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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with Porto, Rademal Falcao was expected to take the tournament by storm, but looked subdued throughout before being withdrawn in the second half.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 Three: Group C

by Finbarr 30. June 2011 10:20

England may have declared itself to be the 'Home of Football', but there's undoubtedly a place on Earth where the spirit of the game is at its most pure. South America has never failed to serve us up the kind of football we crave: slick, passionate, skilful and entertaining and our love affair with their brand of the beautiful game shows no sign of losing its spark: the internet has been positively ablaze with anticipation ahead of tomorrow's Copa America kick off. Continuing our tournament theme, today we've got a preview of Group C, featuring some of the most exciting names in the competition. Don't forget to visit the Copa America section of our online store, where we've got signed shirts, boots and photos of some of the biggest names in the competition's history.

Uruguay

 

The history: Despite spending a few decades in the doldrums on the world stage, Uruguay are one of the most successful nations in South American football. Twice World Cup winners, they've also won the joint most Copas along with Argentina (14). Their last victory, though, was in 1995, an anomaly they'll be hoping to remedy in Argentina this year. Indeed, this rejuvenated side is almost certainly the most talented to come from Uruguay in decades. Having reached the World Cup Semi Finals last year, they'll fancy their chances.

The star players: The Uruguayans arrive in Argentina with a seriously strong squad. Big names come in the form of Diego Forlan and Edison Cavani, whilst Icons' favourite Luis Suarez (above) made a huge impression on the Premier League following his January move to Liverpool from Ajax. They've got top level experience all over the park and will take some beating.

One to watch: Wily veteran Oscar Tabarez has fused youth and experience in this exciting outfit. Abel Hernandez finished an injury hit season at Palermo in fine fashion, although he may struggle to dislodge the established forward line. Keep your eyes peeled for Nicolas Lodeiro, who is on the books of Ajax and has been linked in the past with a move to Liverpool.

Impress your mates: In 1975, an international match between Chile and Uruguay was abandoned after 19 players were sent off.

Chile

 

The history: Chile have surprisingly never won the Copa America, with their best performances coming as runners up on four occasions. An impressive World Cup performance with Marco Bielsa at the helm brought this thrilling current generation of players to the attention of the world and despite the manic coach's departure, they'll be confident of making it through to the knock out rounds.

The star players: Alexis Sánchez (pictured) has been the name on everyone's lips this summer. The attacker lit up Serie A last season as part of an exhilarating Udinese side. He's said to be on the verge of a move to Barcelona, where he will be in excellent company. Humberto Suazo has a terrific goalscoring record at club and international level and could reap the dividend of Sánchez's expert service.

One to watch: He may lack the silky skills of Sánchez and the finishing prowess of Suazo, but Gary Medel's tough tackling and no nonsense distribution has earned him the title of 'The Chilean Gattuso'. The midfielder moved to Sevilla from his homeland in the January transfer window and should provide the platform for his more illustrious teammates to thrive upon.

Impress your mates: The Estadio Nacional in Santiago was used as a prison camp for political opponents of General Pinochet, following his seizure of power in 1973. 

Peru

 

The history: The Peruvian national side have lifted the Copa America twice, in 1939 and 1975 - the only final games they've ever played in. Memories of the golden generation of the 1970s have faded and with the retirement of Nolberto Solano and injuries to key players, Peru's prospects in 2011 aren't looking too hot.

The star players: Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfan have been ruled out of the competition with injuries, so goalscoring responsibility lands firmly in the lap of Paulo Guerrero (above). The striker has impressed sporadically in his time in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich and Hamburg, but will need to hit the ground running if they are to qualify from a difficult group.

One to watch: Uncapped forward André Carrillo has just been snapped up by Sporting Lisbon and may be given an unexpected opportunity to shine in Argentina. In what's an inexperienced squad, though, many of the youth players will be asked to step up to the plate.

Impress your mates: Star man Guerrero was fined up to €100,000 for launching his water bottle at one of his own team's fans last year. The Hamburg fan, who was said to have been abusing Guerrero, was hit square in the face.


Mexico




The history: Perennially invited to the Copa America, Mexico have been to the final twice, the last time losing to hosts Colombia in 2001. They've got a great international pedigree, but one wonders about the wisdom of having them along in Gold Cup year. 

The star players: Having triumphed in said Gold Cup earlier this month, the Mexicans are shorn of almost all of their big name players. They've taken ten uncapped players with the only exile being Gio Dos Santos. He may have gone flat during his time with Spurs, but the former Barca starlet has always thrived at international level, making us wonder just what he's done to annoy Harry Redknapp.

One to watch: There are any amount of potential stars on the Mexican panel. Oribe Peralta has a decent goalscoring record in his homeland, so we're tipping him to get amongst the goals in Argentina.

Impress your mates: Giovani Dos Santos was the subject of a musical tribute with a difference, courtesy of Mexican pop star Belinda. She penned a song about losing her virginity to the Spurs forward and complimented the ballad with a tattoo on her ankle. Unfortunately for Belinda, the pair have split. We have no idea what happened the tattoo.

 

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