In a wacky and totally unexpected turn of events, all four favourites of the Copa América quarter-final round were shown the door, seemingly in alphabetical order, with the elimination of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia over the weekend.
Along with their respective national teams, Atlético players Luis Perea, Elias and Sergio Aguero were sent home packing, while Uruguayan duo Diego Forlán and Diego Godín will remain in Argentina for at least another week.
After defeating Kun’s Argentina in a penalty shootout, the Celeste pair will take on Peru on Tuesday evening in the semi-finals.
Depending on the outcome of that clash, Uruguay will either take part in Saturday’s third-place match or Sunday’s final.
Luis Perea (Colombia)
Luis Perea’s Colombia side entered their quarter-final match against Peru as the highest seeded team in the tournament, following an impressive group stage performance that included three straight shut-outs.
Los Cafeteros were fully expected to prevail against Group C’s third place finisher, but a 2-0 upset by the Peruvians in the opener of the quarter-finals was an early warning sign of the surprises to come.
Rumoured Atlético target Radamel Falcao blew a chance to settle the clash in regulation when he missed a penalty kick in the 65th minute.
Our 32-year-old centre-back started the match after having played all 270 minutes of Colombia’s group phase, and another 90 minute period elapsed without Perea’s back line conceding a goal.
All knotted up at 0-0, the match went into extra time where Peru capitalised on two horrible mistakes by – no no, relax, not by Perea – by Colombian goalkeeper Neco Martínez to come out victorious.
Though our Turbo was gaff-free throughout the game and was fairly solid, he didn’t look quite as sharp as he had in his squad’s first three meetings, perhaps because of the added pressure of the game.
He needlessly conceded a corner kick when he had plenty of time to control and clear the ball cleanly, and looked like he was suffering from a lack of confidence at times, reminiscent of his bad days at the Calderón.
It’s unclear when Perea is due back in Madrid and if he will be available for our Europa League qualifier on the 28th.
AS reports that Atleti sporting director Jose Luis Caminero will speak to the veteran defender soon, likely to inform him when he is expected to return to the club, and maybe even to discuss his future.
Diego Forlan and Diego Godin (Uruguay)
Whether it was purely out of spite towards Kun Agüero, or whether it was out of exasperation with the whole saga of the 23-year-old’s sale, the Atlético world got turned on its head prior to the big clash between Argentina and Uruguay.
Rojiblanco supporters, who had grown so accustomed to siding with Kun and railing against Forlan, found themselves throwing all their support behind Cachavacha.
The 32-year-old, who now holds the record for most official caps with the Uruguayan national team with 80, delivered by sending in the free kick cross that led to Uruguay’s stunning early goal in the fifth minute.
Higuaín levelled just over 10 minutes later however, and la Celeste goal scorer and Forlán look-alike Diego “Ruso” Pérez saw red about five minutes before half time.
At that point, things were looking grim for Caminero and Atleti fans hoping for Kun’s future to get resolved within the coming week.
Uruguay were forced to play a man down for the majority of the second half, and in the final minutes of regulation play, Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero denied Forlan a point blank chance to end his months-long goalless streak.
Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera turned in an epic eight-save performance that carried the 1-1 tie into extra time, and then into penalty shootout.
It must have felt surreal to Forlán to blast home his penalty kick, as it was the first time one of his shots ended up in the back of the net since way back on March 5th against Villarreal.
Muslera decided the thriller by guessing right to block Tévez’s spotkick, the only one that was missed in the shootout.
Atleti defender Diego Godín was inactive once again, and it’s a safe bet that, barring suspension or injury to a team-mate, the 25-year-old will not take part in the next game.
Uruguay advance to the semi-final round where they will square off against Peru on Tuesday evening.
Sergio Aguero (Argentina)
Kun appeared in hosts Argentina’s starting XI for the second straight time in Saturday’s match against Uruguay, but the competition’s leading scorer (3 goals) was only able to muster a single off-target shot in the 83 minutes he spent on the pitch before being subbed off for Carlos Tévez.
12 minutes into the second half, play was halted after a man jumped out of the crowd and ran towards Kun. No folks, it wasn’t an Atleti hitman. It was the notorious pitch invader Jimmy Jump, who placed his traditional red beanie cap on Aguero’s head and assaulted him with a kiss on the cheek before being tackled by security.
Now that Argentina have been eliminated, Kun is expected to announce where he will be taking his talents this upcoming season. His agent, Hernán Reguera, told Argentinean paper Olé on Sunday, “This week, everything will be settled.”
Word has it that Kun will be joining David de Gea’s crosstown rivals Manchester City, who will reportedly pay his full release clause of €45 million.
AS, following up on the City rumours out of the Argentine press, rounded up usual suspects Rossi, Falcao and Osvaldo as possible replacements for Aguero.
As expected, Elias did not take part in his national team’s quarter-final encounter against Paraguay.
After 120 minutes of play, the teams remained tied at 0-0. Paraguayan goalie and former Valladolid man Justo Villar turned in a magnificent performance, as he was able to keep a clean sheet in spite of Brazil’s 16-shot barrage.
The Seleção’s inability to score continued all the way to the penalty shootout, where they self-destructed and shockingly missed all four of their spotkicks.
Atléticos would like to think the outcome of the match would have been different had Elias been unleashed. Unfortunately, because of Mano Menezes’ mercy towards the Paraguayans, we will never know.
It shouldn’t be too long before the well-rested midfielder introduces himself to new coach Gregorio Manzano in his return to Spain.