Copa America Semifinals Preview

We’ve reached the semifinal round of the Copa America tournament and some of the best players in the world are laying it all on the line. Virtually every match has been competitive, often going straight to penalty kicks to decide who advanced.

We’ve watched the good (a feisty Jamaican team from CONCACAF) and the ugly (red cards and suspensions awarded to Neymar and Edinson Cavani). With just four teams left vying for the trophy, let’s take a closer look at who may be celebrating come July 4.

Chile vs. Peru

CUIABA, BRAZIL - JUNE 13:  Alexis Sanchez of Chile celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B match between Chile and Australia at Arena Pantanal on June 13, 2014 in Cuiaba, Brazil.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

How both teams got here

With a built-in advantage of playing in front of a home crowd, Chile beat Equador and Bolivia while tying Mexico in the group stage. They went on to defeat Uruguay 1-0 in the quarterfinals as Uruguay finished the match with nine players and saw their manager ejected as well. Peru advanced out of the group stage by beating Venezuela, tying Colombia and losing to Brazil. Los Blanquirroja went on to beat Bolivia 3-1 to advance and set up the match against Chile.

What to expect

For Chile to advance, they will have to shut down Flamengo striker Paolo Guerrero, who had a hat trick against Bolivia. Their defense will need to improve, which is no small feat given that starting defender Gonzalo Jara has been suspended for his role in the Uruguay match melee.

Peru’s recent Copa history has been kind. They have advanced to the quarter-finals in each tournament since 1999, fine showings for a team FIFA ranks 61st in the world.  But they will have their hands full trying to contain Alexis Sanchez and a potent Chilean offense. Their best hope is to take advantage of Chile’s offensive game plan through a quick counter-attack.

Who will advance?

Chile has too many weapons and the home crowd, and will prove too much for an outgunned Peruvian squad. Chile advances to the final match by a 3-1 margin.

Paraguay vs. Argentina

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 15:  Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina at Maracana on June 15, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

How both teams got here

Paraguay advanced out of group play with a narrow 1-0 win against Jamaica along with two ties. They were given little chance of advancing beyond the quarterfinals, but proved the pundits wrong by beating Brazil in a match decided by penalty kicks. Whether La Albirroja won or Brazil lost the match (sans Neymar) is debatable, but what is certain is that Paraguay has not lost a match in this tournament.

Argentina have won two of their three group stage matches, with a lone tie against Paraguay. After being tied 0-0 in their quarterfinal match after regulation, La Albiceleste advanced to the semifinal round by beating Colombia in penalty kicks 5-4.

What to expect

Paraguay must play conservatively against Argentina, taking advantage of counter-attacks and free kicks when given in their favor. Like the game against Brazil, the longer they remain competitive on the pitch, the better their odds are of advancing to the finals. Veterans like Roque Santa Cruz must ensure that the younger players maintain their focus. Argentina, on the other hand, will look to possess the ball for a majority of the game while continuing to probe for weaknesses in the Paraguayan back line.

Who will advance?

Expect Paraguay to play tough, competitive football.  In the end, though, Argentina have too many weapons for La Albirroja. Look for Argentina to control the tempo and the outcome of the game, and to advance to the finals with a 2-0 victory.

So which team seems to be the favorite to hoist the trophy on July 4?

Argentina is the favorite to win the Copa America with their stable of world-class players, but look for the host country to hoist the Copa trophy in 2015. While Argentina has the star players, La Roja is a well-balanced football squad that will be able to withstand the pressure brought by La Albiceleste.

As America celebrates its independence, Chileans will be celebrating as well.