Red’s original call for the Copa America Centenario final was Argentina over Mexico. But then Chile gave Mexico an incredible ass-whomping in the quarter-finals and will now face Argentina on Sunday in New Jersey. So we are left with a rematch of last year’s Copa America final which Chile won on penalties on its home turf in Santiago.
Red thinks that Argentina breaks through this year and brings home its first major trophy since it won the CA in 1993. After being ever so close in the 2014 World Cup Finals, La Albiceleste takes this one. Red expects a close and high scoring game this time instead of the 0-0 draw in regulation that led to a shoot-out. The U.S. soccer crowd needs that kind of excitement. Plus, both teams have their scorers performing at top level in this tournament. Messi and Higuain for Argentina and Vargas and Sanchez for Chile have scored a total of 18 goals between them. Losing Lavezzi for the final will hurt, but Angel DiMaria is back so Argentina will not miss a beat. The only possible hitch for Argentina is if it comes down to a big play for Higuain who has choked away opportunities in the last two big finals for La Albiceleste.
Argentina 4, Chile 3
And for the third place game, well who really cares other than the players who might not get another chance to play in the CAC.
Red did fairly well in his picks coming out of group play. Red correctly called 6 of the 8 teams heading to the quarter-finals – missing out on Brazil and Uruguay. Brazil got bumped on a bad call when the referee missed a handball allowing Peru to beat Brazil for the first time in 31 years and Uruguay just plain sucked without Luis Suarez in the lineup.
The surprises of the tournament are Venezuela and Peru neither of whom figured to factor into the knockout rounds. So Red’s up-to-date revised picks for the quarter-finals are:
USA 3 Ecuador 1
Argentina 4 Venezuela 1
Mexico 2 Chile 1
Columbia 2 Peru 0
And if all goes right, Red y familia will be watching the US and Argentina next Tuesday before a packed house at NRG.
Red will be watching a lot of soccer over the next few weeks with the Copa America Centario and the European Championship overlapping. Here are Red’s picks for the CAC starting tonight:
Group A – 1st Columbia; 2d USA
Group B – 1st Brazil; 2d Ecuador
Group C – 1st Mexico; 2d Uruguay
Group D – 1st Argentina, 2d Chile
Red doesn’t think that any of the CONCACAF teams other than the US and Mexico stand a chance to make it out of group play with the possible exception of Jamaica. The Reggae Boys got a tough draw with Uruguay and Mexico in Group C. They clearly could make it out of a weak group like B. And perhaps Haiti will surprise and knock off Ecuador for the second spot in Group B. Costa Rica might have had a chance but with ace goalkeeper Navas out it is a tough road. The “match” of group play comes early with the Argentina-Chile pairing on June 6 in Santa Clara. The match between the last two teams left standing in the tournament last year will be must see TV for all soccer fans.
Columbia 3 Ecuador 0
Argentina 1 Uruguay 0
USA 2 Brazil 2 (USA advances on PKs)
Mexico 2 Chile 1
A bit of a stretch to think that the US can beat Brazil but Brazil is playing with Neymar, Jr. (who decided to play in the Olympics) and this is not an outstanding Brazilian squad. Argentina will be at full strength and has numerous weapons but is weak on the back line. Columbia breezes by virtue of a relatively lucky draw. And Mexico is fielding perhaps their strongest team ever with Javier Hernandez in good form joined by Peralta up front and a strong back line anchored by Layun and Marquez.
Argentina 3 USA 1
Mexico 2 Columbia 1
The US gets a bad draw here and suffers from not winning its group. Argentina should be the class of the field and Messi needs to prove that he can lead his team to something better than the usual second place finish. Mexico gets a Columbian team that has an off form James Rodriguez and is missing their best defensive players from their remarkable 2014 World Cup Finals run.
Argentina 2 Mexico 1
This could go either way but Los Albicelestes finally get a big trophy to put up on the mantel.
The second biggest soccer tournament ever to be held in the U.S. kicks off tonight with the USA taking on Columbia in Santa Clara, CA. The Copa America Centario is a celebration of 100 years of South American futbol and will be played outside of S. America for the first time ever. The tournament typically features all ten COMEBOL national teams from South America and two invitees to make up a 12 team field. But in honor of 100 years of competition, this year’s edition includes all of the S. America squads and national teams from the U.S. (host), Mexico (CONCACAF Champion), Jamaica (Caribbean Champion), Costa Rica (Central American Champion) and Haiti and Panama who won entry in qualifying rounds. The field includes powerhouses such as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile (the defending champion). Games will be played in ten venues (including 3 games at NRG in Houston) from tonight until the final on June 23 in New Jersey.
Keep your eye on this space for Red’s predictions.
Sunday night’s group draw for the upcoming Copa America Centenario has established what matches will be played in Houston.
On June 11, Columbia and Costa Rica will face off. Columbia is a highly talented squad featuring stars James Rodriguez of Real Madrid and Juan Cuadrado of Juventus. Costa Rica is an up and coming squad having qualified for the 2014 World Cup Finals and having won the Central American championship. CR may feature the best keeper in the tournament with Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas.
On June 13, Mexico will take on Venezuela. Expect NRG Stadium to be rocking with a rabidly pro-Mexico crowd. Mexico features a strong attack with Javier Hernandez of Bayer Leverkusen (finally getting to play after riding the pine with Man U). Chicharito has now scored 21 goals while winning 3 Bundesliga player of the month awards. Giovani Dos Santos of the LA Galaxy also knows how to find the net as an attacking midfielder. And Mexico is strong in goal with Memo Ochoa. Venezuela will have a tough time on hostile ground. They do have a strong defense led by center back Oswaldo Vizcarrondo Araujo of Nantes.
Red is predicting that the semi-final match to be played in Houston on June 23 will feature Argentina and – wait for it – the United States. That match would likely shatter TV viewing records in the US for any non-World Cup Final match. Hopefully, Red will finally have a chance to see Lionel Messi in action.
Houston will be hosting at least 3 games for the Copa America Centario – the second biggest soccer tournament to ever be played in the U.S. Not since the 1994 World Cup has the U.S. been host to such a high-profile tournament. In 1994, detractors wondered whether the U.S. would support the world’s biggest single sport event, but those questions were washed away with all time record attendance numbers and a smoothly run tournament.
The Copa America Centario – to be played from June 3 to 26, 2016 – is essentially an expanded version of the bi-annual Copa America tournament which determines the champion of South America. Since there are only 10 countries in COMEBOL, the South American federation, tournament organizers have traditionally invited 2 other teams to create a 12 team tournament.
The Copa America Centario will feature 16 teams – all 10 from South America, plus the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and the winners of playoffs between Panama v. Cuba and Trinidad-Tobago v. Haiti. The tournament will feature world renown players such as Lionel Messi of Argentina, James Rodriguez of Columbia, Neymar, Jr. of Brasil and Giovanni Dos Santos of Mexico.
Other cities that will host games are New York, Orlando, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
Red will be first in line for tickets and is hoping the Argentina will return to Texas for at least one game.