The group stage of the Copa America has come to an end. We have had 18 entertaining fixtures to date with 1-0 victories leading the way. Seven of the 18 games have ended in odd-goal victories but there have also been goals, most notably involving the host nation Chile. La Roja played out a 3-3 draw against Mexico as well as handing out a 5-0 beating to Bolivia. La Verde themselves were part of an historical 3-2 result against Ecuador; their first Copa America match victory since 1997.
It is hard to look beyond that fantastic display as the standout performance of the third round of pool matches. You have to wonder about Jorge Sampaoli’s side at the back but going forward they are clearly lethal. But how will they fare in the quarter-finals? My bet is they will be just fine but come semi-final time defences are going to be sharper and it could well become a case of irresistible force versus immovable object.
The Bolivians have done superbly well to reach the quarter-finals. They have defied expectations in the same way Ecuador has flattered to deceive by bombing out. Mexico, perhaps surprisingly, are also out. No one would have expected Jamaica to do much but the Reggae Boyz were a credit to the tournament going down admirably.
Uruguay and Paraguay have looked like well-organised, counter-attacking sides made up of honest professionals for the best part. I just do not see their tournament going on much beyond the first knockout match although a spanner may yet be tossed into the works. Group B winner Argentina is the side who will feel they are three wins away from a first major trophy since 1993.
However Gerardo Martino’s men have not set the tournament a light as yet. They were great for 45 minutes against Paraguay before throwing away that 2-0 lead. La Albiceleste followed that up by bossing the majority of the match against the Uruguayans, and again against the Jamaicans but could only come away with 1-0 wins.
Brazil appear a side lacking that extra zip and so it was pleasing to see the Selecao defeat Venezuela without talismanic skipper and star striker Neymar. Dunga will be well pleased that his charges showed they can play without the Barcelona forward however in the quarter-finals they will come up against tougher opponents than La Vinotinto, who will be devastated at their early exit.
Colombia bossed Brazil, were woeful against the Venezuelans and had to settle for a draw against the Peruvians, who have more than held their own so far in Chile. One would have to say that after the group phase there is not one side that has stood out as far as obvious title contenders goes.
The hosts will have the momentum following that big win against Bolivia, as well as an adoring home crowd. After that Argentina have probably been the second-best side at the tournament but not because they have dazzled, but rather because the other sides have not really fired. The uncertainty of it all should make for a great quarter-final stage.