Seattle, Wa. – When Argentina defeated Bolivia last night in a canter it set the stage for the Quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario but before we get to that, let’s spend a moment on two teams that surprisingly failed to advance out of Group play.
Brazil and Uruguay are without question the biggest disappointments of the Copa, and will remain so barring an unforeseen collapse from Argentina.
Brazil came in with the ready made excuse of the Rio Olympics in August. It was understood that the Olympics was the priority but surely Brazil could muster a first or second place finish from a four-team group consisting of themselves, Peru, Ecuador, and Haiti.
As it turned out mighty Brazil managed to beat just Haiti. An opening 0-0 draw with Ecuador was sandwiched around the Haiti win by a 1-0 loss to Peru.
The Peru game was decided on a goal that should have been waved off as a handball but other than Haiti match Brazil went 180 minutes with scoring a single goal.
Perhaps when Neymar was saved for the Olympics we should have seen this coming. After all, who can forget how the Selecao fell to pieces in the World Cup just two years ago when the dynamic striker went down with an injury?
The 7-1 loss to Germany in 2014 had been an abject capitulation, and it showed a lack of character from the Brazilians that we should have all kept in mind.
Uruguay joins its illustrious colleagues on the Copa sidelines after a first round exit that was sealed in a game two loss to Group C surprise packet Venezuela.
That loss followed a 3-1 defeat to Mexico, a pre-Copa favorite, so no harm, no foul. But when coach Oscar Tabarez refused to insert his best player, Luis Suarez into the game two loss to Venezuela after the Barcelona man had prepared himself to enter, it highlighted a shocking disconnect between star and coach.
Dunga paid for Brazil’s early exit with his job, but Tabarez has been in charge of the Uruguay team since 2006 and may be invulnerable. Unless, of course, the Suarez incident is seen as a signal that it is time for a change.
Thursday – June 16, 2016
CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Wash.)
Game 25: USA (1A) vs. Ecuador (2B) — 9:30 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN
The host nation is up first facing Ecuador in a match that seems destined to be a close one between two fairly evenly matched teams.
Ecuador has some fine attacking players led by the Valencias, Enner, and Antonio and will have no fear of the home team. The U.S. bounced back well from a 2-0 loss to start the tournament, latching on to what it seems to have perceived as unfair criticism of that performance, on the way to a pair of impressive victories to win the Group A.
Jurgen Klinsmann started the same 11 three games in a row, reportedly the first time that has been done by a U.S. coach since 1930. That won’t happen on Thursday, DeAndre Yedlin will sit after picking up two yellow cards in the team’s 1-0 win over Paraguay.
Klinsmann will have to get the replacement right, Ecuador wide man Jefferson Moreno can wreak havoc on that wing.
It will be close but I think that led by a tight defense and veterans Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Clint Dempsey the Americans will do just enough to make it through and meet Klinsmann’s target of reaching the semifinals.
Friday – June 17, 2016
MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Game 26: Colombia (2A) vs. Peru (1B) — 8 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN
Peru both benefitted from, and precipitated Brazil’s surprise downfall, defeating the Group B favorites and topping the group. In a 1-0 win, Peru’s goal came on a clear handball but Peru held firm against a Brazilian onslaught, winning the match despite ceding 66% of the possession and being outshot 14-4.
Colombia looked like world beaters after two games then rested most of the team in a 3-2 game three loss to Costa Rica. The loss ended up saving the Cafeteros close to 3,000 miles in travel and got them an extra day of rest.
It should be the formula for a Colombia win.
Saturday – June 18, 2016
Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
Game 27: Argentina (1D) vs. Venezuela (2C) — 7 p.m. ET | FX, Univision, UDN
Well done Venezuela, but for these Cinderella’s the clock is about to strike 12. Argentina has not won an international tournament during Lionel Messi’s glorious career and the with Maradona sniping that Messi has no leadership skills, that drought looks like ending here in the United States.
Saturday – June 18, 2016
Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
Game 28: Mexico (1C) vs. Chile (2D) — 10 p.m. ET | FX, Univision, UDN
This is the one everyone will have circled on their calenders. Chile won the 2015 Copa America just one year ago and might be feeling a bit put upon for having defend that title so quickly.
A 2-1 loss in game one versus Argentina put the champs in a hole, they climbed out of that crevice thanks to a hugely controversial penalty kick decision deep into added time of game two. Arturo Vidal scored the 110th-minute winner plus Chile’s other goal to hand his team the three points and break Bolivia’s heart.
Mexico was a hot favorite since before Copa 100 started and nothing has happened to change that perception. That 3-1 win over Uruguay to open Copa play certainly laid down a marker, and Jamaica soon fell 2-0 to Mexico. Then coach Juan Carlos Osorio rested everybody for game three versus Venezuela.
That game ended 1-1 with Mexico taking the group over Venezuela by virtue of goal difference. Mexico has often been touted before only to see things fall apart but there is a sense that Osorio is the steady hand that Mexico needs; but can El Tri get past Chile.
I don’t think so. Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vargas are flying up front, Vidal is a beast, a talented one at that, and I think Chile will beat Mexico.
A Mexico exit would surely disappoint Copa America Centenario organizers, who would love to see Mexico fans continuing to fill stadiums right up through the Championship match on June 26th at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.