There were 43,000 'football tourists' in Mendoza for the back-to-back matches between Chile v Uruguay & Peru v Mexico played at Mendoza's atmospheric Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on Friday evening. Could four sets of football fans (five if you included local Argentines) exist in the same stadium without mayhem ensuing?
The omens didn't look good when local Argentine youths attacked visiting Chilean fans in the main square, Plaza Independencia, prior to the match, on what had been an otherwise good-natured day in Mendoza.
Once inside the stadium the terraces were truly buzzing. Uruguay had perhaps four thousand fans in one section, Mexico and Peru maybe 1,000 each, while Chilean fans had taken over the rest of the stadium with 30,000 or so fans creating an electric atmosphere that even the Argentine fans could not come close to matching in their two opening games in La Plata and Santa Fe.
It was an absorbing match (click here to see the highlights), with Uruguay creating many of the better chances in the early exchanges, with Luis Suarez looking particularly dangerous for the blues. The match ended 1-1 with goals from Pereira for Uruguay and an equalizer for Chile from Alexis Sanchez shortly after the hour mark. As the game reached an exciting climax it was Chile that looked the more dangerous, largely thanks to substitute Valdivia, who had the beating of the Uruguayan defence.
There were some small incidents of crowd trouble but, bizarrely, the most memorable fight of the evening involved members of the press from Uruguay and Chile. It seems as if you can put thousands of opposing football fans together in the same stadium but, when it comes to journalists...
With Chile now on 4 points and Uruguay on 2, Chile must fancy their chances of winning the group when they play again in Mendoza on Tuesday evening, with tens of thousands of fans expected to be present again, many of them staying on in the wine city, while thousands will once again make the 7-hour bus journey over the Andes from Santiago.
Less than one hour later Peru kicked off against Mexico in the same stadium. Reappearing from the press centre many of us expected to see the stadium still full with the tens of thousands of Chileans, assuming they would stay to watch the second match. However, as the national anthems played the stadium remained only about one quarter full, with most Chileans either celebrating in Plaza Independencia or beginning the high altitude drive home.
As the mercury dropped, it is fair to say that the second match was something of a soulless anticlimax. Mexico had several players sent home for 'bad behaviour' prior to this match and those that remain are mostly young and vastly inexperienced players who do not look good enough for this tournament. Either that or Mexico simply don't have their heart in this one. The match ended 1-0 to Peru thanks to Guerrero, with the 'white and reds' bossing the game in the final stages.
Peru now meet arch rivals Chile in the same stadium on Tuesday evening.
(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info