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.

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