We’ve reached the final matches in the Copa America Centenario tournament, and have seen some of the best players in the world competing for the glory of their country. Virtually every game has been competitive, with the best teams from CONMEBOL and CONCACAF participating in the tourney.
The winner will actually receive two trophies this year to celebrate the Centenario. The first is the original silver trophy which is awarded each year to the tournament winner. The second is the commemorative La Copa Del Siglo (The Cup of the Century), plated in matte gold with the names of all 16 participants engraved on the base of the trophy itself. With just two games remaining to be played, let’s take a closer look at the remaining teams and who will be hoisting the hardware on June 26, as well as the match for third place that will take place on June 25.
Third-place match-United States vs Colombia
How both teams got here- With a built-in advantage of playing in front of a home crowd, the United States lost their first group stage game against Colombia, and then rebounded to beat Costa Rica and Paraguay to advance to the knock-out stages. While being statistically outplayed, the U.S. was able to defeat Ecuador 2-1 and advance to the semi-finals. With their opponent being Argentina, the Americans were thoroughly outplayed and lost to Argentina 4-0 in a game that saw the U.S. manage no shots on or off target. The real winners, however, might have been the television audience, with a total viewership of 8.1 million in the United States alone.
Colombia began their group play by beating the U.S. and Paraguay, while surprisingly losing to Costa Rica to finish the group in second place behind the Americans. Their first knock-out stage match saw Los Cafeteros defeat a stout Peruvian squad in a match that went to penalty kicks after playing to a 0-0 draw in regulation play. The semifinals saw them play Copa defending champion Chile in a match in Chicago that was delayed over two hours at halftime due to heavy rains and lightning. After falling behind early in the match 2-0, Colombia lost Aston Villa midfielder Carlos Sanchez early in the second half with a second yellow card. Playing a man down almost the entire second half, they were unable to close the gap on a waterlogged pitch and fell to Chile 2-0.
What to expect– Colombia will continue to depend on strikers James Rodriguez, Roger Martinez and Carlos Bacca (if he is healthy enough to play) with support from Juan Cuadrado and Daniel Torres in the midfield. While their defense has played admirably, they have not scored a goal in their last two matches. Although they played in abysmal weather conditions against Chile and were down a man for almost half of the game, this is not acceptable for the team FIFA ranks third best in the world. While manager Jose Pekerman is firmly in control of his team, after needing to take penalty kicks to beat an underwhelming Peruvian squad and losing to Chile on a Soldier Field pitch that is sure to produce some tired legs, will Colombia suffer a letdown?
The United States will get back three starters who had card suspensions in the Argentina match, and that will help them competitively. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann will start his best eleven in the hopes of clinching third place in a tournament held on home soil, and will want to beat the team he lost to in the first Copa match. Can he pull it off?
Who will win– Colombia will control the midfield and ultimately the pace of the game, which will prove too much for the United States to overcome. Los Cafeteros will beat the U.S. in the third place match 2-1.
Final Match-Argentina vs Chile
How both teams got here- Argentina played their Copa opener against Chile and were victorious 2-1. Noteworthy is that they played the game without Lionel Messi. Since that match, they have beaten four opponents by a combined score of 16-1. While losing striker Ezequiel Lavezzi to an elbow injury against the United States, manager Tata Martinez has more than enough talent to call upon with no drop-off in team production.
After losing their opener to Argentina, Chile beat Bolivia and Panama to advance out of the group stage. They embarrassed an overrated Mexican squad 7-0, and then beat Colombia 2-0 in a rain-soaked event in Chicago to set up a rematch of the 2015 Copa America final.
What to expect– Argentina lost one of their playmakers early in the tournament in Angel Di Maria and will now be without striker Lavezzi. Having said that, expect to see the same type of football from Argentina that you’d see from the number one ranked team in the world-ball control, ball movement and plenty of scoring opportunities. Argentina has not won a major tournament since they won the Copa America in 1993, and they are hungry. Lionel Messi is highly motivated to shed the persona of a player who cannot deliver a trophy for his home country.
Chile will welcome back midfield playmaker Arturo Vidal after serving a one game suspension for card accumulations, and they will need his abilities. If Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas are the offensive catalysts, it is Vidal’s engine that provides their support. In order to defeat Argentina, all of these players, as well as goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, must play stellar, flawless football.
Who will win– After Argentina beat the United States, none other than legend Diego Maradona commented in the press that should La Albiceleste fail to win the first place trophy, they should not return home at all. Argentina players can rest easy, as they will beat a resolute but overmatched Chilean squad 4-2.