As the 2016 Copa America Centenario tournament winds down, only four teams remain to compete for the coveted trophy. Some teams have disappointed and crashed out in the initial group stage (Brazil, Uruguay), while others have exceeded expectations (Venezuela, Peru). While the players are given the opportunity to showcase their skills on the world stage, the same is true for managers, as Carlos Verri found out upon his return to Brazil. Better known as Dunga, Verri was sacked by the Brazilian Football Federation after the Selecao failed to advance deeper into the competition.
With four teams left to vie for the title, let’s take a closer look at these two matches and at which teams can be expected to advance to the final and runner-up matches. And if you’re placing wagers on the game, don’t forget to cash in your casino bonus.
United States vs. Argentina
Overview- After a disappointing 2-0 opening loss against Colombia, the United States defeated both Costa Rica and Paraguay, earning the right to play Ecuador in front of a raucous fan base in Seattle. While trailing in shots taken (18-9) and time of possession (58%-42%), the Americans made the most of their opportunities and came away with a 2-1 victory. Ecuador will return home to ponder how they failed to convert a number of goal-scoring opportunities, and the U.S. squad has traveled to Houston for their next match against Argentina. They will do so without three of their starters, Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya, all of whom will be serving card suspensions.
Argentina dispatched defending champion Chile as well as Panama and Bolivia to advance to the first knock-out stage against a surprisingly tough Venezuelan squad. While demonstrating a tough, gritty defense and an opportunistic knack for goal-scoring, La Albiceleste had too many offensive weapons that disrupted the Venezuelan defense and catapulted them to the semi-final stage. Argentina is also the first national team to score 14 goals in a Copa America tournament since 1959.
Keys to the Match– For the U.S. to advance, they will have to 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 as central defenders has exceeded expectations. Look for Argentina’s attack-minded squad to try to push the ball up the field to their main targets, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero. The Americans must control the midfield in order to limit Argentinian scoring opportunities, but with La Albiceleste’s midfield comprised of players like Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Ever Banego, the U.S. will have a monumental task ahead of them. The American squad’s best hope of winning is on quick counter-attacks and opportunistic free kicks against a suspect Argentinian back line.
Prediction– Historically, these two teams have only played against each other ten times, with Argentina winning six matches, losing two and drawing twice. But even with Angel Di Maria doubtful and Lionel Messi not at full strength, it is difficult to see how the Americans can defeat a squad as talent-laden as Argentina. While U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann has his squad playing at as high a level as possible, it would seem that Argentinian manager Tata Martinez is well aware of the fate that has befallen Brazilian manager Dunga. Martinez will be keen on ensuring his team plays up to their full potential in the Copa matches. While the home team has had a successful campaign in this tournament, expect Argentina to leave Houston with a 3-1 victory and advance to the final match.
Colombia vs. Chile
Overview- Colombia ended up in second place in group play, and played a gritty Peruvian squad in their initial knock-out stage match. While having twice as many shots as Peru, the game ended 0-0 in regulation time and went straight to penalty kicks. While not the ideal way to award a winner, Los Cafeteros were clearly the superior team and are deservedly advancing to the semi-final match. Chile, last year’s Copa champions, has looked underwhelming in this year’s play until Saturday’s match against a formidable-looking Mexican squad. After 90 minutes of play the referee mercifully did not add any additional time, and La Roja embarrassed a revamped Mexican team 7-0 to set up a semi-final match against their CONMEBOL rivals.
Keys to the Match– In order for Colombia to win, they will need more production from their front line of Carlos Bacca and Marlos Moreno, who have scored just two goals in their first four games. In the midfield, they’ve received support from James Rodriguez (2 goals, one assist), but must get more production from Juan Cuadrado, who is scoreless with one assist in four matches. They will rely on top-flight goalkeeper David Ospina, who was the man of the match against Peru.
Chile will try to replicate their lights-out match against El Tri with quick precision passing to rapidly advance the ball away from their defensive half. Of course, that will prove to be more difficult against Los Cafeteros. Taking the Costa Rican game out of the picture (a few starters were rested since the team was already through the group stage), Colombia has ceded just one goal in three games. Expect goal-scoring against Colombia to be far more difficult than against Mexico. Chile will also be without their midfield “engine”, Arturo Vidal, due to an accumulation of yellow cards. His playmaking abilities will be sorely missed.
Prediction– Chile seems to have broken away from their mediocre level of play, while Colombia has often played down to the levels of their opponents. Historically, these two countries have played each other 36 times, with Chile winning 14, Colombia winning 10 and 12 matches ending in a draw. These are two teams who are similar in so many respects it is difficult to predict a winner. But after 90 minutes of play, Chile will be leaving Soldier Field with a hard-fought 3-2 victory and will advance to the Copa finals to play Argentina in MetLife Stadium on June 26.