Sunday, July 10, 2011

Copa America 2011, Round 2 of games

While there were some surprizes after the first round of games, the second round of games painted an even more fascinating picture.

Group A:

Argentina 0-0 Colombia
Bolivia 0-2 Costa Rica

Group B:

Brazil 2-2 Paraguay
Venezuela 1-0 Ecuador

Group C:

Uruguay 1-1 Chile
Peru 1-0 Mexico

What this means is after having played two games each, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are still without a win after they all drew their opening two games, as did Paraguay. The under-23 Costa Rican team sprung a real surprize by outplaying Bolivia 2-0 to register a win, while Colombia, Venezuela, Peru & Chile all sit comfortably on top of their groups with 4 points each. The only team without a point is Mexico but that was expected as this is not the same Mexican team that won the Gold Cup but a younger Olympic team with only 5 overage players.

On paper, Argentina and Brazil have some of the best players in the world but their games have proven that the best players cannot function in a system not suited to their strengths. Argentina's coach Sergio Batista insisted on having Messi, Tevez & Lavezzi start up front against Colombia even though the first game proved there was no understanding among the trio. Just putting three talented players on the field does not mean the three would suddenly sync up. An example of how three players should properly link up is provided by Uruguay's trio of Diego Forlán, Luis Suárez & Edison Cavani. The three Uruguayan players look like they are a team and have an understanding of where the other players are. Still, the three were not on the same wavelength for a good portion of Uruguay's opening 1-1 tie with Peru & were absent in the second half against a Chilean team that eventually benefitted from more possession. Chile's game with Uruguay was a nasty affair with plenty of fouls and play-acting but when Chile applied the tiniest bit of pressure, Uruguay fizzled away and could not muster a response.

Brazil have been plain awful and have been even worse than Argentina. Even though the Brazilian coach Mano Menezes dropped Robinho against Paraguay, his formation still failed to produce any flowing football. Jadson's opener provided relief for everyone in the Brazilian team but it merely disguised the fact that the team had no real bite. In the second half, Dani Alves fell asleep and allowed Paraguay to easily take a 2-1 lead. One would have expected Paraguay to hold on given their defensive strength and the fact that Brazil kept trying the same thing over and over again with no success. Brazil's game plan was to only go through the middle, something that played into Paraguay's hands. Brazil offered no threat from either of the wings and were poor on set-pieces. Normally, Dani Alves is known for his width play at Barcelona but he was kept expertly in check by Paraguay. Then with time running out, a ball through the middle trickled through to substitute Fred who smartly turned and grabbed an undeserved last minute equalizer for Brazil.

Of course, all these results are not as drastic since 8 of the 12 teams progress to the next round. So Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are still in good shape to advance but depending on where they finish in the standings would determine who they would meet in the next round. A Brazil-Argentina final might not happen as the two could now meet early on. However, based on the first two games, a Brazil vs Argentina game might not be an enticing football feast anymore but more of a tactical misfire with both teams coaches trying to force their squads to play a system the players do not understand.

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