The group stages of the Copa America has come to a close and boy was it filled of surprises and outstanding performances. Before I preview the quarterfinal games, here is my biggest surprise of the group stage, best performance of the group stage, best team of the group stage, biggest disappointment of the group stage.
Biggest Surprise of the Group Stage: Venezuela – Is this the year that they finally make the final? We will see as they are on to the knockout stages for the 4th time ever. They are definitely this year’s Cinderella team as they are the lowest ranked remaining team. They shocked everyone when they defeated Jamaica 1-0 in the opening game. Then the real surprise happened when they defeated Uruguay 1-0. They almost made it 3 straight 1-0 wins but with 10 minutes left Corona scored for Mexico giving them a 1-1 draw in the final game. This meant that Venezuela was going to finish second in the group but they will be happy and looking forward to their quarterfinal matchup.
Best Performance of the Group Stage: Lionel Messi (Argentina) vs. Panama – Messi made his Copa debut in the second round when Argentina faced Panama. With his team up 1-0, Messi came on in the 61st minute and 26 minutes later the score was 4-0 and Messi had a splendid hat trick. He then assisted Aguero to make it 5-0. His team was the only team to win all three games and they look favorites now to win the whole tournament.
Best Team of the Group Stage: Mexico – While Argentina went 3-0 in the group stage, Mexico was fantastic in the group stage and has maintained their unbeaten run. They opened the tournament with a great win over Uruguay defeating them 3-1. Then they defeated Jamaica 2-0. They finished the group stage on a down note as they needed a late goal to draw 1-1 with Venezuela. Juan Carlos Osorio seems to have his team playing at their best as they have scored 6 goals and no player has more than 1 goal scored. The question now is can Mexico become the first non-CONMEBOL team to win the tournament.
Biggest Disappointment of the Group Stage: Brazil – The great footballing nation really disappointed this tournament as they were only able to win 1 game this whole tournament despite scoring 7 goals and conceding just 2. They started the tournament with a 0-0 draw against Ecuador. Then it looked like they were going to get going as they defeated Haiti 7-1. However, this would not be enough as they lost 1-0 to Peru but they should not have since Ruidiaz clearly handled the ball into the goal. Nevertheless, Brazil is out with a whimper. Uruguay also could have been this one as they are also eliminated.
United States vs. Ecuador – Thursday June 16th at 9:30 pm EST on Fox Sports 1 at CenturyLink Field, Seattle
This should be a fascinating game. Ecuador finished second in their group due to draws against Brazil and Peru. They defeated Haiti 4-0. Enner Valencia is their leading scorer with 2 goals so far. He has been very good in this tournament. They have great width and could really cause problems. The United States advanced to the knockout stage by winning Group A. They lost to Colombia in the first game but responded well with a 4-0 win over Costa Rica and a 1-0 win over Paraguay. Clint Dempsey has scored twice but the defense has been the story of the team. John Anthony Brooks has really stepped up and another great performance will be needed since DeAndre Yedlin is out suspended due to his red card agasint Paraguay. The United States defeated Ecuador before the tournament, can they get the win in the tournament?
My Pick – United States
Conor’s Pick – United States in PKs
Argentina vs. Venezuela – Saturday June 18th at 7:00 pm EST on FX at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
This is arguable the best team left against the worst team left. Argentina has a ton of firepower as they were the highest scoring team in the group stage with 8 different players scoring a goal. Venezuela meanwhile is the lowest scoring team to advance. They scored just 3 goals in the group stage. Both teams have only conceded once. Messi might be in line for his first start of the tournament and he will look to build on his great performance against Panama and finally win his country a major trophy.
My Pick – Argentina
Conor’s Pick – Argentina
Peru vs. Colombia – Friday June 17th at 8:00 pm EST on Fox Sports 1 at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford
Peru was the surprise winners of Group B thanks to their handball victory over Brazil. They had a so-so group stage and were very lucky to advance. They defeated Haiti 1-0 in the first game. Ecuador beat Haiti 4-0 and Brazil beat them 7-1. If they did not defeat Brazil, they would have been knocked out. Their opponent is a team that should be considered a team that can win this tournament. James Rodriguez has scored twice in the group stage. Colombia should be able to advance but can Peru keep the magic going?
My Pick – Colombia
Conor’s Pick – Colombia
Mexico vs. Chile – Saturday June 18th at 10:00 pm EST on FX at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara
This is one of the best quarterfinal matchup of the lot as Mexico faces the defending Copa champions Chile. Both of these teams have dynamic players that can change the game in an instant. Mexico are lead by Javier Hernandez and Jesus Manuel Corona. Chile has the dynamic duo of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal. This game is going to be very tight as both teams love to attack. Chile conceded the most goals out of any team that has advanced. Mexico is lead by Rafa Marquez who seems to have found the fountain of youth. At 37 years young, he has really taken command of the defense including a goal against Uruguay. This is a tough one to call but a must watch game.
My Pick – Chile on PKs
Conor’s Pick – Chile at the last minute
Copa America Centenario Group Stage Results
1 point for correctly picking a team to advance
1 point for correct place in group
Me – 9 Points
Conor – 10 Points