The Copa America is hitting its stride this week, when the quarterfinal knockout round separates the teams that are going on from those who will be packing their luggage and heading home. Since the Group Stage was completed, the top teams have clearly made themselves known with host Chile creating the most noise.
Chile, which plays defending Copa America champion Uruguay in the first quarterfinal game Wednesday at Santiago de Chile, was the heavyweight in Group A. Chile scored 10 goals in three games – six more than any other team in the tournament. Even though Chile has never won the Copa America and Uruguay is a 15-time winner, Chile’s attacking style may be the difference.
Bolivia-Peru meet in Temuco on Thursday with the winner of that showdown advancing to play the winner of the Chile-Uruguay match in one of the semifinals. In Group A, Bolivia posted two victories, against Peru and Ecuador, and also tied with Mexico. Peru had one victory and a tie in Group C.
Colombia, one of the pre-tournament favorites, managed to edge into the semifinals against Argentina in Vina del Mar on Friday despite finishing third in Group C, scoring only one goal and drawing 0-0 with Peru in its last game. But Colombia still moved on when Brazil, the class of Group C, defeated Venezuela, 2-1.
Colombian star James has not scored a goal, but he remains confident. “Friday is a great match to try and make things better,” James said.
As for Brazil, Robinho and Roberto Firmino have been outstanding while Paraguay may be vulnerable after nondescript results in Group B – ties with Uruguay and Argentina and a victory over Jamaica. The Brazil-Paraguay match is Saturday night in Concepcion.
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The women are more than up to the task of sharing the spotlight with their male counterparts. The knockout rounds are fast-approaching in locations all over Canada and the top teams are asserting themselves, just as many expected.
Germany and Norway look like the powerhouses in Group B, Japan seems poised to rule Group C, the same for Brazil in Group E. The most competitive may be Group F, where Colombia, England, France and even Mexico are trying to assert themselves and move on.
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For football fans, there is much at stake, whether it’s happening in Canada with the Women’s World Cup, or in Chile at the Copa America.
Two of football’s youngest, brightest superstars are on a collision course with destiny in the Copa America, where Neymar of Brazil and James Rodriguez of Colombia go up against each other at Estadio Monumental David Arellano in Santiago de Chile.
Consider this Group C showdown a rematch of the memorable 2014 World Cup quarterfinal, where Brazil edged Colombia, 2-1. It was a memorable afternoon. James scored Colombia’s only goal and Neymar was forced to leave after fracturing his vertebra while taking a hard foul.
Powerhouses Brazil and Colombia are certain to be leaning on their top players. Neymar, 23, scored four goals in group play in the last World Cup, two against Croatia and two against Cameroon. Captain of the Brazilian team, Neymar plays for FC Barcelona of the Spanish League.
James, who turns 24 in July, scored six goals for Colombia at the World Cup and was the top goal-scorer in the tournament, winning the Golden Boot. He also stars for Real Madrid in the Spanish League.
Brazil’s Oscar injured his thigh during practice with Chelsea of the Premier League, but he has been replaced by 31-year-old veteran striker Robinho. After missing the World Cup because of a knee injury, Radamel Falcao is healthy once again for Colombia and is likely to team up with James to head the offensive attack.
Remember that Brazil has won four of the last six Copa America titles.
When Jamaica takes on Paraguay at Estadio Regional Calvo y Bascunan in Antofagasta, all eyes will be focused on Jamaican star Darren Mattocks, who will be heavily counted upon if Jamaica is going to advance out of the group stage. The 24-year-old Mattocks, a skilled and inventive dynamo who plays professionally for the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps, must show the way for Jamaica. Still, Jamaica is likely to be overlooked because of the talented teams surrounding it.
The 44th Copa America features 12 teams, 10 of them from CONMEBOL and two other invited teams from CONCACAF – Mexico and now Jamaica. Mexico is a perennial invitee, but Jamaica has taken the second spot that used to belong to the United States and most recently Costa Rica.
Paraguay, going up against Jamaica, is a two-time Copa America champion and was runner-up in 2011. It may be that the best hope to advance for Paraguay, just like for Jamaica, is to be one of the two third-place teams that advance from group play. That issue may be settled when they collide.
Nothing has stopped him since. And now, with his 28th birthday only 11 days after Argentina opens its Copa America play against Paraguay, the eyes of the sport are once again trained on Argentina’s captain, wearing number 10, the unstoppable force. If he isn’t the top player in the game, he’s probably first in the conversation.
It’s true that Messi isn’t big, only 5-feet-7, but he has put up incredibly big numbers his entire career as he continues to try to measure up to the sizeable reputation of Diego Maradona as Argentina’s greatest football player ever.
Messi just ushered Barcelona to the Champions League title. No one had more goals in the tournament than Messi (10) and no one had more assists (5). For the season, Messi scored 48 goals on 187 shots in 38 games and had 18 assists.
The numbers keep on growing, but that’s not a new trend for Messi. A four-time World Player of the Year, Messi scored a European record 73 goals in 2012 for Barcelona.
Messi is one of 14 of the 23-player Argentina squad in the Copa America that made it to last year’s World Cup final. He scored four goals in the tournament and was chosen as named the best player in the World Cup.
The pressure starts early in Group A for Mexico when it takes on Bolivia in the first match of the 44th edition of the Copa America at Estadio Sausalito in Vina del Mar, Chile. Not only is coach Miguel Herrera fielding Mexico’s so-called ‘B Team,’ Herrera has already gone out on a limb and predicted that El Tri will surely reach the final.
That may be a lofty goal. Mexico is facing some tough company in Group A that includes, in addition to Bolivia, Ecuador and host country Chile. Going against Bolivia, ranked 89th by FIFA, is shaping up to be a must-win opener for Mexico, ranked 23rd, if it is destined to fulfil Herrera’s goals.
There was not a great deal of buzz generated by Mexico’s fans after Mexico’s ‘B Team’ lost, 2-0, to Brazil in a recent international friendly in Sao Paulo. Mexico also had a recent 1-1 draw with Peru. In the meantime, Herrera still must sort out the goalkeeper situation. His options revolve around Jesus Corona and Alfredo Talavera. One bright spot has been the play of 21-year-old Carlos Salcedo, who came on at halftime in Sao Paulo and helped Mexico keep Brazil off the scoreboard.
Uruguay is the defending champion, but Brazil remains the favorite in the 12-team Copa America, the main international tournament for the national football teams of South America.
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