Copa America Centenario will be the biggest men’s soccer tournament hosted by the United States since the 1994 World Cup, which still holds the attendance record of 3,587,538 and an average of 68,991 per game. Since then, Americans have fallen in love with the game.
They will get to enjoy the gathering of the best teams from all of the Americas and the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to American shores for a real, competitive tournament. May the best team win.
Group A: USA, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay
Jose: This is an interesting group. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinnsman has been under-fire recently with a World Cup qualification almost jeopardized until a 4-0 victory against Guatemala calmed things down, but in soccer, home crowd support is nothing to shrug off. Colombia was the sensation of the 2014 World Cup and with James Rodriguez on the squad, it is hard to see them not advancing. Costa Rica has arguably the best goalie in the world, Keylor Navas. With him leading, the small nation of 4.8 million just might make another Cinderella run. Paraguay is known for its stingy defense and could play spoiler, but it just does not have the talent to advance.
Advancing: 1. USA and 2. Costa Rica.
Giovanna: The most competitive group. Every team has the potential to put on a good show, and a spot in the next round will be hard to earn. The U.S., relying on home support, has the opportunity to show its fans what they are made of and prove they are indeed here to stay. Colombia has to demonstrate the 2014 World Cup performance was not a single stroke of luck, and star James Rodriguez needs to overcome his bad moment at Real Madrid and prove himself wearing his country’s jersey. If a goalkeeper can change games’ fates, the man is Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas. He has the goal covered and can guarantee his team’s place in the next round if teammates deliver in the attack. Paraguay should not be underestimated, but the competition might be too much.
Advancing: 1. USA and 2. Colombia
Group B: Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru
Jose: Brazil is the clear favorite to not only advance from this group, but to win the tournament and anything but a trophy will be a failure. Ecuador has been on fire in World Cup qualifying with a 4-1-1 record and is probably a dark horse to win the tournament. Haiti is one of North America’s weaker teams. They have not been to a major tournament since 1974, but I would not bet against them getting a result against Ecuador when the play at the Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the largest concentration of Haitian immigrants live. Peru is bringing an experimental squad with longtime captains Jefferson Farfan and Claudio Pizzaro left off the roster.
Advancing:1. Brazil and 2. Ecuador.
Giovanna: Brazil relies on its tradition and a mix between experienced and younger under-23 players to bring Copa America’s trophy home after a devastating defeat in the World Cup. They arrive without their star Neymar, but the odds of advancing are almost certain. Ecuador and Peru can compete, and the main focus will be on who of the two advances. Peru has forward Paolo Guerrero, who plays in Brazil, and the striker might lead his country to the next round and even steal points from the Brazilian team.
Advancing: 1. Brazil and 2. Peru
Group C: Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Jamaica
Jose: Will this be the tournament that Mexico finally breaks out and becomes a world power? I have been hearing the same speech that this is the tournament Mexico finally wins something since I was born. Uruguay has arguably one of the best offenses with Luis Suarez and Edson Cavani. Venezuela is in a state of turmoil, as the country’s top 15 players recently signed a letter protesting the directors of the local soccer association and making it clear that relations with coach Noel Sanvicente are strained. Jamaica rounds up this group and will make Mexico and Uruguay’s life hell. With a stellar defense led by Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake and a super-fast counter attack, do not be surprised if they get an upset or two.
Advancing:1. Mexico and 2. Jamaica.
Giovanna: Mexico and Uruguay are one step ahead of Venezuela and Jamaica, and any result different than these two advancing would be a surprise. Mexico will be led by the very competent coach Juan Carlos Osorio and an experienced squad, and it would be a surprise not to see them go far. Uruguay is full of good players performing around Europe, being killer striker Luis Suarez the main one. He had an incredible season with Barcelona and arrives at the Copa America in great momentum. The typical Uruguayan resilience might get them far. Venezuela’s external turmoil can either make them or break them.
Advancing: 1. Uruguay and 2. Mexico
Group D: Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Panama
Jose: Argentina has the best player in the world, Lionel Messi. However, Messi has not delivered for his country. Chile is the defending champions of the Copa America and have some of the most talented players, but I think they are not deep enough to win it all. Bolivia is the worst team in the tournament and will attempt to play spoiler. Panama is known for its boxers and baseball players. They hope to change that perception this tournament after coming agonizingly close to qualifying to the 2014 World Cup.
Advancing: 1. Argentina and 2. Chile.
Giovanna: Argentina arrives once again with the hopes that Lionel Messi delivers all of his magic and skills, but with no certainty he will. Regardless, the Argentinians have the attacking covered, as players like Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Carlos Tevez make them the most powerful in that aspect. Defensively is where they struggle and playing a team that can explore it might complicate them later in the tournament. Chile can go far and rely on its solid philosophy and tactics worked to perfection with coach Jorge Sampaoli, but the recent change of managers puts a question mark on their ability to perform as well as in last year’s tournament. They should advance the group stage regardless, with no problems. Bolivia and Panama would need a miracle to outplay Chile and Argentina.
Advancing: 1. Chile and 2. Argentina
USA v Ecuador
This game would take place in Seattle, home to the United States’ most passionate fans. I just do not see the United States losing at this stage to a team that as talented as they are. No way the U.S. will not win in Seattle.
Brazil v Costa Rica
This one would normally be easy, but after the last World Cup, Costa Rica cannot be underestimated. Brazil will also be without their best player Neymar, but they are just a better team in all facets of the game.
Argentina v Jamaica
One word: Messi. Jamaica’s game-plan will be to defend, defend, defend. Argentina moves on here easily.
Mexico v Chile
Mexico will have raucous home support just like if they were playing in Mexico City. That however will not be enough to beat this talented Chilean side. It is the end of the road for “El Tri.”
USA v Peru
Peru has gone as far as it will in the competition and the home team will advance, getting the U.S. fans’ hopes up and being one step closer to the possibility of winning the title.
Brazil v Colombia
Recent face-offs between the two have been heated, and whoever advances here will have to show hard work. Brazil has a slight advantage but will have to prove the favoritism against a great team to secure a place in the semifinals.
Uruguay v Argentina
Focus will be the key and the atmosphere will be electric, as the first to have a moment of weakness can risk going home. The strikers on both sides are not known to miss any chances and might only need one opportunity to decide this game. Argentina may advance, but Uruguay will make their life hell.
Chile v Mexico
Another game that will be close, but Chile can have the upper hand as long as they manage to be solid in the group stage. There is no room for oscillation, and Mexico will be ready to steal their spot in the next round if the Chilean side hesitate to bring their best performance.
USA v Argentina
At this point, Klinnsman’s team has captured the imagination of an entire nation. Tim Howard is playing like his Secretary of Defense self and Bobby Wood is the leading scorer. Argentina is clicking as well at this point and Messi can almost taste the trophy. The Americans will be told they have no chance. USA advances in a dramatic penalty shootout because ‘Merica.
Brazil v Chile
This game would be epic and one for the ages. Brazil advances because at this point the Chileans must be decimated and their squad is not as deeps as Brazil.
USA v Argentina
The home team makes the crowd proud by getting to the semifinals, but this is the end. In what can be a dramatic game, the U.S. will fight until the end but fall short to Argentina. If they show the same fighting spirit they did in the 2014 World Cup, they could even advance, but regardless the fans hope to see players leaving everything on the field.
Brazil v Chile
A game to be decided in details, likely on extra time. Everything will depend on how Chile performs under their new coach throughout the competition and how Brazil adapts to the absence of Neymar. This is the toughest test for both, and whoever advances will arrive in the final with a strong presence.
USA over Brazil
Sunday, June 26, 2016. The day USMNT makes history by winning their first major trophy. Sorry Brazil. This team just has a perfect balance of youth and experience. No one believes in them, NO ONE, and that is when the U.S. plays its best soccer.
Brazil over Argentina
One of the biggest rivalries in soccer, Brazil and Argentina face each other to make for a breathtaking final. The recent retrospect plays in Brazil’s favor but that is no guarantee. If Messi has a minute of inspiration, the game may be over. Brazil could win the title and move past the 2014 World Cup fiasco. Argentina might again fall short in a final, losing their third in two years (2014 World Cup against Germany and 2015 Copa America against Chile), or finally break the curse. Not this time, I think. Brazil wins.
Jose Brambila, a junior journalism major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Giovanna Z. Rinaldo, a junior journalism major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.