Two of the tournament's most entertaining teams will tussle for a place in the championship final of the Copa America Centenario on Wednesday night in Chicago, as defending champions Chile – currently ranked fifth in the FIFA World Rankings – match wits with Colombia, rated the planet's No. 3 squad by FIFA.
Chile are on cloud nine after their stunning 7-0 demolition of Mexico on Saturday night, while Los Cafeteros had to sweat out a penalty-kick shootout win over Peru. A one-sided result in either direction seems unlikely at Soldier Field, however, as both sides chase their second-ever Copa title.
Chile played nearly a flawless match to mercilessly thump El Tri in Santa Clara, California, with one exception.
La Roja must face Colombia without Arturo Vidal, thanks to a costly yellow card that renders the influential midfielder suspended for the semifinal. The Bayern Munich mainstay is a terror in the center of the park, equally comfortable breaking up opposing attacks, orchestrating with his passes and breaking into the penalty box to threaten with shots of his own.
There's no such thing as a “like for like” replacement for Vidal. But Chile manager Juan Antonio Pizzi has options in Pablo Hernandez, Charles Aranguiz, Francisco Silva or perhaps even move Gary Medel up into midfield from his usual center-back spot.
Colombia manager Jose Pekerman is widely respected as one of global soccer's top managers. Yet he's drawn keen scrutiny for his lineup tinkering in this tournament, fielding a variety of different looks with his formations and personnel.
Running out a dramatically overhauled XI in the final group-stage match backfired as Costa Rica knocked off the Cafeteros 3-2, dropping them into second place in Group A behind the United States. The 4-2-3-1 used vs. Peru looked more or less like a full-strength squad, yet goals did not materialize. Will he chop and change yet again?
Chile have moved from strength to strength this month, rebounding from a tournament-opening loss to Argentina and a wobbly outing vs. Bolivia to hit their stride with a 4-1 defeat of Panama before the Mexico exclamation point. Colombia, conversely, failed to maintain any such momentum after a solid dispatching of the US in their opener.
But the story is a bit different in the nets. Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina has performed spectacularly, while Claudio Bravo has suffered through more than one howler for Chile. Both are well-rounded modern 'keepers who play at top European clubs – Arsenal and Barcelona, respectively – and both will need to be at or near their best to give their teams a chance on Wednesday.