On Wednesday evening on the shore of Lake Michigan, Chile and Colombia will meet each other at Soldier Field with a place in the Copa America Centenario Final on the line. Though these two have played each other on 36 occasions, it could well be that this is the most important of any of their encounters.
Historical advantage belongs to Chile
It's hard to declare that one of these teams has owned this game over the years, but the edge in terms of the overall record belongs to Chile. They lead the series historically 14-12-10 (W-D-L). Yet, La Roja has struggled mightily in recent years. They've only managed three wins over Colombia in the last 16 years, and only five since 1989.
History in the Copa America
The first time that Colombia met Chile in a Copa America was back when the tournament was merely called the South America Championship. In 1947, La Roja met Los Cafeteros in the group stage of the 20th edition of the Campeonato Sudamericana de futbol. Chile were comfortable winners, emerging victorious by a 4-1 margin made only marginally more respectable because Colombia nicked a goal late. Two years later they met again, and shared the points, although Colombia still finished last at the tournament.
They wouldn't meet in another Copa America until 1957 when Colombia finished ahead of Chile for the first time despite falling to them 3-2 when they played in the tournament. A decade on, Chile denied Colombia a place at the 1967 tournament when La Roja were victorious 5-2 over a two-legged aggregate series. They met twice more at the 1979 Copa America, where they split in their two group stage matches.
The only previous match between Chile and Colombia that can rival Wednesday's match for the title of "most important match" these two have ever played came at the 1987 Copa America, when they met in a semifinal. That match was an absolute classic but went to penalties scoreless. There, a late goal bonanza began. In the space of six game minutes, Colombia opened the scoring before Chile responded with two goals of their own. La Roja went on to win 2-1 before losing to Uruguay in the final.
They met again four years later at the 1991 Copa America in the final group stage, where they were joined by Brazil and Argentina. Chile and Colombia shared the spoils that year and finished third and fourth respectively. It took eight years and four tournaments for Colombia and Chile to be brought together again in the 1999 Copa America quarterfinal. Though Chile has struggled to beat Colombia in recent years, they knocked out Los Cafeteros 3-2 in a cracking match.
La Roja was nowhere near as fortunate two summers later when they came up against Colombia in their most recent encounter at a Copa America. There, Los Cafeteros emerged comprehensive 2-0 winners on their way to their only Copa America title.
Does that history mean anything?
Frankly, the history can be tossed out the window here. Though it's true that Chile has found wins hard to come against Colombia recently, both of these sides entered this tournament as favorites. Chile won last summer's edition of the Copa America and Colombia was quarterfinalists two summers ago at the World Cup. This should be a terrific match between two evenly matched teams.