Copa América Centenario – Groups A and B Preview

June 1, 2016

Two events on the brink of beginning – Copa América Centenario and Euro 2016 – are poised to make the upcoming month and a half the Summer of Soccer. And while it’s hard to imagine in being anything but that in almost every other corner of the world, this year the roots of that moniker reside in the United States.

In hosting Copa América, the U.S. is bringing some of the best soccer nations in the world together for a meaningful tournament for the first time since the 1994 World Cup. If it goes well, expect the Red, White and Blue not only to get a crack at hosting the tournament again but also a serious look at hosting the World Cup in 2026. It’s a whole new ballgame following the ousting of many of FIFA’s top executive board members last year.

Around The Corn will be covering Euro 2016 as well, but don’t get overanxious. Copa begins a week before UEFA’s biggest tournament and to some extent is being overlooked despite being held in the world’s most lucrative advertising market. In this and the following preview, we’ll take a high level look at the tournament, provide some predictions and hopefully give those of you on the fence a reason to jump off and find a watch party to join.

Here is a preview of Groups A and B.

Why to Watch These Groups

World Class Talent Meets Fresh Faces

UEFA’s European Championship is typically given the nod as the most competitive non-World Cup tournament between nations, but Copa has reason to argue that claim this year. In Groups A and B alone, four nations qualified for the Knockout Round in the 2014 World Cup (Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and the United States), which matches the total for the 24 team Euro 2016. Not only is this a chance for teams like Costa Rica to continue to establish itself as a true contender in world football, it is a chance to do so in front of an audience that doesn’t normally get to see the best in person. For many of the players, this is a rare opportunity to visit and play in the United States.

Because of the Olympics being held in a South American country this year, some nations won’t field their absolute best rosters at Copa América (Brazil striker Neymar will sit out the tournament to prepare for Rio). But that doesn’t mean a lack of talent – it simply provides room for new stars to shine. Keep an eye out for players such as the United States’ Christian Pulisic, who became the youngest player to score his first international goal at 17 years old, to provide excitement in place of absent stars.

The Evaluation of Jürgen, Part II

Not unlike several U.S. coaches before him, Jürgen Klinsmann’s time as the head man of the Yanks has been a rollercoaster ride. A gritty World Cup run was followed by a fantastic spring of 2015 in which the United States beat both Germany and Netherlands in friendlies on the road. But a poor showing in the Gold Cup last summer and a nerve-racking start to 2018 World Cup qualifying has people wondering whether the former German boss is really the right man for the job.

Copa América likely isn’t a make or break tournament for Klinsmann, but it will surely perpetuate the overall opinion of him one way or the other. The United States does not have an easy group to make it out of, so if Klinsmann can take the team to the Knockout Round without Jozy Altidore, expect him to receive some well-deserved praise. But on the same hand, anything less than a Knockout Round berth will be seen as a major disappointment on home soil. How Jürgen is perceived following this tournament is how fans will view him for the next two years.

Games to Watch

Colombia vs. United States (Friday, June 3 @ 9:30 PM ET – Santa Clara, CA)

The first match of the tournament is going to be a good one. Dealing with Colombia’s midfielders is going to be a hell of a task for the United States, but the offense has been there for both sides in friendlies leading up to Copa. Not since the friendly last September against Brazil has the United States faced an individual talent like James Rodriguez, but that could actually work in favor of the Americans. Emotions will run high in trying to protect the home turf.

Group A is pretty wide open, but these two squads are still the favorites to move on to the Knockout Round.

Brazil vs. Peru (Sunday, June 12 @ 8:30 PM ET – Foxborough, MA)

By the time this game rolls around, we’ll have a pretty good idea of whether Brazil totally mailed it in for Copa in favor of the Olympic Games in Rio later this summer. That being said, if the answer is “yes” then Peru will be chomping at the bit to steal a spot in the Knockout Round. Experienced and battle-tested (Peru finished third in last year’s Copa América), the Peruvians aren’t going to let Brazil by without a fight. These two teams played each other in Group Play last year and it was Peru that threw the first punch, a goal in the second minute.

If Brazil represents the talent and style of world football, then Peru is the blood, sweat and tears. Different styles will collide in this one and it may even have significant impact on the Knockout Round.


Group A

1. Colombia – 7 points

A strong midfield attack led by James Rodriguez should be enough for Colombia to win this balanced group despite the absence of Radamel Falcao.

2. United States – 5 points

Although sometimes as much a curse as a blessing, home field advantage will serve the United States well in this group. A tie against Colombia in the opening match would relieve a lot of pressure heading into a difficult match with Costa Rica.

3. Costa Rica – 3 points

Reaching the Knockout Round isn’t as simple as “beat the United States”, but expect Game 2 between the Yanks and Costa Rica to be one of the most spirited of the entire tournament.

4. Paraguay – 1 point

Finishing fourth in this group will be misleading to those who don’t watch. Paraguay will have good chances to gain points and won’t be a pushover.

Group B

1. Brazil – 9 points

Even without Neymar, Oscar and Marcelo, there is still enough talent on this squad to win the group.

2. Ecuador – 4 points

The gap between Brazil and Ecuador is far smaller than between Ecuador and the other two nations. But, the team has yet to win a match in 2016.

3. Peru – 2 points

A surprise third place finish in Copa América 2015, La Blanquirroja won’t have the luxury of playing so close to home this year.

4. Haiti – 1 point

The Haitians are the clear underdog in this group, but athleticism will come into play on the field turf. Don’t be shocked by an upset pulled by this squad.

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