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Copa America Review: The First Round of Fixtures

by Finbarr 5. July 2011 11:06

 

Well, we did ask for it. After spending last week previewing the Copa America, eulogising the South American game and salivating over the array of talent that was going on display, it was inevitable that the first round of fixtures would turn up with a touch of the damp squibs. But whilst none of the 'Big 3' showed up, there's still plenty to talk, moan and speculate about, which is what we'll be doing in our round up. Don't forget, we're running a Copa America competition on the blog and also have a whole range of Copa goodies in our online store

Group A

In a tournament that has traditionally been very kind to the hosts, we were expecting Argentina to cruise through a group that looks straightforward on paper. Since their 1-1 draw with minnows Bolivia, though, there have been calls for the head of coach Sergio Batista. Argentina have often been slow starters (Cameroon 1990, anyone?) and fans could do well to remember that Bolivia trounced them 6-1 in the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup and although Batista doesn't curry favour like Diego, they should still bounce back. Icons' own Sergio Aguero looked brilliant after coming off the bench, scoring a fantastic equalising volley. With the first choice triumvirate of Messi, Lavezzi and Tevez coming in for particular criticism back home (Messi unluckily so), he could force his way into the starting line-up. Bolivia, on the other hand, were fantastic. They had a gameplan to stifle the hosts and stuck to it, seeking out Marcelo Martins on the break and eventually getting lucky when Edvaldo Rojas' flick was deflected into his own net by Ever Banega. They should take heart from an encouraging opening performance.

In the other game, Colombia defeated a severely depleted Costa Rica side by a single goal. Again, though, the headlines were all about the poor show put on by the supposed star players. Coming off the back of an extraordinary season with Porto, Rademal Falcao was expected to take the tournament by storm, but looked subdued throughout before being withdrawn in the second half. Indeed, Costa Rica looked the more likely to score until Randall Brenes was sent off on the half hour mark. Adrian Ramos scored soon after to seal the points and provisional top spot in the group for the Colombians, but they'll have to improve if they're to see make a real impact on the tournament.

Group B

If Argentina being held to a 1-1 draw was a surprise, then the sight of Brazil failing to score against Venezuela, traditionally the continent's weakest side, was stupifying. The defending champions certainly had chances. Alexandre Pato hit the bar and Mano Menezes' side could have had a penalty for handball close to half time. Despite some good link up play between Neymar and Pato, the Brazilians were frustrating and as Venezuela grew in confidence, they stretched their illustrious opponents in the second half and had several half chances to secure the victory themselves. As it was, neither side could break the deadlock and Menezes has since faced similar criticism to Batista from his homeland. The Brazilian press are insistent that despite wholesale changes to the lineup, the side has not progressed since the Dunga era. Anything but a victory in their next game against Paraguay is unthinkable.

Paraguay, too, are desperate for the points after their 0-0 draw with Ecuador left Group B still seeking its first goal. The game was arguably the worst of the six played, with little in the way of quality shown by either side. 

Group C

Uruguay were fancied by many before the tournament's kick off, but they too struggled to get out of the blocks, drawing 1-1 with a spirited Peru side. The goals came from Luis Suarez (Uruguay) and Jose Paolo Guerrero (Peru), both of whom we tipped to shine last week. In what was perhaps the liveliest of all the drawn games, Peru struck first when Hamburg's Guerrero slotted home a through ball in the 23rd minute. Suarez stepped up to convert a fantastic pass from Nicolás Lodeiro (our One to Watch) to even things up, but neither side were able to step on and seize the three points. 

It was down to Chile, then, to provide the best entertainment of the opening exchanges. Shorn of the gung ho managerial stylings of Marcelo Bielsa, we were unsure what to expect from the 2011 edition, but their neat passing and tidy movement was at times a joy to behold. It was the Mexicans, though, who took the lead. Having triumphed in the Gold Cup earlier this summer, they let most of their star players go on holiday and fielded an experimental, inexperienced lineup. Nestor Araujo gave them the advantage against the run of play in the first half after Chile (most notably star striker Humberto Suazo) had missed a host of chances. It was left for substitute Esteban Paredes and Arturo Vidal to score the two second half goals Chile deserved, but they will need to improve their finishing if they have real designs on causing an upset. 

As for our predictions...well, Icons' own Dan Jamieson is leading the chase. Our MD tipped Chile to win and Luis Suarez to top score and whilst it's still early days, they are looking like sage choices indeed. Here's hoping for an exponential increase in quality when we get to round two.

Copa America Preview Day Four: The Predictions

by Finbarr 1. July 2011 10:57

 

Tim Vickery, the BBC's South American correspondent, has a surefire way to avoid being wrong, with his oft recited adage of: "Always make your predictions after the event." Well call us foolhardy, but we in the Icons office love a good prediction and having built up towards tonight's Copa America opener all week, we've been itching to throw in our two cents. Not only that, but we've been rifling through our battered old contacts book (well, Twitter) and enlisting some of the most respected names in sports journalism and blogging to offer theirs, too. They're a brave lot, unafraid of eggy faces and we'd like to thank them all for participating. Why don't you let us know your thoughts on the footballing carnival of the summer? Tweet us, or get us on Facebook, but before doing so, you might want to brush up on your tournament knowledge with Parts One, Two and Three of our Copa America 2011 preview. Also, don't forget to check out our fantastic Copa America competition, where you can win a signed Messi boot and the Copa America section of our online store. Now, let's get on with it.

Dan Jamieson 

Dan is the Managing Director of Icons. He is also player / chairman of Grantchester Road and a lifelong Liverpool fan.

Winner: Chile
Runner Up: Uruguay
Top Scorer: Luis Suarez (Uruguay)

Ben Soley 

Ben is the Icons Marketing and Promotions Executive and another Liverpool fan (they're everywhere!).

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Argentina
Top Scorer: Neymar (Brazil)

Finbarr Bermingham

Finbarr is the editorial intern at Icons, the guy who mans the Twitter desk and an Arsenal supporter.

Winner: Uruguay
Runner Up: Argentina
Top Scorer: Radamel Falcao (Colombia)

Follow Finbarr on Twitter

Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is the author of three books about football, Behind The Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football, Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics and The Anatomy of England: A History in Ten Matches. He is the editor of The Blizzard and writes regularly for The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, The Independent and many more. He is an occasional guest on the Guardian's Football Weekly podcast and the BBC's World Football Phone In.

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Uruguay
Top Scorer: Alexandre Pato (Brazil)

Follow Jonathan on Twitter

Kat Petersen

Kat is a sub-editor of the aforementioned Blizzard and is currently accompanying Jonathan at the Copa America.

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Uruguay
Top Scorer: Alexandre Pato (Brazil)

Andy Brassell

Andy is a football journalist and an expert on European football. He works for the BBC as their European football correspondent, appearing regularly on the World Football Phone In on 5Live and on BBC World's World Football Review. He also writes for ESPN Soccernet, The Blizzard, The Independent and many more. He is the author of the book All or Nothing: A Season in the Life of the Champions League.

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Mexico
Top Scorer: Falcao (Colombia)

Follow Andy on Twitter

Luke Moore

Luke is a writer, producer, broadcaster and pundit. He is a co-founder, co-producer and co-presenter of The Football Ramble and has appeared on ESPN's Talk of the Terrace, BBC Radio London, BBC 5Live, ITV.com and Sky News.

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Argentina
Top Scorer: Humberto Suazo (Chile)

Follow Luke on Twitter

Marcus Speller 

Marcus is the presenter and broadcaster of The Football Ramble. He has occasionally appeared on Sky News as a pundit and is also a stand up comedian.

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Brazil
Top Scorer: Humberto Suazo (Chile)

Follow Marcus on Twitter

Dan Brennan

Dan is the owner of Libero Language Lab, which provides translation services to the sports industry. He also writes for FourFourTwo, When Saturday Comes, Champions, World Soccer Digest and other publications.

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Brazil
Top Scorer: Leo Messi (Argentina)

Follow Dan on Twitter

Guillem Balagué

Guillem is a football journalist and a regular pundit of Sky Sports' Revisita de la Liga. He has contributed to The Times, The Observer and The Metro and is renowned for breaking transfer stories via his personal website

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Brazil
Top Scorer: Leo Messi (Argentina)

Follow Guillem on Twitter

Paolo Bandini

Paolo works for the Guardian's sports desk and writes weekly columns on Serie A and the NFL. You can hear him regularly on the Guardian's Football Weekly podcast

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Uruguay
Top Scorer: Edison Cavani (Uruguay)

Follow Paolo on Twitter

Rupert Fryer

Rupert is a journalist and a South American football expert. He is the editor of the South American Football website and writes for the Guardian, The Observer, The Football Ramble, Goal.com, Sport 360 and Fox Soccer

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Uruguay
Top Scorer: Neymar (Brazil)

Follow Rupert on Twitter

Iain MacIntosh

Iain is a football journalist who writes for the New Paper (Singapore), Sports Illustrated, The Irish Examiner and OPM. He appears on the Red, White and Blue podcast.

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Uruguay
Top Scorer: Neymar (Brazil)

Follow Iain on Twitter

Adrian Clarke

Adrian is a former Arsenal player and a football journalist. He is the former news editor of Icons and has co-commentated for Arsenal TV. He is the owner of Sport Media Solutions.

Winner: Uruguay
Runner Up: Brazil
Top Scorer: Neymar (Brazil)

Follow Adrian on Twitter

Scott Wilson

Scott is the Chief Sports Writer for The Northern Echo

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Uruguay
Top Scorer: Alexandre Pato (Brazil)

Follow Scott on Twitter

Huw Davies

Huw is a staff writer, blogger and sub-editor at Four Four Two and the author of The Week Spot blog.

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Mexico
Top Scorer: Alexis Sanchez

Follow Huw on Twitter

John Timmins

John is a Senior Designer for London 2010 Olympics and the goalkeeper for Grantchester Road FC.

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Mexico 
Top Scorer: Neymar (Brazil)

Dr Lee Watson

Dr Watson is the agent of Guillem Balagué.

Winner: Uruguay 
Runner Up: Argentina
Top Scorer: Edison Cavani (Uruguay)

Simon Jalie

Simon is a freelance journalist and La Liga expert who writes for Soccer International.

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Brazil
Top Scorer: Leo Messi (Argentina)

Follow Simon on Twitter

Daniel Colasimone

Daniel is a football writer and the editor of Argentina Football World.

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Unspecified
Top Scorer: Leo Messi (Argentina)

Follow Daniel on Twitter

James Appell

James is a sports writer, travel journalist and Russiaphile. He writes for ITV and The Football Ramble.

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Brazil
Top Scorer: Edison Cavani (Uruguay)

Follow James on Twitter

David Hartrick

David is the co-editor of the football website In Bed With Maradona.

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Argentina
Top Scorer: Neymar (Brazil)

Follow David on Twitter

Sam Kelly

Sam is a Buenos Aires based football writer who contributes to ESPN Soccernet, When Saturday Comes and In Bed With Maradona. He is also the producer of the Hand of Pod podcast.

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Argentina
Top Scorer: Luis Suarez (Uruguay)

Follow Sam on Twitter

David Cartlidge

David is a Spanish football expert and co-editor of Spanish Football.

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Uruguay
Top Scorer: Neymar (Brazil)

Follow David on Twitter

Mark Sylvester 

Mark is a freelance football journalist who writes for BT Vision. He was the ghostwriter of Henrik Larsson's biography

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Chile
Top Scorer: Carlos Tevez (Argentina)

Carl Lyons

Carl is the Marketing Director of Top Table

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Uruguay
Top Scorer:.Leo Messi (Argentina)

Dale Robinson

Dale is a Global Marketing Executive for TOFFS, the world's leading supplier of retro football shirts.

Winner: Uruguay
Runner Up: Colombia
Top Scorer: Radamel Falcao (Colombia)

James McDaid

James is the editor of the 2Footed football blog.

Winner: Brazil
Runner Up: Argentina
Top Scorer: Diego Forlan (Uruguay)

Follow James on Twitter

Ghost Goal

Ghost Goal is a football website edited by Oli Baker and Adam Bate. The pair started the site after growing frustrated at the perceived narrow scope of the mainstream football media. Ghost Goal was named as one of the Guardian's 100 Best Football Blogs and the pair have written for ITV, When Saturday Comes, CalcioItalia, Soccerlens, In Bed With Maradona and more.

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Brazil
Top Scorer: Edison Cavani

Follow Ghost Goal on Twitter

Laura England

Laura is the main buyer of Sports Endeavours, the US soccer partner of Icons

Winner: Argentina
Runner Up: Uruguay
Top Scorer: Falcao

Copa America Preview Day Two: Group B

by Finbarr 29. June 2011 10:34

Yesterday, we kicked off our coverage of the Copa America with a preview of Group A, featuring Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia and Costa Rica. Today, the focus shifts to Group B, featuring bookies' second favourites Brazil. Let's see what the group has in store. Don't forget, you can view our full range of Copa America merchandise by visiting our main site

Brazil

 

The history: Despite being the most successful nation on the global stage, Brazil have historically flattered to deceive at continental level. They've won just eight Championships, compared with 14 each for Uruguay and Argentina. That said, four of those eight have come in the last five editions, with the Brazilians winning each of the last two. They will be going into the tournament with every intention of improving on a disappointing 2010 World Cup in South Africa, so write them off at your peril.

The star players: All the talk in the run up to this one has been about the boy wonder, Neymar Santos (pictured above after scoring recently against Scotland). As he looks set to seal a big money move abroad, the Copa America could prove to be the perfect shopping window. Along with captain Lucio, Robinho, whose early career followed a similar trajectory to Neymar, is the most experienced member of the squad. He has just undergone a season of rejuvenation under Massimiliano Allegri at AC Milan and the pair together could be dynamite.

One to watch: Scouts had been flocking to Brazil to see Paulo Henrique Ganso turn out for Santos until a long term knee injury struck him down last summer. On the comeback trail, he's been linked with a big money move to Milan in January. Tall, elegant and with a sublime touch, we're hoping Ganso will show us what all the fuss is about in Argentina.

Impress your mates: Brazil's former coach Dunga is so called because that's the Portuguese for Dopey. His uncle coined the name when Dunga was a kid as he believed he'd never grow beyond the size of Snow White's favourite Dwarf.

Ecuador

 

The history: Not only have Ecuador failed to win the Copa America, they've never even made the final. Their best performance was reserved for 1993's tournament, when they reached the last four as the hosts. The statistic is surprising, considering the Ecuador side of the past ten years is widely regarded as their best ever. But with many of them now in retirement, it's a team in transition.

The star players: The squad is largely home based, but there are a couple of names that fans of European football will recognise. Luis Antonio Valencia (above) is their star man and having impressed on his return from injury towards the end of Manchester United's season, he'll be hoping for a busy tournament. Top scorer Christian Benitez, too, has a point to prove, following an indifferent spell on loan at Birmingham City two seasons ago. 

One to watch: Eyebrows were raised when Sven-Goran Eriksson splashed out £5million on Felipe Caicedo in 2008. He failed to make an impact at Manchester City, but has impressed many since his move to Spain, where his goals kept Levante in La Liga. Keep your eyes peeled for the big front man.

Impress your mates: Ecuadorian football was rocked in the build up to the 2006 World Cup when the team's doctor was found to be 'people smuggling' by issuing fake visas to people trying to escape the country, under the national team banner. 


Paraguay

 

The history: Paraguay have won the Copa America twice: way back in 1953 and 1979 and have failed to make the Semi Final since 1989. After making the World Cup Quarter Final last year, though, they will be hoping to maintain their good tournament form.

The star player: Despite his stalled career in England, Roque Santa Cruz is the darling of the Paraguayan faithful. We're excited to see Lucas Barrios (pictured), though. Born in Argentina, he gained Paraguayan citizenship just before the World Cup and has just had an excellent season in Germany, helping Borussia Dortmund waltz to the Bundesliga title.

One to watch: Paraguay have triumphed at the Milk Cup, one of the world's premier youth tournaments, three times in the last ten years and the current squad is built around those teams. Having spent his formative years in Germany, we're looking to Nelson Valdez (now 27) to make good on the promise of his youth.

Impress your mates: One of Paraguay's star players, the prolific Salvador Cabanas, was shot in the head in the run up to the 2010 World Cup, whilst in a bar in Mexico City. Cabanas has not played since.

Venezuela

 

The history: Venezuela have traditionally been the runt of the South American litter, having never qualified for a World Cup and only making out of the Copa America group stages once (2007 - as hosts). Development of football in the northerly nation has been impressive, though, with investment in infrastructure coinciding with real progression in player quality.

The star players: The undisputed star of Venezuelan football is Juan Arango, who is now plying his trade with Borussia Monchengladbach having spent five successful years with Real Mallorca in Spain. As captain and talisman, Arango will need to be at his inspired best if Venezuela are to progress.

One to watch: Well, two actually. Our attention has been drawn to a couple of starlets in the Venezuelan squad: namely José Rondón and Yohandry Orozco. Rondón was one of the bright sparks in a disappointing season for newly minted Malaga in Spain's La Liga, whereas Orozco has been snapped up by Felix Magath's Wolfsburg in Germany.

Impress your mates: Between their initial entry to the series in 1966 and their defeat of Ecuador in 1994, Venezuela registered only one victory in South America's World Cup Qualifiers. The win came over Bolivia in 1982.

Keep reading to get our final group preview tomorrow and don't forget to enter our fantastic Copa America competition this way.

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