Copa América predictions: Argentina to win, hosts USA may struggle
Copa América predictions: Argentina to win, hosts USA may struggle
Winner will be … Argentina. They have a ridiculously good squad, particularly in forward areas, and, wracked by the fact they’ve won no senior international tournament since 1993, they’re one of the few major nations to be treating the competition with full seriousness. Gonzalo Higuain, whose missed chances cost Argentina at the World Cup and 2015 Copa America, is in the form of his life. Jonathan Wilson
… Argentina. Now that we know they’re going to be there in the first place, this team should be strong enough to hold off even the well-organized Chile team, or the ongoing Dunga revamp of Brazil. Graham Parker
… Argentina. Clearly the strongest squad, especially as a Neymar-less Brazil are more interested in winning the Olympics on home soil. Runners-up in three of the past four Copas, and last champions in 1993, Argentina are due. Tom Dart
… Argentina. The Albiceleste find themselves on promising form heading into the tournament. Even with Messi battling back pain, Argentina still boast the deepest attack and a vastly improved defense. A forgiving group draw doesn’t hurt either.
… Mexico. No Suarez for the group stages for Uruguay means El Tri will run away with Group C – and that means they wouldn’t have to face an inconsistent Brazil until the semi-finals. Osorio’s squad is deep and extremely talented, led by Javier Hernandez and one of the most exciting midfield units (Guardado, Herrera, Corona, Lozano) in the tournament. And let’s not forget thanks to the Mexican-American community in the US, every game will feel as if they’re playing at the Estadio Azteca. Luis Miguel Echegaray
USA will get to …
… the quarter-finals. With home advantage they should be good enough to get out of a relatively straightforward group, but Brazil or Ecuador await in the last eight. Brazil are out of sorts and Ecuador, while in rich form, are beatable, so a semi-final isn’t impossible. JW
… the quarter finals. A semi-final place may be the target, but starting the tournament with a “final” against Colombia, as Jürgen Klinsmann has put it, may not give them the result to advance better than second out of the group – particularly with Klinsmann’s insistence on experimenting right up to the very last warm-up game. That will tee them up for a difficult quarter-final and probable heartache. GP
… watch as better teams compete for the trophy. Home field advantage wasn’t any use in last year’s Gold Cup and overall the squad’s generating less buzz than a beehive in a pesticide factory. The pressure on the coach may spur the team on, but it’s borderline whether they even get out of a hard group. TD
… the semi-finals. But it won’t be easy. Colombia, Paraguay and Costa Rica will all present difficult challenges, but with Keylor Navas in doubt for Costa Rica, the US’s chance for advancement only grows. Led by a crop of youngsters and buoyed by home field, the US will be poised to make an impression.
… the group stage – and that’s about it. I hope I’m wrong: I’d love to see the hosts make a good run, but my gut tells me they won’t get out of Group A. It’s a tough group for USA, and I’m not even talking about Colombia. On their day, both Costa Rica and Paraguay can be a handful. Jozy Altidore is hardly Robert Lewandowski but Jürgen will miss him more than he thinks.
Jurgen Klinsmann is …
… an average coach whose motivational abilities can’t disguise his tactical shortcomings.
… stretched too thin. The technical director of US soccer keeps interfering with the head coach in trying out new personnel to bring through, with a perpetual eye on a distant event horizon. The coach is unable to settle on a side with all this going on, and should maybe take that up with the technical director, but the technical director … etc etc.
… still unsure of his best team and tactics and surely ripe for replacement if the Copa is a catastrophe.
… relying on new blood. Pulisic, Brooks, Nagbe and Wood have excited in recent matches. Will they finally fulfill Klinsmann’s promise of proactive soccer?
… always a motivator, never a tactician. Klinsmann’s Achilles heel is that he doesn’t have a plan B.
Lesser known player to watch
Egidio Arevalo Rios. At 34, he’s not exactly a new talent bursting onto the stage, but he has been a weirdly underappreciated member of the Uruguay national side for a decade, his energy and reading of the game in front of the back four protecting tough but slow central defenders.
Obviously Christian Pulisic is all potential at the moment, so let’s say him. Though bitter experience of US prospects in the past might mean the kindest thing to do is turn our collective backs every time he has the ball, until he’s at least 25 and has been “allowed to grow up”. Perhaps Gabriel of Brazil – a 19-year-old forward who seems to have a certain something about him – will break through.
Does the world need a new Neymar? Old Neymar is only 24. But Gabriel Barbosa has been linked with a move from Santos to a top European club and the 19-year-old prolific goalscorer may see decent playing time for Brazil in the absence of the Barcelona man. TD
Bobby Wood. Wood blossomed in Bundesliga II competition and has looked dangerous in his recent outings with the USMNT. With Altidore gone and Dempsey struggling with form, Wood may have the kind of breakout performance at striker the US hasn’t seen since Charlie Davies in the Confederations Cup 2009. DM
Peru’s Christian Cueva. Ricardo Gareca has named a relatively inexperienced squad for la Copa but Cueva – who plays for Toluca in Liga MX – is one of the survivors from last year’s tournament, and with no Pizarro, Farfan or Vargas he could make quite the impression for La Blanquirroja. Since making his debut in 2011, the 24-year-old has matured tremendously. A tricky dribbler with an eye for goal.
Surprise team of tournament
The absence of Felipe Caicedo is a blow, but he’s not the only reason Ecuador stand level on points with Uruguay at the top of Conmebol World Cup qualifying. Gustavo Quinteros has put together a well-balanced, attacking side and with Brazil as weak as they’ve ever been, the draw has been kind.
Maybe Mexico will punch above their weight on what’s essentially home turf for them — I heard an argument the other day that they may be the most popular sports team in the USA, and you can see why that’s claimed. For betting sorts, their odds are way too long given the location of the tournament.
Jamaica’s current struggle to qualify for the 2018 World Cup is a bad omen, and their group is nasty, but they did reach the final of last year’s Gold Cup, competed hard in last year’s Copa (losing all three games 1-0), have a decent number of US-based players and a Premier League-winning captain in Wes Morgan.
Colombia. Costa Rica, Ecuador and Jamaica are the dark horse teams this tournament, but will likely leave their hopes in the group stage. Colombia, a Group A favorite, seems an odd choice here, since they clearly lack the form of their darling 2014 World Cup side, but if their defense holds it together, Colombia has the tools to upset some of South America’s giants, thanks in part to their attacking options.
Jamaica. Suarez’s injury has flipped Group C’s fate upside down. Yes, Uruguay are still a strong contender, but they are completely different without Lucho, so if Mexico come on top, the runner-up is up for grabs. Enter the Reggae Boyz, led by Premier League champion Wes Morgan. Jamaica has had recent success in America as last summer they made it all the way to the Gold Cup final by beating USA in the semis
Angel Di Maria. The hope, of course, is that the tournament becomes the international consecration of Lionel Messi, but more likely is that Di Maria, in fine form for PSG, can benefit from the attention paid to Messi. Argentina suffered form his injury in Brazil two years ago.