We’ve reached the quarterfinal round of the Copa America 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 and hard-fought. We’ve seen a surprising Venezuelan team advance by beating Uruguay for their first win in a competitive match against La Celeste since August 2001.
On the flip side, we’ve seen a whiney Uruguayan team, whose manager Oscar Tabarez claimed that his team failed to advance beyond the group stage because the matches were held on American soil. With just eight teams left vying for the Copa trophy, let’s take a closer look at which teams will advance to the quarterfinal stage.
United States vs. Ecuador
How both teams got here- After a disappointing 2-0 opening loss against Colombia, the United States rebounded. They defeated both Costa Rica and Paraguay, garnering six points and ending group play at the top of their table. While it was not a surprise to see the U.S. advance, few thought they would take the top spot over a highly ranked Colombian squad. Ecuador finished second Group B, earning two points in their first two matches before beating Haiti in the final group stage match and advancing to the knock-out stage.
What to expect– For the U.S. to advance, they will have depend upon a continuation of strong play from their back line. While the goalkeeping of Brad Guzan has been solid, the combination of John Brooks and Geoff Cameron have exceeded expectations in the tournament. Ecuador’s attack-minded squad will try to push the ball up the field to their main target Enner Valencia. The Americans must control his ball movement in order to control the match.
Who will advance– Both teams are familiar with each other, having played in a friendly last month (the U.S. won 1-0). While Ecuador plays their regional matches in a much tougher arena (CONMEBOL) and are highly-ranked according to FIFA (currently 13th spot), it is also interesting to note that they are one of only two teams who have never won the Copa America (the other team being Venezuela). The U.S. are coming off a solid performance against Paraguay, playing with only ten men almost the entire second half while earning all three points in the process. The confidence of the Americans, with the support of their fans behind them (tickets still available [here]) will see them beat La Tricolor 2-1 and advance to the semi-finals.
Peru vs. Colombia
How both teams got here- Peru squeaked by Haiti and tied Ecuador in their first two matches, and were left needing a win against Brazil. Improbably, La Blanquirroja did just that, sending the Brazilians packing via a 1-0 win. While the replay clearly showed the ball handled into the net, the goal was allowed and Peru advances beyond the knockout stage. Colombia beat the U.S. and Paraguay in the first two matches, while chasing the game and losing their third game to Costa Rica 3-2. Both the U.S. and Colombia ended group play with six points, with the Colombians ending up the second spot due to goal differential.
What to expect– In order for Peru to win, they will need to borrow the playbook from Costa Rica and play a free-flowing style of play. This may be difficult for them, given their lack of goal-scoring prowess and the vulnerability of their back line to defend against the counter-attack. Their main offensive targets, Andy Polo and Raul Ruidiaz, will need to finish their scoring opportunities. Colombia will rely on their front line of Carlos Bacca and Marlos Moreno, with support from James Rodriguez and improved play from Juan Cuadrado. They also have a top-flight goalkeeper in David Ospina.
Who will advance– Expect Peru to play tough, competitive football. In the end, though, Los Cafeteros have too much flank speed for Peru to effectively defend against. Colombia will look stronger as the game progresses and advance to the semi-finals with a 2-0 victory.
Argentina vs. Venezuela-
How both teams got here- Argentina won all three of their matches to take the top spot in Group D, but they are not without issues. The health of team captain Lionel Messi is questionable, with Messi missing the team’s first match and entering the second as a substitute in the second half (and garnering a hat trick). Angel Di Maria has an adductor injury to his right leg, although it is hoped he can play some role in the Copa for La Albiceleste. For Venezuela, they are a team who relies heavily on their defense, ceding just one goal in their three group stage matches.
What to expect– Look for Argentina to control the possession and tempo of the game. Much of the game will be played on the Venezuelan side of the field so as not to expose Argentina’s shaky back line. Argentina will look mainly to Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero up front as finishers. On paper, Venezuela look outmatched against Argentina, but a tenacious defense and gritty style of play will keep this game competitive. Expect Venezuela to try to exploit the back line of Argentina with counter-attacks and to capitalize on their set pieces.
Who will advance– While Venezuela has performed admirably thus far, Argentina has too many offensive weapons for La Vinotinto to deal with. Argentina will advance to the next round 3-1.
Mexico vs. Chile
How both teams got here- Mexico has earned seven of nine points in their three group stage matches, defeating Uruguay and Jamaica while tying Venezuela to advance to the quarterfinals. A tight defensive back line along with some opportunistic play up front has seen El Tri easily advance out of the knockout stage. Chile, the winner of last year’s Copa, did not seem as sharp as in the 2015 Copa, advancing with close wins against Bolivia and Panama while losing to group winner Argentina.
What to expect– New El Tri manager Juan Carlos Osorio tinkers with his line-up routinely, trying to get favorable match-ups whenever possible. He has also effectively put the defense in the hands of senior defender Rafael Marquez, utilizing his time to improve the play of the midfield. While the goal scoring is split between the forwards, look for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to have a breakout game. For Chile to advance, they will turn to Alexis Sanchez up front and will need a more balanced performance from Arturo Vidal in order to advance beyond the quarterfinal stage.
Who will advance– While Mexico has what seems like a home crowd to cheer them on In the United States, their defensive midfield and back line will be exposed by Chile. La Roja will beat Mexico 3-1 and advance to the semi-finals.