It’s been a lively edition of the Copa America this year so far with plenty of thrills, spills and shocks throughout the tournament. The Centenary year of the competition has seen a special expanded tournament with 16 teams competing in the USA. The hosts have made their way to the quarter finals after winning their final two group games against Costa Rica and Paraguay, and their prize is a last eight bout with Ecuador.
Two high-profile teams have already bitten the dust at the group stages with Brazil’s elimination enough to see coach Dunga given his marching orders. Uruguay were without talisman Luis Suarez for the competition and they also bowed out despite a comfortable 3-0 win over Jamaica in their last group game. Argentina are going strong having won all three group games with the minimum of fuss, and they remain strong favourites to take the title. the opposition will come from Mexico and Chile – who face each other in the quarter finals, as well as Colombia who will compete with Peru for a place in the last four.
The first two games over Friday and Saturday feature the host nation against an Ecuador side that finished above Brazil in pool B, while the winners of that section Peru take on group A’s second placed side Colombia.
USA v Ecuador
1st place looked out of reach for USA after they were beaten 2-0 by Colombia in the opening game of the tournament, but a 4-0 win over Costa Rica and a 1-0 win over Paraguay saw them leapfrog that rival by virtue of goal difference. Colombia followed up the USA victory with a 2-1 win against Paraguay, but were surprisingly beaten 3-2 by Costa Rica in the final match to allow USA to slip past. They opted to rest talisman James Rodriguez for that game, and it is a policy which will pay dividends if they can win their quarter final.
For USA it’s a tie against an Ecuador side who are unbeaten so far in the competition. After a creditable 0-0 draw with Brazil in the opening game – in which they were unlucky to have a goal disallowed – Ecuador took another point from a 2-2 stalemate with Peru. A 4-0 win over group whipping boys Haiti along with Brazil’s defeat to Peru saw Ecuador cruise into second place to claim the last eight spot. There are some quality players among the ranks, but this is a tough game against a host nation who will be particularly well supported in the stands.
Jurgen Klinsmann has steadily improved the USA side during his tenure, and they were bitterly disappointed not to win the Gold Cup on American soil last year. This competition has given them a second chance to earn some silverware and the talk before the start was of a semi final place being the minimum expectation. They’ve won three of the last five meetings against Ecuador, including a 1-0 result in a friendly in May, and they’re on a run of eight wins in the last ten games.
Although unbeaten in the tournament, the Haiti victory was Ecuador’s only win in six games and the price on USA is too tempting not to take.
Peru v Colombia
Peru topped group B by beating Brazil and Haiti by a goal to nil, and drawing with Ecuador to amass seven points. They were semi finalists in last year’s competition and although that appeared to flatter them, they’re doing a good job of proving it was no fluke. Having had a poor run in the World Cup qualifiers, Peru are now on a sequence of four wins in five keeping three clean sheets in the process. Two of the last three meetings between these teams have ended all square, including a 0-0 draw in last year’s Copa America.
Colombia missed the opportunity to top group A after going down to a surprise 3-2 defeat to Costa Rica, although it has to be said that qualification was already in the bag and star man James Rodriguez was left out of the starting line up. They have plenty of talent in the squad and after an impressive World Cup in 2014 they were knocked out on penalties by Argentina at this stage of last year’s Copa America. They’ll have plenty of supporters here, but Peru are a hard side to break down and knockout games at this point in the competition tend to be very tight affairs. It would be no surprise to see this one venture into extra time and possibly go all the way to spot kicks.
USA to beat Ecuador
Friday 17th June, 02:30 GMT
Colombia and Peru to Draw
Saturday 18th June, 01:00 GMT