by Lewis Ambrose

So far Chile have battled to the final of the Copa América in some comfort, but without their key player firing.

It says something for the strength of this summer’s competition that Alexis Sánchez has looked poor yet Chile have still made their way to the final without too much trouble.

Granted, the draw was kind. La Roja are also on home soil, which undoubtedly aids them. But facing an Argentina side which seems to have found some form they will need Alexis to improve on Saturday evening, and Jorge Sampaoli knows it.

“When Alexis is not in the fullness (of form) that he has us used to, Chile feel it,” said Sampaoli. The Chile manager is actually Argentinian, but there is no question where his allegiance lies this weekend.

“If he is feeling good, he’s the most decisive player in this team. We must recover him well because he’s vital to us.”

Without key defender Gonzalo Jara – lost to suspension after more or less forcing an involuntary prostate exam upon Edinson Cavani – Chile need Alexis even more than usual.

The Arsenal star has only managed one goal so far in the tournament, and that was fairly meaningless coming in the 5-0 destruction of Bolivia.

Chile have never won the Copa América in the 99-year history of the competition. On home soil they have a fantastic opportunity, but they need Alexis Sánchez in better form than he has enjoyed so far this summer.

His last final saw a screamer hit the back of the net, via the bar, before Shay Given had even moved. The same again would do nicely.