The first international tournament out of 3 this summer has begun with the Copa America. This year its a special edition celebrating the 100 years of the Copa America including teams from both South America (10) and North America (6) and being played on North American shores for the first time. It promises to be an exciting tournament getting some teams/players warmed up for the Olympics while serving as good preparation for the World Cup Qualifiers for some teams.
They come on board as the home team in this South American tournament and have been struggling heading into this with a poor showing in their World Cup qualifying campaign. Juergen Klinsmann has a lot to prove to his doubters or else he won’t be around for the remaining World Cup Qualifying campaign. The USA team have a good blend of young players such as Christian Pulisic (Dortmund, 17 years), Wood (Hamburg, 23 years), Bardes (LA Galaxy, 23 years) and experienced hands like Jermain Jones (Colorado), Clint Dempsey (Seattle) and Wondolowski (San Jose). The Americans have shown the friendlies prior to the tournament glimpses of this form beating Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Bolivia that they can have the firepower to get out the group. The only doubt I would have is regarding their defence, with keepers Guzan and Howard having horrible seasons for their club, this could effect their performances at pressure stages. Nonetheless, I expect the Americans to find a way to qualify out of their group.
Paraguay come into the tournament with just friendly behind them where they were beaten 1-0 by Mexico. That does not give the team competitive football preparation, and Head Coach Ramon Diaz does not have a wealth of talent at his disposal coming into this competition. He will rely a lot on his veterans – Valdez (75 caps), Benitez (52 caps), Villar (115 caps) and Captain Paulo Silva (132 caps) to lead the young talented players into action in this tournament building enough experience for the World Cup Qualifying tournament where they sit in 7th spot, one behind the automatic qualification spot. Youngsters Lezcano (Inglostadt, 25 years), Gonzalez (Kiev, 22 years) and Romero (AZ, 23 years) will be looking to create an impact in this tournament and are potential stars for the Paraguayans. Defensively they hold the veteran Samudio along with Silva to try and keep things tight at the back, but their recent showing has left a lot to be desired. They won’t let any team roll over them, but I don’t see them being able to qualify.
On paper they are the favourites for this tournament, but many of their players are coming into this tournament on the back of some difficult seasons with their club namely players like James Rodriguez, Carlos Sanchez, David Ospina, Christian Zapata, Jeison Murillo to name a few. These tend to have an impact on the players more than on the team especially on the defensive end, leaving Colombia vulnerable to conceding goals much like they have in their last 6 straight games including the 3-1 win over Haiti in the warm up friendly to this tournament. The form of Carlos Bacca, Daryl Moreno, Juan Cuadrado was clear for all to see in their warm up game as well as the good club seasons the three of them had, which should be a threat for all teams in the goal scoring front. Colombia will need to outscore opponents more than relying on their defensive unit to keep a clean sheet. I expect the Colombians to qualify, but not necessary is group winners.
Costa Rica come into this tournament on the back of some good form, leading their Qualifying Group for World Cup 2018 and lost in a tight game against Mexico in Extra Time in the Gold Cup. They have shown to beat USA and Paraguay in their meetings last year, while losing narrowly to Colombia. They have good attacking threat in Saborio, Campbell and Ruiz who will play up front as the strikers, but defensively they will mis talismanic goalkeeper Kaylor Navas. Because of their un-surity in defence, they have been relying on a 5-1-3-1 formation to ensure that they keep it tight at the back, but still conceded a goal to lowly Venezuela in their friendly game. Their defensive players in Duarte (Espanyol), Gamboa (West Brom, 1 appearance), Watson (Vancouver) have been struggling to keep it tight with their clubs, showcasing their potential weaknesses at the back and not having Navas as an insurance policy, makes me believe they will struggle to qualify.
USA & Colombia to Qualify @ 2.50 (Betfair) – 2 points
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