Copa America semifinals: A Look Ahead

Uruguay (Getty Images)

By DAVID MOSSE

Uruguay is now in the somewhat unenviable position of being regarded as the favorite to win the 2011 Copa America following a remarkable quarterfinal round that saw both Argentina and Brazil crash out on penalties. The Celeste must guard against any kind of letdown after knocking out the hosts on Saturday in a pulsating encounter that will probably go down as the match of the tournament.

The quarterfinal exit represents an incredible failure for Argentina, which remains without a senior trophy since 1993, while Uruguay continues its resurgence as a major power that began with the fourth-place finish in last summer's World Cup in South Africa. Next up is a clash with an unexpected opponent.

In a tournament full of surprises, the emergence of Peru is perhaps the biggest shock of all after the country finished dead last in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. Peru was also rocked by injuries heading into the competition with strikers Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfan both ruled out, along with midfielder Luis Ramirez and defender Jesus Rabanal, a strong candidate to man the left-back position.

Paolo Guerrero and Juan Vargas have assumed most of the responsibility offensively, while manager Sergio Markarian deserves credit for the defensive solidity, as Peru has conceded just five goals in 14 games since he took charge.

Another surprise semifinal participant, Venezuela once again confirmed its astonishing progress by beating a Chilean side that had played some of the best soccer of the group stage. Former New York Red Bull Gabriel Cichero produced the winner 10 minutes from time after Humberto Suazo had canceled out Oswaldo Vizcarrondo's opener. Los Vinotintos did suffer a bad break with the sending off of Tomas Rincon, who represents a significant absence for the semifinal.

A familiar foe awaits in Paraguay, which squandered a two-goal lead to Venezuela in the dying moments of a remarkable group game just a few days ago. Luck was on Paraguay's side on Sunday, however, as Gerardo Martino’s men failed to create even a half-chance in 120 minutes against Brazil, but held on for a scoreless draw thanks in large part to a sensational performance from goalkeeper Justo Villar.

Here is a closer look at the two semifinal matchups:

Peru vs. Uruguay, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m., Univision

It remains to be seen whether Edinson Cavani will be available after missing the past two games with a knee injury, but Oscar Tabarez may have some doubts about inserting Cavani back into the starting lineup. Uruguay has played some of its best soccer without the Napoli hitman, who finished as the top scorer in Serie A this past season, as his absence pushes Diego Forlan into a slightly more advanced role.

Forlan and Luis Suarez caused all sorts of problems for Argentina, and look for more of the same on Tuesday. Diego Perez is suspended, but Uruguay still holds the edge in the center of the park, while Diego Lugano anchors a back-line that looked wobbly at times against Argentina. Lugano will be well aware of the danger posed by Peruvian attackers Guerrero and Vargas.

Paraguay vs. Venezuela, Wednesday, 8:45 p.m., Univision

The absence of Roque Santa Cruz robbed Paraguay of any kind of presence up front against Brazil, as Lucas Barrios found himself completely swallowed up by Lucio and Thiago Silva. Marcelo Estigarribia also didn't enjoy nearly the same success against Maicon as he had opposite Dani Alves in the first meeting between the two teams, but Paraguay persevered anyway thanks to Villar.

The hope is that Villar can duplicate his performance on Wednesday, while the attack shows signs of life. Paraguay scored three times against Venezuela in the group stage, but it wasn’t enough to claim victory, as Los Vinotintos rallied with goals from Nicolas Fedor and Grenddy Perozo to salvage a draw.

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Who do you see winning the Copa America semifinal matches and advancing to the final?

Share your thoughts below.

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22 Responses to Copa America semifinals: A Look Ahead

  1. Justin Roelant says:

    Certainly these weren’t the teams I thought would be in the semis. But I’m pulling for Uruguay. After an impressive WC, this will only further establish their return to prominence.

  2. Münster says:

    I honestly thought that was Dirk Nowitzki at first glance

  3. Brad says:

    Guay vs Guay final…

  4. timmytwoshoezzz says:

    “Uruguay is now in the somewhat unenviable position of being regarded as the favorite to win the 2011 Copa America”

    There is NOTHING unenviable about being the favorite to win a major international football competition. Any time you are considered the best of the field, it means you have a good chance to win. Brazil and Argentina did not lose their place in the tournament because they were favorites, they lost because their tema were fatally flawed and unworthy of advancement.

  5. Eurosnob says:

    I will be rooting for Peru (it is quite remarkable what this team accomplished without some of its best players), but I think that in the end it will be Uruguay-Paraguay final.

  6. John says:

    Serious? He means all the favorites lost in the quarters. Being the favorites is a bad omen in knockout tournaments.

  7. John says:

    Much like being Pele’s pick to win the World Cup which essentially is the kiss of death.

  8. timmytwoshoezzz says:

    A bad omen? What are we doing here, reading tarot cards? You really think Uruguay’s play will be affected by the omen of being a favorite? haha

  9. RK says:

    Did the power go out in that stadium?

  10. HoboMike says:

    Unfortunately, both Paraguay and Venezuela can’t lose. Venezuela spent more time lying on the pitch than running on it, and Paraguay plays some boring-a$$ soccer.

  11. Justin Roelant says:

    Actually, I did too!

  12. Emerald_City_Jason says:

    Anyone know the status of the Seattle Sounders’ Alvaro Fernandez with this team? Thought he played fairly well in the WC, then remember him getting called up for a friendly back in May…

  13. Brad says:

    Cavani wasn’t the top goal scorer in Serie A last season, Antonio Di Natale was.

  14. JCC says:

    I’ll be rooting for Venezuela they’re transformation has been remarkable. From minnow to contender.

  15. LoS says:

    PERU vs VENEZUELA thats the Final i want to see.

  16. Andy from LA says:

    I just hope Paraguay doesn’t win. They’re like the Greece of South America.

  17. DingDong says:

    Which High Rennaisance painting does the above picture of Diego Forlan look most like:

    Titian: link to artrenewal.org

    Raphael: link to canvaz.com

    Rembrandt: link to en.wikipedia.org

    Dossi:

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  18. uDaMan says:

    Peru may test Uruguay… but it’ll probrably Uruguay vs. Paraguay. Paraguay does play boring soccer. But occasionally they do make a few good (even exciting) plays. Anyone watch the Final of Real Madrid vs. Olimpia some years ago. Even though the galacticos sliced Olimpia, the Paraguayans still made a few intersting moves. Though it’ll suck for them to represent CONMEBOL at the confederations cup. That’s why, “ANYONE BUT PARAGUAY” sorry Paraguay friends :D

  19. NOLAmike says:

    Agreed, and after their play in this tournament its hard for me to believe no one is seriously considering them beating Paraguay. People may not enjoy their choppy play, but the fact of the matter is they use this as an advantage and take control of games via set pieces. I see a Venezuela/Uruguay final

  20. NOLAmike says:

    After having watched both the Venezuela/Chile game and the earlier Venezuela/Paraguay game I can’t help but think Venezuela will beat Paraguay. Paraguay will foul too much and Venezuela will capitalize via set pieces. 2-1 Venezuela with a Uruguay/Venezuela final

  21. cabron says:

    Forlan is just as smart as newitzki. Ok I just wana know whata heck was this guy was trying to say when he was like checking the ball if there was not enough air or something and the ref walked over and said no dont play that trick. I mean the game was tie why was he trying to delay the game or is something I just dont get??

  22. axx says:

    Man chile played great I don’t know how da heck they lost the game. I actually enjoyed watching that game and I thought there was no way the gona get beaten. How many times did they hit the post!