WITH the buzz in football at the moment revolving around the European Championships, the Copa America has taken quite a backseat. And it’s sad.
This Copa has been nothing short of exciting while the Euros, at least for now, seem to be more about the hooliganism than anything else.
Brazil were unable to progress from the group stages for the first time ever alongside another powerhouse – Uruguay.
Instead, the likes of Peru and Venezuela qualified for the quarterfinals.
Usually, there are only 12 teams in the tournament but being the 100th year since its inception in 1916, the one-off Copa América Centenario was put into play and you had 16 teams competing.
For the first time as well, the tournament is being played outside of South America. Hosted in the United States, there are 10 teams from Conmebol (the South American football confederation) and Concacaf (the football confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean).
Besides whipping boys Haiti, every other team gave a good account of themselves. There seems to be a sense of balance, and besides the odd game or two, we did not see many cricket scores.
The biggest thing for me, however, was Brazil’s performance, which came in the wake of their dismal World Cup qualifying campaign, where they are in an uncharacteristic sixth position in the table.
They drew with Equador, and whipped Haiti, before they were beaten by Peru in the last group game, resulting in coach Dunga’s head.
Even without Neymar, you would have expected Brazil to at least qualify from the group.
Seven-time winners Uruguay, on the other hand, who lead the World Cup qualifying table lost to a Venezuelan team that are bottom in the same group.
It does seem that anyone in this region can beat the next team.
Argentina look the favourites to win the tournament at the moment, having won all three of their group matches, including against defending champions Chile.
I feel that Lionel Messi can finally get his name on a trophy with his country, although they will have to give every team from now on full respect.
Their quarterfinal game against Venezuela should be a cracker.
Argentina aside, Mexico, Chile and Colombia also look capable of making the final.
Mexico have been impressive against Uruguay and Jamaica, with only a draw against Venezuela spoiling a perfect record in the group stages.
Colombia look good too, and their loss in the final group game to Costa Rica where they made wholesale changes to the squad should not be seen as reflective of the team’s ability.
I, however, foresee Chile making it to the final. Although they haven’t really been at their best, they seem to have a certain quality of being able to dig deep when it is required.
My money is on an Argentina-Chile final, with the former to win their first title since 1993.But in this tournament, it looks like anything can happen, and I would welcome the likes of Venezuela winning it.