Chile (1-0-1) and Panama (1-0-1) have everything to play for on Tuesday (8, Fox Sports 1) when they meet at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia in their final Group D match. Argentina (2-0-0) is in the driver’s seat in Group D and if they tie or beat Bolivia (0-0-2) on Tuesday (10, Fox Sports 1) in their match at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, they will capture first-place. That means that Chile and Panama are competing for second-place: Chile only needs a draw since their goal-differential is zero while Panama’s is minus-4, meaning that they need a win to advance to the quarterfinals.
Chile certainly hasn’t made things easy on themselves as they needed a miracle finish to hold off Bolivia 2-1 on Friday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. Bolivia was called for a very questionable hand ball on defender Luis Gutierrez in its defensive box deep into injury time (the 9th minute!) against Chile and midfielder Arturo Vidal was able to drill his penalty kick for the game-winning goal (his second goal of the game). Panama beat Bolivia 2-1 in its opener last Monday at Camping World Stadium in Orlando thanks to Blas Perez’s two goals but then they were on the wrong end of the Lionel Messi show in Friday’s 5-0 blowout loss to Argentina at Soldier Field in Chicago.
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The best soccer player in the world showed that he still has it after he entered as a substitute in the 61st minute (he missed Argentina’s first match with an injury). When he came in, his team was only up 1-0 on Panama but Messi proceeded to score a hat trick in 26 minutes of action. Panama won’t be the last team that gets embarrassed by Messi but that scoring outburst really hurt their chances to advance in the 2016 Copa America. They would be an underdog anyway against Chile in a normal match but now with the knowledge that they’ll have to earn three points, that appears to be a far-fetched scenario.
It feels like Chile is overdue for a good performance after they were lucky to walk away with a one-goal loss to Argentina and they basically only held a lead vs. Bolivia for 15 minutes (after Vidal’s first goal in the 46th minute). Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the world but he has yet to record a goal or assist in Chile’s first two games (despite having a combined 6 shots on target). Expect that to change soon, possibly against Bolivia. If Sanchez can get going, Chile will start to play to their ability. The winner of Group D will meet the runner-up of Group C (probably Venezuela) while the runner-up of Group D will take on the winner of Group C (probably Mexico) in next Saturday’s quarterfinals.
Follow Metro Boston soccer writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate