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Chile handed Bolivia an awful gut-punch loss in Copa America

An absolutely stunning free kick gave Bolivia a chance to upset the defending Copa America champs -- but fate had other ideas.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Bolivia were ready to celebrate a massive result against defending Copa America champions Chile. They were ready to crown a new national hero in Jhasmani Campos, who scored a jaw-dropping goal to level the score. Then, in the late minutes of the match, everything fell apart and turned to ashes as a penalty in the 97th minute of the game saw Chile emerge victorious, 2-1.

Sixty minutes into the match, things looked dire for Bolivia. They'd hardly held any possession all match long. They were trailing 1-0, having given up a goal just 40 seconds into the second half. Chile were running rampant, and Bolivia's defense was showing signs of fatigue and desperation.

Then Campos stepped up. Just three minutes after stepping onto the pitch as a substitute, he stood over a free kick outside of Chile's box and did this.


That jaw-dropping goal was a monumental one for Bolivia, leveling the score against Chile in what was ultimately a heartbreaking last-second loss -- but it was also a huge goal for Campos. Since 2007, he's played 28 times for Bolivia, but for all his obvious and oft-noted skills on free kicks, he'd only scored two other goals for his country -- the last of which came just over three years ago, scoring the equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Venezuela in World Cup qualifying back in 2013.

But if you look at the history of Campos' goals, the fact that he scored here shouldn't have surprised anyone. That goal against Venezuela was undeniably important, but so was the 28-year-old midfielder's first Bolivian goal, scored way back in 2007, giving his country a 2-1 lead over Peru in the Copa America. They would ultimately have to settle for a draw and elimination from that year's Copa after their defense broke down late, but for just a little while, Campos' goal that day looked like a winner, and would have put them through to the knockout rounds.

So it's safe to say that Campos has a knack for scoring in huge moments, and you could see from his reaction just how important that goal was to him -- once he realized he had actually scored, anyway. That kind of passion is something every team needs more of, and hopefully we'll get to see Campos celebrating a whole lot more fantastic goals in massive moments before his career is done.

But all that celebration, all that heroism, was turned into heartbreak in the final minutes of the match.

Just before the end of normal time, after 90 minutes of Bolivia players literally putting their bodies on the line over and over, defender Ronald Eguino did so again, putting himself in the way of an Eduardo Vargas bicycle kick -- and catching Vargas' foot flush in his face for his trouble. Eguino was laid out on the pitch for several minutes, with medics clearly concerned and not wanting to rush moving him because of the shape he was in.

Not long after he was taken off the pitch, word started to circulate that Eguino had actually been knocked out by the kick from Vargas, and the doctors waited for him to come around before stretchering him off the pitch just to be sure that they could move him. That wasn't the worst part, though -- that word came out as Eguino was walking back on the pitch.

It was almost immediately clear how massive of a mistake that was, because Eguino was staggering around and clearly having a hard time following the action and struggling to get to where he needed to be. Whether team doctors, coaches, or somehow Eguino himself put the player back on the pitch, there was a hideously poor breakdown in medical protocol, because there was clearly no way he should have been out there.

And then the finish got even worse for Bolivia.

Seven minutes into extra time, Alexis Sanchez broke into the Bolivia penalty area and fired in a cross that Luis Alberto Gutierrez tried to block. As he leapt up and turned away from the ball, as any defender in that spot would, the ball struck his arm, which had been tucked behind his back as he faced down Sanchez -- again, as most defenders would do.

Despite that exact situation normally being called ball-to-hand and not called as a foul or penalty, referee Jair Marrufo blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. There are some reports from the field that one of his assistants convinced Marrufo to make the call, but either way, it was a brutally rough call for Bolivia to have to take -- and one that ultimately cost them the game, as Arturo Vidal converted the penalty to give Chile a 2-1 lead and the win.

To go from riding such a high after Campos' goal, to seeing Eguino go down and then somehow come back into the game, to that brutal penalty, was total heartbreak. Chile probably deserved to win the match on a whole given the way the game played out, but for Bolivia to lose that way is just so painful to see. Those players, and their fans, deserve a whole lot of hugs after that.