In the opening match hosts Chile saw off Ecuador 2-0 but La Roja will need to be much better if they are to go all the way for the first time. For Jorge Sampaoli’s side you can say a mixture of nerves and a stubborn Ecuadorian defence stopped their usual flow. By the same toke it is difficult to judge La Tricolor, who clearly came to the Estadio Nacional looking for a point but left empty handed. I suspect we shall see a lot more from them next time out against Bolivia.
As for La Verde their scoreless draw against Mexico was hardly an impressive display by either nation. One of the early themes of the tournament saw so-called smaller sides set their stall out to defend against the bigger boys. Jamaica’s defensive effort against Uruguay failed to pay off though as the defending champions found a second half winner.
Argentina showed in the first 45 minutes why they are considered by many to be the tournament favourites. However Gerardo Martino’s men showed in the 45 minutes that followed why they are as vulnerable as any other. Paraguay deserve all the plaudits for coming back from 2-0 down to draw and those goals, particularly Nelson Haedo Valdez’s stunner from outside the box will be considered early contenders for goal of the tournament.
I would have to say the Paraguayans walked away the happier of the two sides after that clash in La Serena. One of the other favourites, Brazil was made to work extremely hard to see off Peru, who actually took the lead after three minutes. Had it not been for Neymar, it is debatable whether or not the Selecao would have come back to win 2-1.
Colombia, who impressed so much at last year’s World Cup were, was dreadful in falling 1-0 to Venezuela. Jose Pekerman’s stars will have to come out and shine next time out although one suspects if they play to their potential they may well have the beating of Dunga’s Brazil. That said the team of the first round of matches for is Venezuela.
La Vinotinto were not expected to beat Los Cafeteros and their tough, well-organised, compact style might have earned them a draw. Well no one told that to Jose Salomon Rondon’s whose header beyond the reach of David Ospina ensured the first upset of the 2015 Copa America. And it was not just a fluke, counter-attack goal. Noel Sanvicente’s side might not possess the natural talents of an Argentina, or indeed Colombia, but they are a team of well-coached players who play for each other and on while I maintain my reservations as to them winning the title, they can certainly go far with the attitude and determination they have displayed in Rancangua.
So while it is certainly still early stages on South America’s west coast, my player of the first round is Mauricio Isla and the team of the round has to be Chile.