June 21, 2016 By Fabian Odhiambo
And they were four. The Copa America Centenario enters its penultimate stage starting later tonight and our expert Fridah has been following the events in the States with a keen interest. Here she goes with the previews.
Copa America has received pretty low reception. This is largely due to the availability of more football thanks to Euro 2016 and also the hours, waking up at 2.30 a.m. to watch football is not appealing. However, I am a lover of international tournaments and the only thing missing is the Africa Cup of Nations to complete my high. I have enjoyed watching some matches at the Copa America though some teams (read Brazil) sent me back to sleep as soon as I woke up.
The Copa America Centenario commemorates 100 years of Copa America. The tournament is being held in the USA, the first time that it has been held outside South America in its century old history. The tournament has come with its surprises. Record all time winners Uruguay were anonymous. They could not get out of the group stage despite all the quality they possess. Brazil were also a major disappointment. They managed 7 goals against Haiti in their highlight of the tournament which was essentially the same as a grown man taking candy from a child. They did not score in any of their other group games and lost the final game 1-0 to a dubious goal. The tournament hasn’t had much else to report on.
From the 16 teams, 4 remain; the hosts USA, Argentina, the defending champions Chile and Colombia. The hosts play Argentina while the defending champions play Chile. These are matches are worth waking up at 4.00 a.m. for and also worth a bit of a preview.
USA vs. Argentina
USA started slow. They lost 2-0 in their opening game to the Colombians. They then thumped Costa Rica 4-0 and won their final group game to top the group. Argentina on the other hand have been efficient. They have won all four games played with relative ease scoring 14 and conceding 2. They are easily the tournament favorites. Leo Messi is firing for the Albiceleste and this is his best chance to get silverware for his country. While Argentina have their best players rearing to go, USA doesn’t. Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya are all suspended. Juergen Klinsmann has many decisions to make before the kick-off. However, I don’t think he has enough quality to stop the Argentines going forward. If the USA want to have any chance, they have to give a go and try exploit the poor center back pairing of Ramiro Funes-Mori and Nicolas Otamendi which hasn’t been tested much. I think that this tie is there for Argentina to lose despite the home support that the USA will boast of.
Chile vs. Colombia
This is an exciting game. It features the teams that have been most entertaining at this tournament. Chile were excellent in the 7-0 demolition of El Tri. They were flawless in attack and defense and Mexico had no response to that, I doubt any team would have had a response to that. Arturo Vidal was vital in that game but he misses the semi-final clash due to suspension as a result of accumulation of yellow cards. This will be a tough gap for La Roja to fill. Medel was solid at the back and they will need that while the frontline of Eduardo Vargas, Alexis Sanchez and Edson Puch could do nothing wrong. La Roja started slow and they picked up slowly culminating towards the QF win in perfection. They are an object in motion and they will be hard to stop. On the other hand, Los Cafeteros got to the semifinal thanks to the heroics of David Ospina in the quarter final penalty shoot-out. They will need to do a lot better than that to get past Chile. The coach Jose Pekerman has been more of Jose Tinkerman and he has tinkered with his starting 11 and the formation all through the tournament. Colombia haven’t been on an ascendancy but they have found a way to win. This could be a tight game and La Roja should get to the final.