Chile downs Panama for last Copa quarterfinal spot

Chile's Eduardo Vargas (red jersey) scored two goals in a Copa America Centenario win over Panama on June 14, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Photo: Mexsport)

PHILADELPHIA – Chile (2W-0D-1L, 6 points, GD+2) earned the last Copa America Centenario quarterfinal berth with a 4-2 win over Panama (1-0-2, 3) on Tuesday at Lincoln Financial Field.

The result means that the Chileans can finish no worse than second place in Group D, but could capture the top spot if Bolivia (0-0-2, 0) upsets Argentina (2-0-0, 6, GD+6) with a win by five goals or more later in the evening.  Panama, which was missing five starters – four suspensions and one injury – were eliminated.

Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez scored two goals each for the defending champion, while Miguel Camargo and Abdiel Arroyo struck for the Panamanians.

Despite employing a starting 11 that bore scant semblance to the one that lost to Argentina on Friday, Panama took a 1-0 lead in just the fifth minute.  Trying to play the ball out of the back, a pass into the middle by Chile’s Gonzalo Jara was intercepted.  After some quick one-touch passes, Gabriel Gomez found Miguel Camargo on the right.  The 23-year-old midfielder then uncorked a right-footed shot from outside the box that bounced to the left of diving goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and into the right side of the net.

Ten minutes later, the sides were on level terms.  Some neat combination play between Sanchez and Arturo Vidal resulted in the former snapping off an effort that goalkeeper Jaime Penedo did well to save with a dive his left.  A quick-reacting Vargas swooped in for the easy tap-in at the right post.

Penedo would make two more key saves, before Vargas netted his second goal in the 43rd minute, heading home from eight-yards out off Jean Beausejour’s splendid left-sided cross.

Five minutes into the second half, Sanchez made it 3-0.  Vargas collected a long pass down the right, made his way into the box and crossed to the Arsenal star, who spectacularly side-volleyed with his right foot past Penedo from 12-yards out.

Six minutes after Penedo thwarted Vidal, Panama made it a one-goal game.  A right-sided free kick in the 75th minute took a deflection off the head of a Chilean defender in the box and sailed to the left post.  Arroyo’s header hit off Bravo and crossed the line as the custodian tried to claw it away.

Sanchez, though, restored the South Americans’ two-goal advantage with an authoritative header from 12 yards off Jose Pedro Fuenzalida’s cross from the left.

Chile will face either Mexico or Venezuela in the quarterfinals, while Panama will return to competitive action on September 2, when it hosts Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier.

BUDWEISER MAN OF THE MATCH: Eduardo Vargas (Chile)