Copa America Preview

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Traditionally, the Copa America is held every four years among 12 South American countries. The 2016 special edition will feature ten South American teams and an additional six from North America/Caribbean. This 45th rendition will be hosted by the good ol’ U.S. and A. (ten venues), and will run three weeks beginning June 3rd.

 

Lets take a look at the competing nations and groups, and take a stab at how the oldest international tournament may unfold, with some additional insight*

*making his Sports Cult debut, hardened 50-year football pundit Dick Crovitz will be giving his two cents

 

Group A

USA

Recent form: after a less than impressive string of World Cup qualification matches,  Sam’s Army has performed better as of late; in the build up to Copa, the U.S. has handled Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and Bolivia a cumulative 8-1.

Star power: limited; Clint Dempsey is in his twilight, and 2014 World Cup hero Tim Howard is now #2 to Brad Guzan.

Outlook: teams that host international tourneys consistently overachieve, so expect the Yanks to at least survive group play. An appearance in the semifinals is realistic – Jurgen Klinsmann, often under fire, will have them competing at a level that exceeds their talent.

Dicky C says: “They are a better team than two years ago, but they will be lucky to survive the toughest group here. If they do, they could cause some problems”

 

Colombia

Recent form: notorious underachievers, Colombia surprised two years ago in Brazil. They have recently come back down to earth and are sitting 5th of 10 in CONMEBOL qualification for Russia 2018.

Star power: All eyes on Real Madrid playmaker and 2014 World Cup starlet James Rodriguez.

Outlook: the trend has been that Colombia only performs well when they are overlooked in major tournaments. They will have plenty of pressure here, and I can honestly see them finish last in the group,  or hoist the trophy. Tip them for the semis.

Dicky C says: “I’m surprised they are ranked #4 in the world – they are barely top four in South America. But they will win the group”.

 

Costa Rica

Recent form: Los Ticos have been up and down since their surprise run in Brazil two years ago. Last summer saw them fall to Mexico in a memorable yet controversial Gold Cup match.

Star power: Madrid keeper Keylor Navas was outstanding in Brazil, but will miss the Copa due to injury; long time captain Bryan Ruiz has been a solid midfielder in Europe for ten plus years.

Outlook: after the numerous scalps they collected in Brazil, I have a lot of respect for this club. Tough draw here though, and I’m afraid the slipper doesn’t fit Cinderella this summer.

Dicky C says: “they finish 3rd”

 

Paraguay

Recent form: they only have nine points from six WC qualifying matches.

Star power: none really, although center back Paulo da Silva has an amazing 134 caps.

Outlook: there are zero expectations for the 2011 Copa finalists, and that may help them. However,  I don’t expect more than to win a group match.

Dicky C says: “this is a mid-level South American team – I can’t even name one player. But I do know one thing – they aren’t afraid of the U.S.”

 

Group B

Brazil

Recent form: less than impressive; of their last six competitive matches, they have only beaten Peru and Panama.

Star power: Dani Alves, Willian, Philippe Coutinho, and Hulk among others. Neymar is slotted for the Olympic team this summer.

Outlook: I don’t feel this current team is much better than the one that the Germans stripped naked in front of the world two years ago. Fortunately, Group B is soft – expect a semifinals appearance.

Dicky C says: “Those assholes will probably win the whole thing”

 

Ecuador

Recent form: In the last eight months, La Tri has beaten Argentina & Uruguay and are second in their WC qualifying group.

Star power: Man United winger Antonio Valencia is a household name, and Jefferson Montero had an outstanding season at Swansea City.

Outlook: if you’re looking for a sleeper, this may be your club. There is not a team at Copa that will intimidate Ecuador, and if they can find a way to score enough goals, they will make a deep run.

Dicky C says: “Colombia beats them in the quarters”

 

Peru

Recent form: only four points from six WC qualifying matches, but have beaten Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador by a combined 7-1 in the last eight days.

Star power: 37 year-old  Striker Claudio Pizarro has scored a bunch of goals through the years at Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich.

Outlook: realistically, Peru needs to beat either Brazil or Ecuador to get out of this group. Not happening.

Dicky C says: “they should beat Haiti…but that’s it”

 

Haiti

Recent form: one solitary point from four CONCACAF qualifying matches, although they have been fairly competitive during friendlies in the build-up to Copa.

Star power: nothing to see here (when informed they have two players on the Jacksonville Armada, Dicky C asks “that’s a soccer team, right???”)

Outlook: I would like to think they have an outside shot to at least finish third in the group, but even that seems far-fetched.

Dicky C says: “I don’t know much about Haiti. They should check out Disney World while they are here at least”

 

Group C

Uruguay

Recent form – six of seven wins since October include 3-0 drubbings of Colombia and Chile.

Star power: Diego Godin, Edinson Cavani, and supremely talented cannibal Luis “Chewy” Suarez

Outlook: My co-favorites along with Argentina, Uruguay have all the ingredients. History also favors them, as they have won the Copa 11 times.

Dicky C says: “lose to Brazil, semifinals”

 

Mexico

Recent from: El Tri has been unbeaten in the last 12 months, winning 12 and drawing three; last summer saw them with the Gold Cup.

Star power: Chicharito is the household name, and Rafael Marquez is the veteran on the back line.

Outlook: Mexico has finally been performing to their talent level the last few years, and it feels like this is a tournament that they can win. Most matches will also feel like a home game, as they have plenty of support here.

Dicky C says: “overrated as usual”

 

Jamaica

Recent form:

Star power: defender and captain Wes Morgan had an excellent season with EPL champs Leicester City

Outlook: I really don’t know what to expect from the Reggae Boyz, and they are a distant third in the group, talent-wise. Four points from three would be an achievement.

Dicky C says: “you better drug test those boys the minute they get off the plane. If they win the first game, they’ll be partyin’ for four days”

 

Venezuela

Recent form: poor; two wins from their last 15 competitive matches

Star power: midfielder Tomas Rincon is the only accomplished European player

Outlook: along with Haiti, Venezuela are the minnows of the tournament; one win in a tough group would be cause for celebration

Dicky C says: “if this was a baseball tournament, they’d be in the Finals”

 

Group D

Argentina

Recent form: six straight without a loss; lost last year’s Copa Final

Star power: midfielders Angel DiMaria and Javier Mascherano, and forward Sergio Aguero. Oh yeah…Messi too

Outlook: most people’s prohibitive favorite, they only need to shed their rep of falling flat in tourney finals. Embarrassing amount of talent up front

Dicky C says: “Messi is either gonna be the Messi we know and love and they beat Brazil. Or not…Brazil has had they’re number for a while”

 

Chile

Recent form: lost their two recent tune-ups to Mexico and Jamaica; two wins from their last seven.

Star power: Arturo Vidal and Alexi Sanchez are as strong a pair of players you will find from any national team.

Outlook: Last years Copa winners will be tipped to do well again, but I’m a sensing a letdown. The opener vs Argentina will be an immediate barometer

Dicky C says: “Lose in quarters to Urugauay” -editor’s note: he spells and prounounces it “Chili”

 

Bolivia

Recent form: lost eight of nine, including a 7-0 thumping to Argentina last year

Star power: carry on

Outlook: are happy to be here. How did they qualify exactly?

Dicky C says: “doesn’t Ricardo Montebaum play for them???”

 

Panama

Recent form: low-scoring bore fests; two wins, two losses and two draws from their last six while scoring two goals.

Star power: yeah no

Outlook: Panama’s best chance is to park the bus and keep the group matches (outside of Bolivia, who they should beat) low scoring. They have been known to spring an upset from time to time. Third place.

Dicky says: “what they got a couple thousand couple people livin’ there? It’s like playin’ Luxembourg”

 

PREDICTIONS

Quarters: Ecuador over Colombia

Argentina over Uruguay

Brazil over U.S.

Mexico over Chile

Semis:       Argentina over Ecuador

Mexico over Brazil

Final:        Argentina over Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

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