End of the group stage and already a few surprises
This year's edition of the Copa América is a special one, as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the tournament, created in 1916. Yet, special occasions don't always make for suprising results, and the celebration doesn't last. In this case it has. More than just one upset have occurred in this 2016 edition, and the first ones to be happy about it are Argentina. Favourites to win, the Argentines have benefitiated from a poor form from their rivals, although Chile and Colombia are still in it.
The American public had to say goodbye to Brazil and Uruguay, two of the outsiders of the tournament, both knocked out in different ways. If Uruguay completely failed their competition, Brazil have had the opportunity to qualify until the very last minute. Here is the summary of Match Day 3.
Group A (USA, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay)
It could have been the major upset of the competition, had USA lost to Paraguay in their last group stage game. Fortunately for all the 'soccer' lovers over there, Jürgen Klinsmann's squad is going through to the quarter-finals, morover with the first place of Group A. After their inaugural defeat against one of the favourites, Colombia (0-2), the American team went back to work and calmly climbed back up the ladder, to qualify ultimately thanks to a short but precious victory against Paraguay (1-0). Clint Dempsey, the leader of the offensive line in this year's squad, made the difference after just 26 minutes. From then on, the Americans resisted in defece, to ensure their participation in the quarter-finals. Colombia on their end, finished the group stage with a disappointment. Against a team of Costa Rica that had nothing to play for as they already knew about USA's results, José Pekerman's men weren't able to take the upper hand and ended up losing 2-3 in a spectacular match.
This upset could cost a lot to Colombia, who will face Peru instead of Ecuador in the quarter-finals, although we might think both teams represent a similar danger, in two different ways, to their opponents. At home, the United States will try to get inspiration from Chile's last year run, and will come up against Ecuador with a lot more certainties than a few day
USA 0-2 Colombia
Costa Rica 0-0 Paraguay
USA 4-0 Costa Rica
Colombia 2-1 Paraguay
USA 1-0 Paraguay
Colombia 2-3 Costa Rica
1. USA / 6 points / +3
2. Colombia / 6 points / +2
3. Costa Rica / 4 points / -3
4. Paraguay / 1 points / -2
Group B (Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru)
Barça player: Dani Alves
What seemed as a good situation for Brazil turned out to be a nightmare for Dani Alves and his teammates. Leaders of the group on Day 2, with 4 points out of 2 games and a large win against the tournament's weakest team, Haiti (7-1), the Brazilian players had their fate in their hands, but they let it all slipped away, or rather the refereeing did, as Peru beat them in the last game of the group thanks to a handball from Raúl Ruidíaz. It wasn't long before Dunga was sacked, because of yet another Brazilian fiasco. In 2011 and 2015, Brazil had reached the quarter-finals, beaten by Paraguay each time on penalties.
Not to mention the 2014 World Cup and the humiliation at home against Germany in the semi-finals, after a tortured run. Brazil are far from being the team everyone once feared. And they are already out, meaning Peru and Ecuador are the team going through in this group full of surprises. Ecuador were third before the last game and they beat easily Haiti to qualify and put pressure on both Brazil and Peru. Indeed, given the goal difference, favourable to Ecuador (+4), a draw wouldn't have gotten them out but Peru instead. But thanks to the referee, the Peruvian team beat Brazil and won the group. The Seleçao, deprived of their best player Neymar, who chose the Olympics over this Copa América Centenario, was one of the reasons for this failure. Although he freed himself saying he wouldn't keep going at Barça, Dani Alves couldn't lift his teammates' spirit and bring this extra energy that Dunga's men were lacking. The number 1 furnisher for Messi's goals in Barça's history will be able to go on holiday and calmly think about his future. On the other hand, Peru and Ecuador will try to keep the surprise going.
Haiti 0-1 Peru
Brazil 0-0 Ecuador
Brazil 7-1 Haiti
Ecuador 2-2 Peru
Ecuador 4-0 Haiti
Brazil 0-1 Peru
1. Peru / 7 points / +2
2. Ecuador / 5 points / +4
3. Brazil / 4 points / +5
4. Haiti / 0 points / -11
Group C (Mexico, Uruguay, Jamaica, Venezuela)
Barça player: Luis Suárez (Uruguay)
The news arrived as soon as Match Day 2 was over. Uruguay are out of the tournament, despite their status of outsiders of the competition. A bit like Messi for Argentina, Oscar Tabárez was waiting the right time to play Luis Suárez but this time never came and the Celeste had to do without him. Even if he is not the only cause, it was a huge failure for Uruguay, who lost to Venezuela in the second game, meaning their last game win was just for pride. With 3 points out of 9, the Uruguayan will have to seriously re-think their style and maybe change some of the players. Apart from Cavani, Godín and Suárez, who are the stars of the team, the rest of the squad is getting old, and only Gímenez at the back and Gaston Ramírez in the midfield, it doesn't seem like there is a young talent to build the national team around. It looks almost like the end of an era.
Unlike Uruguay, Mexico started well in the competition, getting a resounding result (3-1) against the Celeste and leading the group from Day 1 even though they almost missed out on first place in the last game against a very solid team of Venezuela. While Mexico made the show, scoring 6 goals in 3 games, Venezuela played the card of efficiency, with 3 goals out of 3 games for 2 wins and a draw. A deadly accuracy that could threaten Argentina's walk in the park so far, as they will face each other in the quarter-finals. 'Tata' Martino will have to look out for Josef Martinez, Venezuela's best scorer (2 goals) and the perfect incarnation of this effectiveness. The weakest team of the lot, Jamaica, could not do better than 3 losses, even though their two first games led to think they were more solid this year.
Jamaica 0-1 Venezuela
Mexico 3-1 Uruguay
Uruguay 0-1 Venezuela
Mexico 2-0 Jamaica
Mexico 1-1 Venezuela
Uruguay 3-0 Jamaica
1. Mexico / 7 points / +4
2. Venezuela / 7 points / +2
3. Uruguay / 3 points / +0
4. Jamaica / 0 points / -6
Group D (Argentina, Chile, Panama, Bolivia)
Barça players: Leo Messi, Javier Mascherano (Argentina), Claudio Bravo (Chile)
All Barça players involved in this group are going through to the quarter-finals. But they had very different emotions to deal with. On paper, Argentina and Chile were the favourites to win the group. They both had reached the final of the Copa América 2015, in Chile, with Alexis Sanchez's teammates winning it in the penalty shootout. The only issue for Argentina during the group stage really was to know when Gerardo 'Tata' Martino could put Messi on the pitch, as Barça's ace arrived in the USA suffering from his back and troubled with his affairs outside football. As for the rest of the team, they almost flawlessly took the 9 points they could get in the 3 games they won - 2 quite easily and 1 with more competition against Chile - and qualified quietly for the quarter-finals, appearing as the ultimate favourites now to claim - finally - the title, 23 years after their last one (1993). They can now count on their number 10, back at the competition in the last game pf the group stage against Bolivia, that the Albiceleste won easily 3-0, not really needing Messi to make the difference. The perfect way for him to warm up before the knockout stage. The other Barça player in Tata Martino's squad, Javier Mascherano, was rock solid to enable Argentina to be so far the best defence in the tournament alongside Venezuela (only one goal conceded). He doesn't seem that affected by Barça's huge season and will be precious for the Argentinian side in the quest for the trophy, although he didn't play the last group stage game.
Chile had it way harder, not only because they lost in their first game of the competition, the clash of titans against Argentina (1-2), but also because their game is not quite on point. It takes some time to adjust to a new management, as Juan-Antonio Pizzi replaced Jorge Sampaoli in the role of the head coach. Away from home, in a totally different environment in comparison to their win in last year's edition, La Roja suffered to get those 6 points that place them in the quarter-finals alongside their Argentinian rivals. When not fully confident, Chile makes mistakes, and sometimes big one. At the heart of this anxiety there is Barça's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who has not been the best guarantee for Pizzi and Chile. Their latest game, against Panama, a decisive game for the quarter-finals, was a proof of Bravo's bad form. He conceded two goals that he clearly could have avoided. One on a long shot that bounced just before entering the goal, and the other on a header - also with a bounce - that he deflected into his own goal. Surely he will have to rise his level to make of Chile a serious candidate for the title. Because against Messi, Agüero and Di Maria, that could get ugly.
Panama, on their part, did a good competition as they won their first game and made Chile doubt in their last one. Obviously, they were not favourites to go through to the quarter-finals, but they proved to be an entertaining team, willing to attack and to make the show. Bolivia on the contrary, seemed to weak and inoffensive to be able to grab a single point.
Panama 2-1 Bolivia
Argentina 2-1 Chile
Chile 2-1 Bolivia
Argentina 5-0 Panama
Chile 4-2 Panama
Argentina 3-0 Bolivia
1. Argentina / 9 points / +9
2. Chile / 6 points / +2
3. Panama / 3 points / -6
4. Bolivia / 0 points / -5
Quarter-finals - Schedule
9.30 p.m (3.30 a.m Barcelona time) USA - Ecuador [Seattle, CenturyLink Field]
8.00 p.m (2:00 a.m Barcelona Time) Peru - Colombia [East Rutherford, MetLife Stadium]
7:00 p.m (1:00 a.m Barcelona Time) Argentina - Venezuela [Foxborough, Gillette Stadium]
10:00 p.m (4:00 a.m BT) Mexico - Chile [Santa Clara, Levi's Stadium]