Copa America: A look ahead to the quarterfinals

BrazilCopa (Reuters)

By DAVID MOSSE

Argentina and Brazil may well end up meeting in the final of the 2011 Copa America as most people envisioned before the start of the tournament, but the days of the two countries towering over the competition in South America appear to be over. Argentina at least managed one convincing performance in its final group game, yet the level of satisfaction over brushing side Costa Rica's Under-22 side was a testament to how tense the situation had become.

The hosts began with a disappointing draw against Bolivia and were incredibly lucky to avoid defeat at the hands of Colombia, which ended up topping Group A. Lionel Messi is still searching for his first goal and Carlos Tevez has indeed been dropped. Sergio Aguero appears to be the chief attacking threat for Argentina, while Colombia is the only team yet to concede a goal and, not surprisingly, is relying on the talents of Falcao Garcia up front.

Some of the most fascination action took place in Group C with Peru performing much better than anticipated, despite the absence of strikers Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfan due to injury. Mexico goes home without a point in its worst Copa America display ever, as Giovani dos Santos was unable to carry an under-strength squad, while group favorites Chile and Uruguay played well enough in spurts to earn passage into the knockout phase.

The Uruguayans are paying the price for Diego Forlan's noticeable drop in form since the last World Cup, and Chile missed the presence of Matias Fernandez in the final two group games after the Sporting Lisbon star limped out of the opener against Mexico. Fernandez is hopeful of returning for the next round, which would be welcome news for Alexis Sanchez, who is just one of several stars still looking to make their mark on this competition.

Here is a closer look at the four quarterfinal matchups:


 Colombia vs. Peru: Saturday, 3:00 p.m. ET, Univision

Falcao Garcia arrived at this tournament with a reputation for disappointing at the international level, but he caused plenty of problems for Argentina in a scoreless draw and notched both goals in the victory over Bolivia that secured first place in Group A. Manager Hernan Gomez will hope the talented hitman can make up for the staggering finishing problems of the rest of the team.

Dayro Moreno produced the miss of the tournament against Argentina, somehow slicing a shot wide with the net completely open. Gomez must be ecstatic with the play at the back, however, as Colombia has yet to concede a goal. Peru's Paolo Guerrero represents a difficult challenge, as Guerrero has assumed the responsibility offensively and combines fairly well with Juan Vargas.

Argentina vs. Uruguay: Saturday, 6:15 p.m. ET, Univision

Lionel Messi temporarily silenced his critics with a strong performance in a more withdrawn role against Costa Rica. The Barcelona experiment is apparently over after two games with Gonzalo Higuain now serving as the target man that Sergio Batista was initially willing to do without. Higuain squandered several chances in the 3-0 win over Los Ticos, but remains very dangerous.

The question for Batista is whether his defenders can hold up against a Uruguayan attack capable of breaking out of its recent funk. Argentina was incredibly fortunate not to concede a couple of goals to Colombia after allowing Bolivia to find the back of the net in the opening game. Diego Forlan, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez will all be ready to pounce on any mistakes at the back.

Paraguay vs. Brazil: Sunday, 3:00 p.m. ET, Univision

Paraguay will be disappointed to see Daniel Alves on the bench for Sunday's clash after the Barcelona man virtually gifted Gerardo Martino's side a goal in the previous encounter between the two teams. Maicon proved once again with his performance in the final group match against Ecuador that whatever their respective form at club level, he is the much better option for Brazil.

Mano Menezes still needs to sort out problems in the midfield with Paulo Henrique Ganso drifting in and out of games, and Ramires misplacing passes with frightening regularity. Paraguay will hope both Roque Santa Cruz and Lucas Barrios can cause problems for the Brazilian back-line, while Antolin Alcaraz and Paulo Da Silva are responsible for containing Alexandre Pato.

Chile vs. Venezuela: Sunday, 6:15 p.m. ET, Univision

It remains to be seen whether Matias Fernandez returns to the lineup for this intriguing matchup. His replacement Jorge Valdivia has performed reasonably well, including providing a pinpoint pass for Alexis Sanchez to equalize in the 1-1 draw with Uruguay, but Sanchez enjoys a much better understanding with the Sporting Lisbon standout and will certainly hope he recovers in time.

Chile is no longer quite the same pressing side that suffocated opponents under Marcelo Bielsa, yet Claudio Borghi's men will look to impose themselves against Venezuela, which lacks quality in the center of the park. Alexander Rondo scored a lovely goal for Los Vinotintos against Paraguay, while the likes of Juan Arango and Nicolas Fedor are capable of troubling the Chile defense.

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12 Responses to Copa America: A look ahead to the quarterfinals

  1. DrewROC says:

    Nothing against Argentina, but I’d love to see Uruguay with the upset

  2. United says:

    Forlan has been unlucky with his finishing, but has otherwise played quite well. I can see the ‘drop in form’ statement making sense if he were an out and out striker, which is far from being the case.

  3. Felix says:

    My QF predictions:

    Columbia over Peru

    Uruguay over Argentina

    Brazil over Paraguay

    Chile over Venezuela

    Semis:

    Columbia over Uruguay

    Brazil over Chile

    Finals:

    Brazil over Columbia

  4. Felix says:

    I think the statement was more due to the fact that Forlan was downright amazing in the World Cup last year. So you compare him this year – its a drop in form. Of course its hard to repeat the type of performance he had in 2010, but people will make the comparison.

  5. VALDERRAMA says:

    My predictions are as follows:
    Colombia beats Peru by 5 goals to 0
    Uruguay beats Argentina by 3 goals to 1
    Paraguay beats Brazil by 2 goals to 1
    Venezuela beats Chile by 2 goals to 0

    SEMIS:

    Colombia over Uruguay by 5 goals to 0
    Venezuela over Paraguay by 3 goals to 2

    FINALS:

    Colombia beats Venezuela 3 goals to 0

    ” COLOMBIA 2011 COPA AMERICA CHAMPIONS ”

  6. RK says:

    I wonder if Mexico’s fans are calling for their coach to be fired for bringing the C team.

  7. Stanley says:

    *Colombia… sorry.

    I agree with most of your predictions but I can’t say an off-form Argentina would lose at home to an off-from Uruguay. It promises to be the match to watch in the quaterfinals and I am curious to see how it turns out…

  8. Metrohooligan101 says:

    Peru will upset the Cafeteros 1-0, Falcao will miss open net chances all game.

    Argentina will defeat Uruguay being at home and inspired.

    Argentina will then beat Peru 2-1 in the Semis.

    On the other side Venezuela will surprise Chile 2-1 and Paraguay will beat Brazil 3-2.

    Paraguay will defeat Venezuela and then Argentina will beat Paraguay 2-0 in the final.

  9. Hush says:

    Mexico doesn’t have a C-team. They fielded a B-team with 3 A-team players. Mexico almost NEVER fields a B-team much less a C-team. This Copa America was still fielded with decent Mexican League stars and some who play in the A-Team. It would have been better if they would have fielded a sub-20 team like the U.S tends to do in Copa Merica. I would have enjoyed that better.

    Losing to Peru knowing they were playing without Pizzaro & Farfan is amusing to me. :) … I guess the Mexican league is still not as good as they say.lol

  10. poodog says:

    tu fumar crack?

  11. poodog says:

    i got 660/600 us $ that the argies win it all. por favore fratellos-por favor hermanos

  12. donoso98@hotmail.com says:

    David,

    Jorge Valdivia has “performed reasonably well?”. “Sanchez enjoys a much better understanding with the Sporting Lisbon standout?”

    Just know you know very little about Chilean soccer players. The Brazilians call Validiva “El Mago” for a reason. Valdivia is the reason Matias, Alexis, Suazo, Fierro, and Vidal did so well on Colo-Colo. Valdiva is by far Chile’s best player…not even close.