The summer of soccer is very much upon us. While Europe casts its attention to the spectacular Euro 2016 Championships taking place in France, another off football’s heartlands turns its attentions to its continental showpiece tournament. North and South America are competing for the Copa America, which celebrates its centenary with a special tournament taking place in the United States. The competition has delivered all of the drama, goals, skills and passion that South American football has to offer and has given the US a taste of the kind of football frenzy it hasn’t tasted since the 1994 World Cup.
Headlines before the tournament were heavily based around the fact that Neymar would be missing from the team for the Brazil squad, but so far fans have been set alight by headline players such as Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez, James Rodriguez and Luis Suarez as the continent’s heavyhitters slug it out for the oldest international trophy in football. With the competition now at its Semi-Final stage among the favourites are reigning champions Chile who, with their all-star lineup and all action mentality, look set to enjoy another successful tournament with a run into the latter stage of the tournament. Hot on their heels are Argentina, who are still looking for their first major title since the 1993 edition of the tournament and will be looking to beat their losing finalists position of last year. Colombia are also restoring some pride after their poor showing last year in Chile, lead by the imperious James Rodriguez have salsa’d their way through to the latter stages. Host the United States have got off to a slow start but seem to have turned things around with their talisman leader Clint Dempsey firing them onwards.
Last year it was Chile who was rejoicing after Alexis Sanchez inspired a penalties victory over Argentina:
The win was Chile’s first major tournament success and in front of their home supporters it truly was a moment of national celebration. This year, Los Rojas will be determined to cling onto their trophy and once again reign supreme over the Americas. In recent years it had been Brazil that have been so successful in the Copa America but having disappointed in this year’s competition they crashed out in the first round. Argentina will surely feel that their time is now having been beaten finalists in three of the last four Copas and with Leo Messi looking as impressive as ever this could be their best chance.
The two semi finals will bring the crop of this year’s competition together in two matches that will no doubt be fought over with every bit as much fury and passion as the tournament has seen so far.
The USA saw off Ecuador to set up a match against Argentina who comfortably overcame Venezuela, and the hosts will be looking to take advantage of a passionate home crowd to see off the change of the always impressive Albiceleste.
To set up the other Semi-Final, Colombia needed penalties to get through their quarter final against Peru, but Los Cafateros will have to show some improvements if they are to overcome a rampant Chile team that beat Mexico 7-0 in their Quarter-Final, all signs though are pointing at two highly engrossing games.
For those young fans and players looking to pick up a few tips their has been a wide range of fantastic moments to learn from – whether it be the free kick mastery of Leo Messi:
or Jhasmani Campos
or the long range effort of Victor Ayala
There has been much to watch and learn from so far. The effortless technique that has been on show will be perfectly captured by the four technically superior teams that have reached the Semi-Finals. With the likes of Leo Messi, Clint Dempsey, Alexis Sanchez and James Rodriguez on show the following matches at the Copa will be a perfect example of what training and technical proficiency can offer a player. The Latin American style differs greatly from the European one, with an emphasis slightly more on the individual brilliance as opposed to the European collective strategy. But it offers the perfect contrast to what we are seeing at Euro 2016 and reminds fans and players alike that this is a great time for football!!
Who will win? It seems hard to not predict a repeat of last year’s tightly contested final between Chile and Argentina to battle it out again for this year’s crown. What we can be certain of, is that this will be one of the closest and most fiercely fought semi finals ever. It maybe a cliche but each of the four remaining teams have enough strength to go on to lift the trophy , luck will surely play a part and skill will do the rest. For fans though – it’s time to just sit back and enjoy!!