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Copa America – Group stage review, Quarter-Final preview

The Copa America has reached the knockout rounds and the group stages have presented us with some intriguing quarter-final match-ups. Copa-America-trophy

Host nation Chile have been the most impressive side of the tournament so far, and their reward for winning Group A is a last eight tie against Uruguay.

Oscar Tabarez’s men are the reigning champions and have won the Copa more times than any other side, but La Celeste had mixed results in Group B, progressing as one of the best third placed teams.

A narrow 1-0 victory over invitees Jamaica in their opening game remains Uruguay’s only win so far. Defeat to Argentina followed, before a 1-1 draw with Paraguay saw the side ranked 8th in the world by FIFA scrape through.

Perhaps the main reason for the holders’ poor performances is their lack of goals, brought about largely due to star striker Luis Suarez’s suspension for biting Giorgio Chielini at the 2014 World Cup.

As well as their all time leading goal scorer missing out on the tournament, Diego Forlan announced his retirement from international football in the Spring, leaving Edinson Cavani to shoulder the goal scoring burden for his country.

Meanwhile, Chile have had no such difficulties in front of goal, netting 10 times in three games. They opened their account with a 2-0 win over Ecuador, before being held to a 3-3 draw with Mexico and rounding off their group campaign with a 5-0 rout of Bolivia.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Jorge Sampaoli’s men, however. Highly rated midfielder Arturo Vidal crashed his Ferrari while under the influence of alcohol last week.  ferrari

Vidal avoided jail and will donate his tournament fee to charity to make amends for the incident.

It didn’t seem to affect the squad though, as they tore Bolivia apart after the crash, and their swashbuckling style is winning over the neutrals and pundits alike, with many tipping the Chileans to go on and win their first ever Copa America title.

Despite being on the receiving end of that 5-0 drubbing, Bolivia finished 2nd in Group A, and will now face Peru in the quarter-finals.

One of the continents weaker teams, Bolivia made a solid start to the competition; holding Mexico to a goalless draw before defeating Ecuador to book their place in the final eight.

La Verde took advantage of a woeful first-half performance by Ecuador and led 3-0 at the break but almost threw three points away as their opponents fought back but eventually went down 3-2.  boliv

That win was Bolivia’s first at the Copa since 1997 – when they hosted the event. It was also their first competitive victory outside their own country since 1995.

Peru came through a very tricky looking Group C, suffering only one defeat in the process.

That defeat was a 2-1 loss to Brazil in the opening round, courtesy of a last minute Neymar winner that denied Ricardo Gareca’s men an impressive point.

Victory over Venezuela followed before a resolute display against Colombia sent the Peruvians through as runners-up behind Brazil from a tough group.

Argentina v Colombia looks the most mouth-watering quarter-final, on paper, at least.  messi

In truth, both sides have advanced without impressing which makes this game look more intriguing than exciting.

Tournament favourites Argentina threw away a 2-0 lead against Paraguay in their first game and ended up drawing 2-2.

Narrow 1-0 wins over Uruguay and minnows Jamaica followed, sending Gerardo Martino’s side through as group winners, but without putting any fear into their opponents.

Colombia, who received widespread acclaim for their performances during last Summer’s World Cup, have also been stuck in third gear and only just made it to the knockout stage. Falcao

Only one goal in three games has hindered Jose Peckerman’s team through the group stage. They drew a blank against Venezuela and Peru but did manage to defeat Brazil, and haven’t conceded a goal since their 1-0 defeat to Venezuela in the first round of matches.

Radamel Falcao has carried over his disappointing form from the Premier League and last scored for his country in March in a friendly against Bahrain, who are ranked 106th in the world.

In the last quarter-final, Brazil take on Paraguay in Concepcion, but do so without star player Neymar, who will miss the rest of the tournament through suspension.             neymar

The Barcelona forward kicked the ball at Colombia’s Pablo Armero after the final whistle in their defeat earlier in the tournament and was hit with a four-match ban.

A fairly comfortable win over Venezuela in their final group game suggested that Dunga’s men can survive with the 23 year-old, although their route to the final will be a lot tougher.

Paraguay have experienced a torrid time recently, finishing bottom of the qualifying campaign for the World Cup in Brazil.

Yet they are one of only three teams left in the competition who haven’t experienced defeat during their first three games.

After rescuing an unlikely draw against Argentina, a tight 1-0 win over Jamaica all but confirmed Ramon Diaz’s side’s progress to the last eight.

Paraguay will undoubtedly be underdogs against the might of Brazil, but they did eliminate the continent’s powerhouse from the 2011 Copa, in which they finished as runners-up.

Certainly, the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay will be looking to improve on their group stage performances, while host nation Chile will be hoping to keep up their positive, attacking displays.

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