Defending champions Chile will meet Argentina on Sunday night in the Copa America Centenario final. The two South American heavyweights are set to face one another at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. in what is effectively a rematch of last year’s Copa final.
Argentina lost on penalties last time around, and are desperate to not make a third consecutive losing appearance in a final, having lost the World Cup final to Germany the previous summer. Argentine coach Tata Martino brought a full strength team to this summer’s Copa; a team that brushed aside the United States Men’s National Team earlier this week, handing the Yanks a 4-0 drubbing in Seattle.
An early goal from Ezequiel Lavezzi, followed by an immaculate free kick from Lionel Messi, and a pair of second-half strikes from Gonzalo Higuain was more than enough to end the Americans’ respectable run in the Copa. Argentina has won all its matches in Copa up until now, scoring a total of 18 goals and giving away just two.
Chile meanwhile, defeated Colombia 2-0 on Wednesday in a match that was interrupted for over two hours by extreme weather conditions. A pair of early goals from Charles Aranguiz and Jose Fuenzalida saw Chile past a Colombia side that was eventually reduced to 10 men when Carlos Sanchez received a second-half yellow card. Unlike Argentina, who came into the tournament as favorites, Chile got off to a slow start in the Copa, and actually lost their opener, to Argentina. However, coach Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team has won its last four matches in a winning streak that included a 2-1 win over Bolivia, a 4-2 triumph over Panama, and 7-0 destruction of Mexico.
Chile was forced to face Colombia without starting midfielder Arturo Vidal who was suspended for yellow card accumulation. The Bayern Munich man will be back for Sunday’s final, as well his midfield partner, Marcelo Diaz, who is expected to recover from a hamstring injury that kept him out of Wednesday’s game. Argentina meanwhile, will be out with Lavezzi who broke his arm against the United States, after tumbling over the advertising boards.
USA to Fight Colombia for Third Place
Twenty-four hours before the final, the USMNT will meet Colombia at the University of Phoenix Stadium to contest third place in the Copa.
The United States overcame its disappointing loss to Colombia in the tournament opener to ultimately enjoy a good run in the Copa. A three-match winning streak, during which it beat Costa Rica 4-0, Paraguay 1-0, and Ecuador 2-1 carried the U.S. all the way to the semifinals, which coach Jurgen Klinsmann had identified as the team’s objective.
Although there was some disappointment around the team’s capitulation to a vastly superior Argentina side, the U.S. made a good account of itself in the tournament and answered a number of questions ahead of the next round of World Cup qualifying.
While defense has been an issue for the U.S. for the past couple of years, Klinsmann seems to have finally arrived at a reliable center-back pairing with Geoff Cameron and John Brooks. Fullbacks DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson also both had excellent tournaments. Up front, veteran Clint Dempsey showed that he still has an important part to play with this time.
Tournament debutante Bobby Wood meanwhile, brought a new dimension to a U.S. attack that has appeared to labor under the weight of a goal-shy Jozy Altidore for the past 12 months or so.
Colombia meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back after seeing its Copa campaign brought to halt by Chile on Wednesday. Careless mistakes in defense cost Jose Pekerman’s side two goals early on and they were never really able to recover. However, in truth, Colombia’s Copa campaign had been coming off the rails for some time.
After cruising to a win against the U.S., the Colombians struggled for a narrow win over Paraguay, failed to top their group by losing to Costa Rica, and needed penalties to get past a dogged Peru side that held them to a scoreless draw.
Despite the superior talent on the Colombian team, the U.S. on the surface, looks to have more momentum heading into Saturday’s third place match, despite the deflating loss to Argentina.