Copa America 2021 kicked off on Sunday 13th, with no one 100% sure whether the tournament would be held or not, or if the full complement of ten CONMEBOL teams would all show at the last minute hosts Brazil or not due to the growth of the COVID pandemic.
The continent only has ten teams and they were split into two groups of five, with the top four in each group all going through to the knockout rounds. Basically the group stage only existed for teams to jockey for position and to eliminate the two worst teams in the tournament. Two AFC representatives Australia and Qatar were due to play as the guest nations but withdrew with the change in tournament dates.
In the knockout rounds, games that are still tied after ninety minutes will go to extra time and then penalties if needed. CONMEBOL has also allowed each team to name a squad of 23 players.
Group A - 1st Argentina, 2nd Uruguay, 3rd Paraguay, 4th Chile
Lionel Messi has looked more like a Barcelona player than an Argentina player, which is actually good news for the Albiceleste who are loaded with talent as usual; they’ve looked somewhat cohesive too and should be in the final in Rio.
Despite their aging defence and attack, Uruguay’s young prospects are carrying the team to give some of their older players one last chance at glory.
Paraguay surprised Chile to climb above them and have thus avoided the burden of having to play Brazil in the quarterfinals. Their defence has been stout and they will be a difficult match-up.
Chile have looked old and stodgy, and the only reason they made the knockout round is they beat a hapless Bolivia. However, with all their veterans, an upset is always possible.
Group B - 1st Brazil, 2nd Peru, 3rd Colombia, 4th Ecuador
The overwhelming favourites once again, Brazil are looking to add another trophy to the overflowing cabinet. Tite’s side remain unbeaten since their 2018 World Cup disappointment against Belgium, but face a tricky opponent in Chile next.
Peru have done well in big competitions in recent years and to no one’s surprise are doing it again, bouncing back from a trouncing by Brazil to finish second in Group B.
Colombia’s expansive 4-2-3-1 formation has struggled and more than one critic has mentioned that the presence of James Rodriguez in the middle would certainly have taken the creative burden off the shoulders of Juan Cuadrado.
Ecuador are a fast and disciplined side that have proven difficult to beat, but will likely see their campaign end here as they take on Argentina.
Richarlison has become an integral part of a loaded Brazilian side and is on very good terms with manager Tite, which has helped him as he has continued to get minutes even when struggling at club level. He plays for his country with an unmatched passion and has one goal and one assist in four appearances in this tournament. Richy has certainly shown his versatility, playing as striker at the top of a 4-3-3, wide left in a 4-2-3-1 and then as wide left midfielder in a 4-4-2.
Yerry Mina has played every minute of Colombia’s campaign so far, and been very stout while doing it too. Watching him grapple with and foil Richarlison and his teammates in the game against Brazil showed how far along the lanky defender has come. He usually hits goalscoring form when playing for his national team, but has yet to find the back of the net.
There will likely be another few players that the Blues could be watching keenly in this continental showcase, with the addendum that every goal or positive performance guaranteed to add another couple of million to their price tags. Beware the flash in the pan players though, many a club has shelled out the big bucks after a tournament when a footballer has caught fire only to return to mediocre levels during league play.
Heads-up, you will be hearing ‘Everton’ a lot this tournament. Brazil’s third-choice goalie is called Weverton, they have an older midfielder called Everton Ribeiro and also the forward Everton who has been linked with the Toffees in the past.
Full Copa America 2021 Knockout Rounds Fixtures List
Monday, July 5
25 - Winners Match 22 vs. Winners Match 21 (Rio de Janeiro; 7 p.m. ET, 11 p.m. GMT)
Tuesday, July 6
26 - Winners Match 24 vs. Winners Match 23 (Brasilia; 7 p.m. ET, 11 p.m. GMT)
Third Place Playoff
Friday, July 9
Losers Match 25 vs. Losers Match 26 (Brasilia; 8 p.m. ET, midnight GMT)
Saturday, July 10
Winners Match 25 vs. Winners Match 26 (Rio de Janeiro; 8 p.m. ET, midnight GMT)