Featured Image Credit: CopaAmerica2016.com
The Copa America Draw has come and gone in what feels like seconds. Many Americans tuned in to watch the drawing live in New York to get a grasp of the US National team’s chances in the upcoming Copa America Centenario. I was one of them. That night I and many others saw the US get placed in a group with Colombia, Paraguay, and Costa Rica. All talented teams, but they are all also teams that don’t exactly pop into people’s heads as “powerhouses.” This leaves many Americans wondering whether we are once again in a “group of death.” Luckily for you guys, I am not one of them. Here is how I think we will fair with each team.
You always have to start with the big name. Do you remember these guys? The mysterious “dark horse” of the 2014 World Cup that played like Brazil used to, like when they actually had flair and passion. Many were surprised to see Colombia’s success in the World Cup since it was the first team that had qualified for their nation in over ten years. I, on the other hand, wasn’t surprised by their success at all. I actually assumed they would have made it further. I wrote my eighth grade independent research paper on their 1994 national team. After doing this I followed them avidly. By following them in this way, I discovered their national team had been world class quality since early World Cup qualification. I know Colombia’s team, and have grown to love it, but they are not the same team that entered the World Cup in 2014. If anyone saw Colombia’s performance in the 2015 Copa America they would have immediately realized this. In that tournament Colombia not only progressed no where near as far as they should have, but they also only scored one goal in the entire tournament. They became so frustrating to watch! They had the talent to make the goals, but the results always ended against them. They were lacking creativity, and what recent friendlies have shown me is that this may continue. But you still cannot ignore the team’s huge arsenal of talent. I think the best the US could hope for is a tie, I also think that is the most likely outcome.
Costa Rica, another World Cup Cinderella story. Like Colombia, their success was not a surprise. Costa Rica may, to most, seem like the team that “shook” the world with their wins against Italy and Uruguay, but I saw them as the constant threat to the US National team’s hopes of being number one in the World Cup qualifying stages. Their team was loaded with young and excited talent ready to make a name for their tiny country. This made them possibly the most annoying team in the qualifying stage, for just about any team. They brought this form to the World stage and now everyone knows how truly talented they are! Well, now things are not as simple for the Ticos. Many did not give Costa Rica’s coach, Jorge Luis Pinto, the credit he deserved for their success. This became even more evident when he left the team after claiming he was “sleeping with the enemy.” They then replaced him with Wanchope, who proved to be nowhere near as influential as Pinto. This was extremely evident in last summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup. In that tournament they looked like a completely different team. They struggled against minnows like Canada and El Salvador. Although I will mention a very notable performance against Mexico, where they were arguably robbed at the last second with a debatable penalty. Things still look bad for them after firing Wanchope for (you guessed it) misconduct. Now with a new coach just before the tournament, I think the US actually have some pretty good chances, and should be disappointed with anything less than a win.
Paraguay, or should I say the ruffians of South America. They possess talent, but play as if they are at war. Which can be good and bad. Paraguay is a team who on paper seem very poor. However, if you watch them you will also see a team who may lose, but will make it hell on the pitch. The players often run like headless chickens with practically unlimited energy and aggression. They never back down without a fight. They are truly warriors. The problem is that their lack of technicality can at times make failure seem inevitable. Paraguay’s mentality can also help them create upsets in major tournaments like last summer’s Copa America. The men in red came back against Argentina after being 2-0 down, and knocked Brazil out of the tournament. What makes me confident about the United States’ chances is that the very next game they were slaughtered by Argentina with a 6-1 score. Paraguay can at times be troublesome, but they are burdened by inconsistency. That is why I think the US should expect a win.
So many will label this group as a “group of death” but it is more of a “group of annoyance.” We have the ability to survive this group, it is just up to how our coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, lines our team up. The most realistic objective for the US in this group is the US National Team safely in second place behind Colombia.