There are just three days left until the group stages of the Copa America concludes and six matches to cover. These matches are very crucial as they will determine who makes it out of the group stages and who doesn’t. Two teams have already made it out of the group stages: Colombia, after they beat Qatar 1-0 and the reigning champions Chile, once they beat Ecuador 2-1. Two teams have already said good-bye to their knockout stage hopes: Ecuador and Bolivia, and a few more are at risk of not advancing. In Group B, Paraguay is hoping to win against Colombia but Argentina could fall to the hands of guest nation Qatar. Finally, in Group C, although Uruguay could lose their second-placed spot to Japan. There’s plenty of possibilities that can unfold, so let’s preview and predict the next three days of South American and Asian footballing action with RahimAli Merchant and I!
Bolivia vs. Venezuela
For Venezuela, this match is important to secure passage out of the group stage in an attempt to finish at least second in the group. Venezuela is in a bit of an unfortunate position because even if Venezuela wins here, all Peru needs is one point against Brazil to knock Venezuela back down into third. It is possible to advance finishing third, and will likely happen as Qatar have to face Argentina. And although Venezuela has a goal difference of zero, there’s disappointment around their attacking ability as Venezuela have had to settle for two draws in two games.
Venezuela is still far favorites to win this game, mainly due to defense. Bolivia has scored just once in two matches and they’re going up against a defense which managed to hold a clean sheet against Brazil. Both teams have fully fit squads, but to make things worse for the Bolivians, Luis Mago should be returning from suspension for Venezuela and Solomon Róndon is favored to open the goal-scoring.
Maybe to prevent another draw, Venezuela might want to push to attack more. Bolivia is weak on the field and tactically as they haven’t seen victory in six matches now. Perhaps forward Josef Matínez could start alongside Róndon in this match?
Aman: BOL 1-2 VEN
Rahim: BOL 0-2 VEN
Peru vs. Brazil
Before you jump to conclusions and assume Brazil will easily roll over this opponent, one glance at the table and you’ll realize that Brazil and Peru are tied on points, both teams boasting a win and a draw. Both sides defensively have been rather fine and will look to repair their attacks. Brazil manager Tite has already expressed that he will be making some changes to the lineup against Peru, likely indicating starts for Gabriel Jesús and Everton. Peruvian fans will be hoping that striker Paulo Guererro can fight the defense and score, just like how he did against Bolivia.
Aman: PER 1-3 BRS
Rahim: PER 1-3 BRS
Qatar vs. Argentina:
All eyes will be on this one. Both of these teams are fighting for their survival as Qatar are third in their group and Argentina are fourth, both on one point. Despite Argentina naturally being favorites to win this match, Qatar will be optimistic as Argentina has struggled offensively and Qatar’s defense was brilliant in their 1-0 loss against Colombia. There will be some frustration running in the mind of the Argentine manager, Lionel Scaloni, as in the first match, Angel Di María was unable to score and in the second game, Lautaro Martínez didn’t find success either. Perhaps a formation change back to three at the front is necessary and Premier League Champions Serge Aguero can start alongside Lionel Messi.
For Qatar, all hope will be in the hands of two men: forward Al-moez Ali, as he’s Qatar’s only goal-scorer in the tournament so far, and goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb. All Qatar needs to out-beat Argentina in the table is a draw, something that now seems like a realistic possibility. Argentina cannot afford anything less than a win and could even jump to second if Colombia beats Paraguay. There’s a lot more pressure on Argentina than Qatar, but the main question will be if Qatar’s defense can handle Argentina’s attacking options?
Aman: QAT 1-4 ARG
Rahim: QAT 0-3 ARG
Colombia vs. Paraguay
Although Paraguay could advance whether they lose, draw or win against Colombia, depending on the Argentina v. Qatar result, the Paraguayans will at least be looking for a draw. They have already drawn both of their matches against Qatar and Argentina, the first one ending in rue and the second in jubilation. Against Qatar, Paraguay gave up a 2-0 lead in the second half, but against Argentina, Paraguay came back through a Richard Sánchez goal to tie one all. A win against Colombia will ensure that Paraguay progresses while anything less would leave them in a sticky situation.
Although Paraguay probably fears Colombia’s attacking capability, Colombia will need some refining after it took them 86 minutes to break the deadlock against Qatar. Duván Zapata should start as he’s scored twice in two games now and perhaps Radamel Falcao might be benched. Another thing Colombia needs to keep in mind is that the last time these two sides faced each other, Colombia wasn’t the winner, Paraguay was.
Aman: COL 2-2 PAR
Rahim: COL 2-2 PAR
Chile vs. Uruguay
This is probably going to be the most competitive game of the group stages, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have much context. Chile has already moved on to the Quarter-finals and Uruguay is nearly guaranteed qualification.
Both sides won’t want to tamper with their lineups, but Uruguay may need to rethink tacts. Their defense struggled to read Japan’s counter-attacks when they drew 2-2 and the attack wasn’t clinical enough in the box during the first half. Otherwise, Uruguay has plenty of skill to take down Chile.
Aman: CHL 0-1 URU
Rahim: CHL 1-0 URU
Ecuador vs. Japan
Most likely, Japan will finish third in Group C, so it’s important Japan wins, so they can have plenty of points if they qualify for the Quarter-finals. The good news for Japan is that they are favored to win.
Japan did away with goal-scoring worries after their counter-attacks proved too good for Uruguay. Koji Miyoshi proved to be the star of the show after netting twice.
For Ecuador, they have the attacking capabilities to beat Japan in Enner and Antonio Valencia, but both of them are yet to register a goal in this tournament. To make matters worse, Ecuador will be without Gabriel Achilier in this fixture as he was red-carded in the 89th minute vs. Chile.
Aman: ECU 0-3 JAP
Rahim: ECU 1-2 JAP