Rio De Janeiro – Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal blamed the Argentine referee for his side’s Copa America elimination to Brazil on Friday, calling him “a clown” who “thinks he is the star of the show”.
Chile lost 1-0 to Brazil, who played almost the entire second half with 10 men, after Gabriel Jesus was sent off for an atrocious kung-fu-style challenge on Eugenio Mena.
Brazil were a goal up at the time and although Chile poured forward looking for an equaliser they came up against a good goalkeeper and a wily home side that knew how and when to run down the clock.
“We’re very sad, we deserved a lot more,” said Vidal. “In a game like this, you need a referee who wears the trousers, who is fair and who doesn’t want to be the match clown.
“We just lacked that goal. If there’s a referee that won’t let you play, that stops the game all the time, and he thinks he is the star of the show, then it’s very difficult.
“But we were beaten by the favourites, the team playing at home,” Vidal added. “At least we will leave with our heads held high.”
Vidal’s comments came in spite of the 13 fouls committed by Brazil, just one more than his own team. The referee issued four yellow cards.
Brazilian striker Neymar, once again the standout performer for the reigning champions, excused Jesus for a misdemeanour he said was more poor judgment than malevolence.
“Jesus was just bad luck,” he said. “He had his eye on the ball, not on the man, and unfortunately, he was sent off.”
Neymar instead lauded the way Brazil coped with a pressure they are unaccustomed to facing.
“Every day that goes by we have tests to make us stronger, to prove that we can play under all kinds of circumstances,” he said.
“Chile are a good team, they have great players and it is very difficult with a man less. Everyone deserves praise, the defence, the midfield, the forwards.
“We managed to withstand something that rarely happens to this team.
“It was a big test for us. We knew we were going to face a very hard match but the important thing was we won and are in the semifinal.”
Brazil will now face Peru, who beat Paraguay in Friday’s other quarterfinal.