July 16, 2011
Uruguay 1, Argentina 1
SANTA FE, Argentina -- Uruguay advanced to the semifinals of the Copa America with a penalty shootout victory over hosts Argentina on Saturday, with Carlos Tevez having his spotkick saved by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera in the decider.The game ended 1-1 after regulation time and there was no addition to that scoreline in extra time. The final tally in the shootout was 5-4 to Uruguay.Diego Perez gave Uruguay a surprise 1-0 lead in the 6th minute, but Gonzalo Higuain equalized in the 18th. Argentina had a man advantage from the 39th when Perez received his second yellow. But Muslera and Uruguay's rugged defense stopped Argentina, which had a dozen chances in regulation and extra time.The teams returned to even strength when Argentina captain Javier Mascherano was sent off in the 87th.Uruguay will face Peru in the semifinals on Tuesday.On Sunday, Brazil faces Paraguay and Chile plays Venezuela in the remaining quarterfinals.It's a bitter loss for Argentina, which was aiming to win its first major trophy in 18 years; and hoping to do it at home with Lionel Messi, the world's best player. Messi showed flashes, but was unable to deliver for his home nation where he has been often criticized for not performing as well as he does at Barcelona.Argentina never gelled as a team, winning only one match in four at the tournament. That against an under-23 team that Costa Rica fielded as a guest nation from the CONCACAF region.The website of the Argentine sports daily "Ole" immediatley called the loss "a national failure. Good-bye to the dream of winning the Copa at home. Not even Messi can save us"Again, Argentina's smaller neighbor Uruguay was the better side. Last year in the World Cup in South Africa, Uruguay also reached the semifinals with Argentina going out at the quarterfinal stage.Argentina and Uruguay have each won this event 14 times, and Brazil has won eight. But Brazil has won four of the past five."We've managed to reach our first objective, which was to match our results in the last Copa America," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said.Argentina coach Sergio Batista is now likely to come under enormous pressure. Batista replaced Diego Maradona following the World Cup, and immediately after the match was asked if he planned to resign."I'm not thinking about that," he said. "It has never crossed by mind. I have to continue on the job. My job started five or six months ago, and I have to continue with my plans. The important thing is the (2014) World Cup."I can't be happy," he added. "One does not like to be eliminated. But I am content with my players."Batista denied that a quarterfinal exit could be considered a failure."It is not a failure because we did all we could to win, and it didn't happen," Batista said. "Failure is a strong word. We worked to win but couldn't do it."Batista acknowledged his team's play fell off in the second half. And that included Messi, who has now failed to score in his past 16 official games -- not counting friendlies -- for the national team."Messi had 30 exceptional minutes in the first half. In the second we lost our intensity."Argentina controlled the early part of the match with Messi often splitting the Uruguay defense with precision passes.But when Uruguay went down a man, it became more defense-minded and Argentina struggled to break down its opponent. When the Gauchos did manage to put some play together, Muslera came up with a dozen key saves.Messi and Gonzalo Higuain almost won it several times in the second half. Messi forced Muslera into a diving save in the 63rd minute. In the 78th, Higuain took a pass from Messi in the area, and turned and fired with Muslera sprawling to stop his shot.Javier Pastore tested Muslera a few minutes later.In the final minute of regulation time, Messi's free kick from 30 meters was headed for the goal until Muslera kicked out his left leg for a miraculous save.Uruguay striker Diego Forlan almost snatched the game with the last shot of regulation time.In extra time, Messi, Pastore and Higuain all had chances further chances to net the winner. The best came in the 111th when Higuain shot into the outside of the netting from close range.The shootout was level at 2-2 when Tevez went for power rather than placement, and Muslera guessed right, diving to his right to block the shot. All the other spotkicks were converted.---Lineups:Argentina: Sergio Romero, Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolas Burdisso, Gabriel Milito, Javier Zanetti, Fernando Gago (Lucas Biglia, 96), Javier Mascherano, Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria (Javier Pastore, 72), Sergio Aguero (Carlos Tevez, 83), Gonzalo Higuain.Uruguay: Fernando Muslera, Maximiliano Pereira, Diego Lugano, Mauricio Victorino (Andres Scotti, 19), Martin Caceres, Alvaro Gonzalez, Diego Perez, Egidio Arevalo Rios (Sebastian Eguren, 94), Alvaro Pereira (Walter Gargano, 94), Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez.