Photo courtesy of EPA
The group stage of the 2015 Copa America has come to a close after an exciting couple of weeks. This past weekend was especially exciting with the last round of matches being played, stacked with teams jostling for spots in the quarterfinals. From Mexico’s disappointing end to Brazil’s resurgence, Rhino Press has you covered with analysis of all the weekend’s games and a look ahead to the rest of this continental mega tourney.
Recap of Last Round’s Action
The final round kicked off Friday with an extremely crucial Group A encounter between Mexico and Ecuador. With a win, Mexico was guaranteed a place in the quarters, and the underachieving side definitely wanted to put their previous performances aside and defeat a Ecuador side essentially without any hope of getting to the quarters. Unfortunately for Mexico, such a performance was not there on the pitch Friday as the team once again played horrendous football, falling to an injury-ridden Ecuadorian side 2-1. Fans and critics who have been hounding this Mexican side throughout the tournament made sure their voices were heard after the match, many calling for a sacking of Mexico’s manager Miguel Herrera. In the other Group A encounter of the night, Chile rolled to a 5-0 blowout win over a Bolivian team that has looked increasingly potent in the matches leading up to the meeting with the Chileans. Chile looked ready to march to a title in front of raucous home support and the Bolivians, who also enter the quarters, look ready to regain some momentum after a thrashing by the home side.
Group B’s matches on Saturday were low-scoring, tense encounters that ultimately led to Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay to all punch their tickets to the quarterfinals. First, Uruguay and Paraguay met up in a monumental clash that decided the final group standings, with massive implications for the quarterfinals. Uruguay took an early lead, helped on by Jose Gimenez’s 28’ strike but this was soon negated by a fantastic goal from Paraguay’s starlet Lucas Barrios. The match eventually finished with this same scoreline, 1-1, and both teams were able to qualify for the knockout stage. Argentina and Jamaica also met, with the Jamaicans falling once again to a 1-0 scoreline. The Jamaicans played an amazing tournament, and although they lost all their games, it cannot be said that they were not alive and attacking in any of those games.
The two most exciting matches last weekend stemmed from Group C after Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela all entered the final day of group stage matches with 3 points each after two matches played. Colombia entered its match against Peru knowing that without a win they would not be guaranteed a spot in the last 8. Unfortunately for the Colombians, Falcao continued his horrid spell for his national side, and despite some late chances on counter-attacks, the Colombians drew 0-0 with the Peruvian side. Peru was now guaranteed a place in the quarters with this result due to the fact that Peru scored more goals throughout the group stage. A Neymar-less Brazil also entered their match against Venezuela with a need to come out on top. Colombia also needed a victor in this game as with a draw, they would be eliminated. After a couple of close chances for the Brazilians, PSG’s Thiago Silva finally connected after a corner kick, leading millions of Brazilian and Colombian fans around the world to breathe a huge sigh of relief. New Liverpool man Roberto Firmino scored in the 51st minute to double the lead for Brazil. A late 85th minute goal from Venezuela’s Miku gave the Brazilians and the Colombians a late scare but the Brazilian defense was able to hold off any other chances and finished the match, winners 2-1. With this result, the Venezuelans were eliminated from the competition and Brazil, Colombia, and Peru all moved on.
(All matches on BeIN Sports and all times Central)
Wed Jun 24th- Chile v Uruguay, 6:30 PM
Chile continues a stellar tournament on home soil with a rousing win over a determined Uruguayan side that still lacks that offensive firepower of old, 2-1 to Chile.
Thurs Jun 25th- Bolivia v Peru, 6:30 PM
Fresh off a hammering by Alexis Sanchez and Chile, Bolivia fails to regain their momentum from the early stages of the competition and falls without much resistance to a red-hot Peruvian side led by Farfan and the crafty veteran striker Claudio Pizarro, 2-0 to Peru.
Fri Jun 26th- Colombia v Argentina, 6:30 PM
After looking set to finally take Argentina to a major international trophy, Messi and company are unable to get it done when it matters against a revitalized Colombian side. Falcao nets an equalizer in regular time and Colombia squeaks past La Albiceleste after penalties, 2-1 AET for Colombia.
Sat Jun 20th- Brazil v Paraguay, 4:30 PM
Following a couple of early scares with Paraguay going up 1-0, Brazil rallies around their suspended starlet Neymar and a Firmino brace is enough to carry the Brazilians past an upset-minded Paraguay side, 2-1 to Brazil.
Knockout Stage Predictions
QF 1– Chile 2-1 Uruguay
QF 2– Bolivia 0-2 Peru
QF 3– Colombia 2-1 Argentina (After PK)
QF 4– Brazil 2-1 Paraguay
SF 1– Chile 3-1 Peru
SF 2– Brazil 1-0 Colombia
3rd Place Match– Colombia 2-1 Peru
Final– Brazil 1-2 Chile