Alexis Sanchez was again the hero for Chile, as Jorge Sampaoli’s men celebrated their Copa America triumph with a 3-2 win over Paraguay.
In Chile’s first match since they lifted the Copa America in July, the homecoming for Sanchez and Co. was meant to be a celebration of their first international trophy but Paraguay did not always follow the script.
Back at Santiago’s Estadio Nacional – the scene of their victory over Argentina on penalties to win South America’s continental championship – Chile started strongly with Felipe Gutierrez giving the hosts the lead in the eighth minute of Saturday’s friendly.
But Paraguay stunned the home crowd soon after half-time with Jonathan Fabbro and Jorge Benitez getting on the scoresheet to put the visitors in front.
Gutierrez dragged Chile level with 26 minutes remaining, however, and Sanchez – scorer of the decisive spot-kick two months ago – wrapped up victory in the 82nd minute.
Jorge Valdivia was the architect of the winning goal, releasing Eugenio Mena down the left with a defence-splitting pass and Paraguay’s defence were unable to deal with the latter’s cross, allowing Sanchez to score at the back post.
The win was Chile’s fifth in a row, while they have triumphed in four of their past five meetings with Paraguay.
Sanchez played a key role in Chile’s opener, dribbling across the top of the box before feeding Mauricio Isla, whose cross deflected off two Paraguayans before Gutierrez lifted the ball over goalkeeper Antony Silva.
Chile started brighter, with Silva forced to smother Sanchez’s shot in the 20th minute, while Chile gloveman Johnny Herrera produced a similar effort later in the half to deny Nestor Ortigoza in a one-on-one.
Just five minutes after the interval, however, and Paraguay were level with Miguel Samudio forcing Herrera to parry and Fabbro reacted quickest to score from the rebound.
Benitez put Ramon Diaz’s men in front in the 53rd minute, rising highest on a corner variation to loop his header inside the back post, with Herrera seemingly pulling out of a potential save.
That stung Chile, who hit the bar through Junior Fernandes soon after, before Sanchez cleverly teed up the hosts’ equaliser.
The Arsenal forward showed impressive skill to bring down a cross on his instep at the back post, before releasing Isla on the overlap and the full-back’s cutback found Gutierrez for the tap-in.
Sanchez would again prove the difference 18 minutes later to spark a party in Santiago.
Chile take their UFWC crown now to a clash with Brazil. Can Brazil win it back after losing it during the Copa America?