In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Copa America has now reached the quarterfinal knockout stage. The jewel of the South American soccer crown, still looking for a home just two weeks before the opening game on June 13th, settled in on host Brazil; one of the world’s worst hit countries in terms of the virus outbreak.
This controversial move hasn’t kept the global soccer stars away, however, as the biggest stars in the sport have descended upon Brazil to do battle once more. With no fans in the stadiums and an appetite somewhat lost amidst the controversy, the spectacle has been a slow burner.
In a curious format, the ten teams were drawn in two groups of five, with no less than 20 games played before the top eight teams progressed. That comes out to 1,800 minutes of the scheduled 2,430 for the tournament already played and 80% of the teams still in the reckoning to be champions.
Atop each group were old adversaries Argentina and Brazil, always favored to plot a route to the final. With identical records of three wins and one tie, each will play the lowest-ranked team from the opposing group in their respective quarterfinal matchups.
A foregone conclusion? Well, we only have to look across the pond at the Euro 2020 equivalent to size up the shocks that the sport can offer, as World Champions France and European Champions Portugal have both become distant memories.
Lionel Messi, now Argentina’s most capped international with 148 appearances, leads the way in the goal scoring charts with three. He is still seeking an international tournament win to support his ten La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League successes with club side Barcelona.
As runner-up’s in four of the last six Copa America’s, Argentina will be desperate to return to winning ways and capture the crown, which they have not held since 1993.
Although absent from their 2019 success through injury, holders Brazil will be pinning their hopes on star striker Neymar Jr, who has bagged two goals in the tournament to this point. Still, can so much pressure be placed on the Paris St Germain star, who has an undeniable array of talent? Something of an enigma, his drastic exit with a broken bone in his back at the quarterfinal stage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was followed by the team’s total capitulation at the hands of Germany in the semifinal with a 7-1 loss.
Uruguay and Peru finished second in their respective tables and both have high hopes to reach the final. Leading the way with 15 tournament wins, Uruguay have the pedigree to go far. Armed with deadly duo Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, ‘La Celeste’ can prove a match for anyone.
In the midst of a disappointing World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign, Peru have perhaps been the surprise package of the tournament. In a 4-0 loss to Brazil in their opening group game, ‘La Blanquirroja’ have turned things around, beating fellow quarterfinalists Colombia by a 2-1 score en route to a tantalizing matchup with Paraguay.
The context may be complicated and the stadiums bereft of fans, but there’s no denying the salivating prospect of heavyweight stars coming together as we enter the knockout stage.
Peru vs Paraguay
Brazil vs Chile
Uruguay v Colombia
Argentina v Ecuador