The Copa America has moved to the final four stage. One of Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and Argentina will lift the iconic trophy come June 11. The quarter-finals were a mixed bag for each of them, having to overcome different forms of adversity. Starting from uncertainty surrounding the hosting to matches to lack of fair competition among teams, it has been a tumultuous if football heavy month.
¡ASÍ QUEDARON LAS SEMIS! 🔥⚽
Estos serán los cruces de la próxima fase de la CONMEBOL #CopaAmérica 🏆
ASSIM FICARAM AS SEMIS! 🔥⚽
Esses serão os cruzamentos da próxima fase da CONMEBOL #CopaAmérica 🏆#VibraElContinente #VibraOContinente pic.twitter.com/f4xSUksHvf
— Copa América (@CopaAmerica) July 4, 2021
Nevertheless, CONMEBOL and the teams have made it till here and with just four games remaining between now and a title for one side, the time to give it their all is now. FootTheBall looks at the competitors and how they can chart their own route to history.
Los Cafeteros were considered one of the dark horses before the tournament began, but they have struggled to impress. Winning just one of their four group games is pretty poor considering the pedigree of their squad. Even without talisman James Rodriguez who was left out under a cloud of mystery, Reinaldo Rueda would have certainly hoped for more.
El partido de Yerry Mina 🆚 🇺🇾 en números#VamosColombia 🇨🇴#VibraElContinente pic.twitter.com/VrL09tyLbv
— Selección Colombia (@FCFSeleccionCol) July 4, 2021
Their experienced defensive pairing of Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez have shipped in five goals already. Though their defeat to Brazil was a particularly cruel one, the main problem has been scoring goals. Having scored only three so far, they needed penalty shootout heroics from David Ospina to get through in the quarter-final past Uruguay.
🔎 | FOCUS
David Ospina was Colombia's hero as he helped them beat Uruguay on penalties to secure the #CopaAmerica semifinals:
🧤 3 saves
📥 1 save from inside the box
🛑 2 penalty shootout saves
👌 28 touches
👟 12/19 acc. passes
🧼 1 clean sheet
📈 8.1 SofaScore rating
— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) July 4, 2021
If they are to reach the final, their strikers need to step up immensely against an extremely compact Argentina side. In Duvan Zapata, Luis Muriel, Luis Diaz, they have players who have scored 43 goals for their clubs in the league season. The time is now to bring their club form for the national team.
Los Incas have given a really strong account of themselves at the tournament with their spirit of never giving up. After the 4-0 hammering by Brazil on opening day, they have slowly improved to score eight goals. What has been really impressive is the ability to score after falling behind.
¡Último penal y a celebrar! 🗣#UnidosPorNuestrosColores#ArribaPerú 💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/Nxetucukb0
— Selección Peruana 🇵🇪 (@SeleccionPeru) July 2, 2021
Against Ecuador, they found themselves trailing by two goals at halftime before drawing level. Benevento forward Gianluca Lapadula has joined forces with Andre Carrillo to spearhead their attack. Lapadula has been in fine form, being their most dangerous outlet but he will miss his partner against Brazil after Carrillo was sent off in the quarter-final. However, it is their defence that really needs to tighten up fast.
Lapadula, who was born in Turin but playing for Peru due to his mother’s heritage, has a brace for La Blanquirroja 🇵🇪
Former Milan forward has 3 goals (all at #CopaAmerica) since making debut in November last year.#PERxPAR
— Sacha Pisani (@Sachk0) July 2, 2021
Having twice taken the lead against Paraguay, they were pegged back each time before ultimately winning a tense penalty shootout. Manager Ricardo Gareca knows that they cannot be this leaky as they face the defending champions. Brazil have been ruthless in terms of scoring and expect this one to be a goal-fest as well. Ultimately, it might come down to who defends better in this crucial tie.
La Albiceleste have finally woken up it seems and this may just be their year of winning the Copa America. Inspired by the most talented and decorated free agent in history Lionel Messi, Argentina are looking like prime contenders for once.
At the forefront of this charge has been the former Barcelona captain who has scored four and assisted four so far. His delightful play and brilliant ability to set up teammates has given Lionel Scaloni’s side a real sharp edge.
Another Messi freekick in Copa America. 4 goals, 4 assists. Messi just being Messi. 😳 https://t.co/Wiub7F9vEH
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) July 4, 2021
Messi has been well supported for once by a competent supporting cast. Sergio Aguero, Lautaro Martinez, Rodrigo De Paul, and others have been immense all tournament long. Having scored seven in their last two matches, one can expect that more goals are surely in the offing. Could this really be the year Messi breaks his international trophy duck? 2021 has seen stranger things already. One thing is for certain, it will not come easy.
Goalie caught out, Lionel Messi with the sweet pass, and Rodrigo De Paul scores his first goal for #Argentina ⚽️https://t.co/saomvG2Sx5
— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) July 4, 2021
Scaloni has been careful in not getting too ahead of the present, but there’s a palpable sense of excitement. There is no denying that Messi is the reason they have made themselves so competitive time and again on the world stage. If he can deliver like he does over the next two matches, there are few who will bet against this team.
The only reason why Brazil remain the favourites to lift a second consecutive Copa America crown is due to the very nature of football. It is a team game, with 11 players on the pitch. Argentina’s over-reliance on Messi is well known, with the five time Ballon D’Or able to single-handedly influence matches. However, when it comes to the most well-refined squad remaining, it has to be the Selecao.
Fred at Copa América 2021 [Brazil rank]:
23 passes into the final third [🥇]
23 progressive passes [🥇]
10 attempted tackles [🥇]*
8 successful tackles [🥇]*
A key player in an impressive campaign. 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/Jz9lWF58Bz
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) July 3, 2021
Coming into the tournament, it was expected that they would end up as champions once again but the road has not been easy. Against Colombia, they netted the winner in the 10th minute of injury time while against Chile last time, they had to play most of the second half a man down.
It was their ability to stoutly defend a one goal lead that goes well with their nature of looking to score. A big help has of course been the quality of their players in every position.
Lucas Paquetá came off the bench to score the only goal of the game and see Brazil through to the #CopaAmerica semi-finals 🇧🇷⚽ pic.twitter.com/XxnsFB0wqH
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) July 3, 2021
Indeed, the Selecao are stacked with serial winners who provide championship mentality and experience to everyone involved. Tite has really done wonders with his squad which have left them on the doorstep of winning. Though they have a tricky tie against Peru next, their determination to succeed should be enough to see them through.