 draw.

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We say: Chile 2-1 Uruguay

When you consider the way that Chile approach games, it may take two or even three goals to beat them. Indeed, during the group phase, Mexico breached Claudio Bravo's net three times and still did not win the game. Uruguay have shown little to date to suggest that they have enough goals in their armoury, so Chile should be able to book their place in the final four.

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Chile's forward Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring a goal during the Round of 16 football match between Brazil and Chile at The Mineirao Stadium on June 28, 2014
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