Copa America enters knockout stage

Euro 2016 has gotten most of the attention this past week, but the Copa America tournament being held in the United States has provided a high level of competition. The tournament enters the quarterfinals this week, so let’s take a look at the four big matchups that feature some of the world’s best players and intriguing storylines.

Copa America enters knockout stage

Copa America enters knockout stage

Argentina vs. Venezuela: This match is all about Lionel Messi and how much the presumed top player in the world will play. Messi was injured in a match against Honduras just before Copa America and has been playing as a reserve so far in this tournament. He did play the second half in the team’s last game against Bolivia, even though Argentina had already locked up a spot in the quarterfinals. Obviously, the more Messi plays, the better Argentina’s chances in this game (and the whole tournament, for that matter) will be. As ESPN reports, Messi probably won’t start but will likely get significant minutes later in the game.

Chile vs. Mexico: One of the more intriguing quarterfinal matches, Chile is the tournament’s defending champion, while Mexico may be playing the best soccer right now of any squad. El Tri has not lost now in 22 games and only allowed two goals in its last 10 games, playing the defensive style the Mexican national team has long been known for. Mexico defeated Chile 1-0 in a friendly just before the tournament started. However, that match served as a de facto home game for Mexico as it was played in San Diego, near the border between the States and Mexico. The key to this game will be if Mexico can score enough to supplement the outstanding defense the team has been playing.

United States vs. Ecuador: With the Copa America held in the United States, the Americans have the home-field advantage wherever they play. Thursday’s game, though, could feature a ravenous crowd as the game will be in Seattle, one of the hotbeds of American soccer. The United States lost their opener against Columbia, but ultimately won Group A thanks to wins over Costa Rica and Paraguay. USA Today has a good look at how the Americans have gotten incredibly lucky in this tournament so far.

The Americans also avoided perennial power Brazil, who was knocked out in the group stage thanks to a blatant handball in the team’s game against Peru. Like most of the world, Betfair was shocked at the outcome and reported that this is the first time in more than three decades Brazil failed to make it out of the group stage. The Brazilians’ loss opens the tournament for nearly everybody. As for this game, the matchup could not work out better for the United States, who are hoping to capture a little home-field magic in this year’s tournament.

Peru vs. Colombia: In perhaps the most anticipated game of the quarterfinals, Peru takes on Colombia. Peru, as mentioned earlier, snuck past Brazil on a controversial goal and now takes on powerful Colombia. Ranked third in the world, Colombia rested 10 starters in the team’s last game against Costa Rica. The Colombians lost 3-2 and fell to second place in their group to setup the Peru match. While Colombia only needed one point to win its group, the team opted for rest instead and now gets a tough matchup in Peru. If they fall in this game, lots of questions will be raised about the rest efforts and if they were worth it.

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