Uruguay broke Argentina’s hearts on Saturday, beating the hosts 5-4 on penalties to book a Copa America semi-final with Peru after Carlos Tevez missed the crucial kick.
Tevez, on as a late substitute, saw Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera save the third Argentinian spot-kick as the albiceleste crashed out to extend a trophy drought going back to 1993.
“This was like a final. We played an Argentine side with a fantastic attack and had to scrap — but we have put out our biggest rivals,” Uruguay defender Diego Lugano said.
Diego Perez had given Uruguay a fifth minute lead, but Gonzalo Higuain leveled 12 minutes later.
Thereafter, a gritty encounter failed to produce further breakthroughs, despite the additional half-hour, with both sides having a goal chalked off for offside and also ending the contest with 10 men.
Perez was sent off in the 38th minute for a second yellow card and then Argentina lost skipper Javier Mascherano in the 86th minute for a bad tackle from behind on Luis Suarez.
Lionel Messi strove manfully to provide the creative spark to snatch a win against Diego Forlan’s Uruguay in a battle of two sides who have won the event a record 14 times each.
However, the Barcelona man was frustrated throughout despite creating the Higuain goal.
After Messi and Forlan had converted their kicks and before Tevez fluffed his lines, Martin Caceres drove home the winning penalty as Uruguay moved into a semi-final against Peru, conquerors of Colombia.
Argentina thus fell victim to the curse of the Elephants Graveyard, the nickname of Colon club’s Santa Fe stadium, scene of many a domestic shock in the past.
Peru had provided a shock of their own in seeing off favored Colombia 2-0 in extra-time and will meet Uruguay at La Plata.
Colombia had won their group at the expense of Argentina and, with highly rated striker Radamel Falcao in their ranks, were expected to reach the semis against a side who just sneaked into the second phase as a third-placed pool finisher.
However, the Porto forward missed a penalty in normal time for the 2001 champions.
Peru, chasing a third title, but a first since 1975, triumphed after surviving Falcao’s miss and two efforts which hit their woodwork, before Carlos Lobaton smashed home the opener 11 minutes into extra-time.
Six minutes into the second extra period Juan Vargas then drove in a left-foot shot to clinch a famous win.
Peru’s gruff coach Sergio Markarian was delighted.
“I salute them because they applied themselves really well. They showed great tactical discipline, were committed and made a great effort,” said Markarian, who took over a side which came rock bottom of the South American World Cup qualifying group.
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