The second round of group matches is almost complete, and the Copa America could not be more wide open, with a couple of shock results leaving some to question where the balance of power truly lies on the international stage in South American football. Pleasingly, the less fancied sides are proving competitive and adding to the drama in what has been an entertaining first week of the tournament.
It began with Chile registering a comfortable victory over Ecuador, who went on to lose disappointingly against Bolivia, highlighting their regular failure to impress when away from home comforts. Only a win against Mexico will be sufficient for Gustavo Quinteros’ side to have any chance to making it through to the knockout stages as one of the best third placed teams.
Mexico performed admirably to draw with the hosts in a classic encounter on Tuesday, but with two draws to their name there is still work to be done to reach the last eight. As for Bolivia, they deserve immense credit and appear to have a very good chance of progression, but a clear test of their strength will come against Chile in their final group match on Saturday morning, with the two sides vying for top spot.
The start that Paraguay have made suggests that it could mark a return to form for a nation that has sunk to severe depths on the football pitch since the Copa America last took place four years ago. A fine comeback to draw with favourites Argentina was followed by victory over Jamaica, meaning that only a point against Uruguay in a repeat of the 2011 final will be enough to absolutely make sure of a quarter-final spot.
Just the one goal so far for Uruguay suggests that they are missing the considerable influence of Luis Suarez, a loss which cost them dear in both of their defeats at the 2014 World Cup. They lost a tense game to Argentina on Wednesday, meaning that there is a little pressure going into their final Group B game. As for the Argentines, only an unthinkable defeat to Jamaica can prevent them from the next round.
Of all the three sections, Group C looks the most intriguingly poised, and will be even more if Peru were able to beat Venezuela. Should that indeed happen, it would leave all four teams on three points going into the final round of matches. However, were Venezuela to take victory, it would send them through and create joyous scenes for a nation that counts basketball as its leading sport, but with a footballing profile that continues to grow.
Losing their opening match was a real eye-opener, but Colombia have hit back in style with a sensational success over Brazil in a game marred by a bad-tempered conclusion. The red cards shown to Neymar and Carlos Bacca overshadowed a huge victory for Jose Pekerman’s men, and they will now be confident of going through.
Brazil should also make it, but they could be held back by the impending suspension for their star striker. Even so, they have been unconvincing and are showing some signs that there is still a little vulnerability that remains in the psyche a year on from that humbling World Cup exit. The result against Colombia makes an interesting competition even more fascinating, and there will surely be a twist or two when the final group games are played.