With any major tournament, all fans have games circled on their calendars that they definitely get to watch, and then depending on the how the competition plays out there will be games they hope to see. The group stage for this year’s Copa America has some interesting games slated in which powerhouse teams will be forced to bring their A-game early on in the tournament. We will analyze those games, and break down potential match-ups in the quarterfinals and on that could feature some of the best rivalries in international soccer.
Group Stage Showdowns:
Group A: USA vs. Colombia, June 3rd at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, 6:30 PM
The people responsible for the scheduling of this year’s Copa America know how to start a tournament off with a bang. USA and Colombia, two teams with championship aspirations, will square off in the opening match at Levi’s Stadium.
This match-up will be particularly interesting due to the clash of styles it features. USA, the hosts of the tournament, will look to come out of the gates and play a conservative, defensive game and not try to lose their chances of advancing deep into the tournament in the first game. Goalie Brad Guzan of Aston Villa will be a key player for the U.S. as Colombia is a fast-paced squad that pushes tempo and scores goals. Rising star, James Rodriguez of Real Madrid will look to continue his success from the 2014 World Cup and propel Colombia out of the group stage once again.
Group B: Brazil vs. Ecuador, June 4th at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA, 7:00 PM
The top two teams in Group B will square off in a match up that could determine whether or not Ecuador will make it to the second round. Brazil is a powerhouse with a title on their mind after a disappointing World Cup in 2014, but will be without their young superstar Neymar (Barcelona). Due to a commitment to his club, Neymar opted to play for Brazil in the Olympics this summer instead of Copa America. Players like Dani Alves (Barcelona), Willian and Oscar (Chelsea) will have to come ready to play to ensure Brazil takes care of business.
As for Ecuador, they have the potential to be the only team in Group B that can steal a point from Brazil or even upset them in the group stage. If Ecuador doesn’t show up to play, and another team in Group B gains some confidence then they would be in danger of not advancing. Ecuadorians Jefferson Montero and Enner Valencia, who both play in England professionally for Swansea City and West Ham United, respectively, are two cogs that will determine how far Ecuador can go in this tournament.
Group C: Mexico vs. Uruguay, June 5th at University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, AZ, 5:00 PM
This is another key matchup, especially for Group C, and could determine who wins the group. Mexico and Uruguay are two teams that strike fear in their opponents on the international level and will look to impose their wills in this game. Both teams play up-tempo soccer so this game could be one of the best to watch from a neutral standpoint.
Mexico has won 8 in a row internationally and have plenty of confidence heading in to this tournament. Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen) and Oribe Peralta (Club America) will need to hold up their end of the bargain and provide the goals for Mexico to have a chance. As for Uruguay, their motor and heart is enigmatic forward Luis Suarez. The Barcelona forward is one of the best goal scorers on the planet (when he’s not being suspended), and if he gets hot he can single-handedly take Uruguay all the way to the Copa America final, which is exactly where players and fans expect them to be.
Group D: Argentina vs. Chile, June 6th at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, 7:00 PM
A crucial match-up in Group D will feature a rematch of the 2015 Copa America Final. The defending champs (Chile) will take on one of the most successful teams in Copa America history (Argentina). On paper, Group D is one of the easiest in the tournament, so if one of these teams falters early they should be able to recover. However, both teams will come ready to play as the chances of them meeting again later in the tournament are very likely.
Chile’s striker, Alexis Sanchez who plays professionally at Arsenal and also scored the winning penalty kick in 2015, will be in the competition for the Golden Boot, and his tenacious attitude can frustrate any defense on the international level. Argentina is a powerhouse that can attack their opponents in many different ways. Angel Di Maria of Real Madrid is a midfielder with blazing speed and plays off two of the best forwards on the planet in Lionel Messi (Barcleona) and Sergio Aguero (Manchester City). Another candidate for game of the tournament, this will be a game to keep an eye on.
Rivalries to Watch For:
USA vs. Mexico
This game used to be an afterthought for Mexican soccer, but in the 21st century this border war has become much more competitive. The U.S. got their first win ever on Mexican soil back in 2012, and have won 3 of the last 7 matches with three others ending in a tie during that stretch. Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) and Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) have a competitive edge that sparks a lot of controversy during these matches as the Mexican team is just as feisty. Tempers will flare, but with a lot on the line in this potential matchup look for world class soccer that comes down to the final whistle. The U.S. being on home soil could be the deciding factor.
Brazil vs. Argentina
This game could very well be the 2016 Copa America Final. These two South American teams are considered soccer royalty and have been squaring off for ages. Brazil has a slight edge in this series with a record 39 wins, 37 losses and 26 draws against Argentina, and the games usually come down to the wire. Brazil has also won the last two times these teams have played in the Copa America so Argentina will be looking to flip the script. Messi should be able to control the flow of this match with his world-class dribbling ability, and setting up himself and his teammates gives Argentina the slight edge.
Colombia vs. Ecuador
This rivalry isn’t on the level of the previous two match-ups we just mentioned, but it is on its way. Colombia and Ecuador have always been rivals based on their geographical locations, but now an infusion of talent on both sides could lead to classics for years to come, especially in this tournament. Young stars James Rodriguez of Colombia and Jefferson Montero of Ecuador can take over any game with their skill level and confidence, and that has been something this rivalry has been lacking for a while. If the young talent from both sides can play up to their potential, a match-up between these two teams in the elimination round could renew a rivalry that their respective fans have been waiting for.