Hosts Chile beat Ecuador 2-0 in Copa America opener marred by graft claims
Arturo Vidal and Eduardo Vargas scored second-half goals to give Chile a 2-0 win over Ecuador on Thursday in the opening match of a Copa America that got underway amid the corruption investigation involving local soccer officials.
Vidal opened the scoring by converting a 63rd-minute penalty and Vargas sealed the victory on a breakaway in the 82nd, giving the hosts the early lead in Group A. Mexico and Bolivia play the other group match on Friday in Vina del Mar.
Chile is considered one of the favorites to win the 12-nation tournament for the first time thanks to a “Golden Generation” of players that include Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, Claudio Bravo and Jorge Valdivia.
Boosted by the home crowd that packed the Estadio Nacional Julio Martinez in Santiago, Chile took the initiative but had difficulties creating significant scoring opportunities.
The penalty call came after Vidal was pulled down inside the area by defender Miller Bolanos, and the Juventus midfielder sent a firm shot into the right upper corner, giving no chance to goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.
“The first game is difficult, we were nervous,” Vidal said. “The result is the most important.”
Vargas, who entered the match at halftime, added to the lead with a right-footed shot from inside the area on a breakaway that started after a mistake by the Ecuadorean defense near midfield.
The goal came only a minute after Ecuador nearly equalized with Enner Valencia, whose close-range header struck the crossbar with goalkeeper Bravo already beaten.
Chilean substitute midfielder Matias Fernandez was sent off in second-half stoppage time after receiving his second yellow card.
The South American championship began in the wake of the FIFA corruption scandal that forced President Sepp Blatter to announce he will be stepping down. Many of the corruption allegations have centered on the governing body of South American soccer.
Its former president, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, was one of 14 people indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice two weeks ago on charges of bribery, racketeering and moneylaundering. Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay, who succeeded Leoz, was among seven FIFA officials arrested in Zurich.