A second half goal capped off a physical match as Argentina beat Uruguay, potentially ending Uruguay’s hopes of defending their Copa America title. The 1-0 victory for Argentina puts them even at the top of the Group B table with Pargauay on four points, while Uruguay look lost at sea with just three points after two matches. With their last group match against a surprisingly good Paraguay side, the defending Copa America champions might not even make it out of the group stage, which would be a bitter disappointment for fans and players alike.
Brazila s hopes of winning the Copa America went up in smoke at the Estadio Monumental David Arellano as Neymar was sent off for a headbutt in a bruising end to a frustrating 1-0 defeat to Colombia. Los Cafeteros banished their drowsy defeat to Venezuela with a barnstorming display against Brazil and deservedly took the full three points from the match.
Argentina improved from the Paraguay game but are still not ruthless
Argentina have at least renewed their spark after claiming their first win of the Copa America with this hard-fought 1-0 win over Uruguay. Their manager, Gerardo Martino, was sent off for first-half touchline remonstrations. The frustration after the 2-2 draw with Paraguay has now evaporated, and the relief was evident at the final whistle. Argentina have one of the two or three most talented international sides in the world. Their forward line depth is the definition of elite, but they struggle to find a combination that works well. Their midfield is incredibly talented, but they struggle to function because two of their best midfielders don’t actually play in midfield for their club sides very often. Argentina have a lot of great pieces that look like an incredible team on paper, but on the field they fail to live up to that reputation.
After scoring a brilliant opener, Argentina should have won easily thereafter, but almost succumbed to the same problem they experienced against Paraguay as they failed to kill the game off. It is possible to question why they are still so dependent on individual moments, why the general flow of their play is still so restricted. They still look very rigid and even though Argentina have so many exceptional creators in the team, and some of the world’s best attackers, they are still lacking the penetration. It is so often as if they are just waiting for one of the stars to produce a moment of magic, rather than that being a natural consequence of their creative play. Right now, the players feel too constrained. Maybe the stuttering start against Paraguay was the best thing that happened to them so early. The effects could be seen at the back in this game. As Uruguay attempted a late siege, the likes of Javier Mascherano and Nicolas Otamendi were throwing themselves in the way of efforts to preserve Argentina’s advantage.
Uruguay will not defend their crown unless they change their approach
Even if they get Luis Suarez back, this Uruguay side won’t magically become a competent contender again. Edinson Cavani still goes missing too easily, the midfield is too easy to beat, and while the back line is relatively solid yet this group of players dona t look like winning anything recently. There’s a lot of good talent in this side, but right now it’s just not clicking together in any meaningful way. This side is a long ways from actually being a quality international team. Suarez being suspended gave Uruguay’s next apparent striking star Diego Rolan a big chance to step up and declare that he’s not just a star of the future, he’s a star for the present. He’s got absolutely incredible talent, and it could well be that the future of the Uruguay national team rests on his 22-year-old shoulders. Rolan has so far failed to live up to that promise, though. He was very poor in both of his appearances in the Copa America so far, and he missed a huge chance late in the match to score an equalizer with the net at his mercy, blasting a rebound well high of the goal.
That chance still came from an Argentina error, though, and it was really the best the Uruguayans could have hoped for. The pressure is just too much for him at this point in his career and he’s not ready to be the guy at this level. When your entire game plan has been based around defence, how do you entirely change mindset and adjust once you go behind! For his part, there is an argument that this was pretty much the best a canny coach like Oscar Tabarez could have done in the circumstances. Basically all of the team’s strengths are based in defence, and they were up against one of the strongest attacks in international football. Setting up any other way would have been to cede the game before it began, especially without the cutting edge of Luis Suarez. There were also many times when it was impossible not to admire the sheer doggedness and durability of a defender like Diego Godin. The fact they are so defence-heavy means they are highly unlikely to come close to defending this trophy.
Colombia now look like the team to beat
Jose Pekerman’s reinvigorated side made amends for the 2-1 World Cup quarterfinal defeat to Brazil, but also remade their case that they can win this Copa America, as they showed just how limited Dunga’s side are. Jeison Murillo’s 36th-minute goal from a set piece, his first for his country, came towards the end of a first half that Colombia totally dominated. Despite the inclusion of Radamel Falcao still below his best, Pekerman restored balance and verve to Colombia’s formation, and it meant they quickly took command of the game. The solitary goal came after a period of concerted pressure, and a free kick from the reborn Juan Cuadrado that caused chaos in the Brazilian box, with Murillo then turning it back under goalkeeper Jefferson which was fully deserved. It was fitting that Colombia righted their last result from the World Cup, because this was finally much more like the team that so commanded attention in Brazil. They were pulsating in attack in the first half, and so powerful in defence in the second. That is all the more impressive because this was not a Colombian team at full strength and they won’t be while Pekerman persists in playing Falcao, who is so clearly short of full strength himself.
However, the Argentine coach has still worked out a way to restore verve to the side while also retaining the Chelsea striker. The player who proved the biggest difference in this match was Carlos Sanchez. He effectively represented everything that Brazil didn’t have in midfield, a properly strong link between defence and attack. He dominated the centre of the pitch. Rodriguez was more able to impose his magic on the game in the first half. He was so much more involved, so much more central than in the defeat to Venezuela. Cuadrado, meanwhile, was back to his bewitching best. Brazil could barely handle his unpredictability. Colombia have transformed their fortune in a different way. They effectively had to avoid defeat here to prevent an early elimination. Now, everyone else will be looking to avoid them.
Brazil could face an early exit without Neymar
Neymar lost his cool, Brazil lost the game, and it all means they have also lost the initiative in this group. That reflects the reality that this current team are nowhere near as authoritative as their mere name or their headstrong manager would suggest. Beyond Neymar, who himself was not at his best, there is not all that much to this side, and it is clear that Dunga hasn’t yet fixed many of the problems that were so evident in the World Cup. They don’t play with any cohesion and it is telling that the only time there is any smoothness about their play is when Neymar is on the ball. Despite Dunga eventually introducing Coutinho, Diego Tardelli and Douglas Costa, Brazil could still do little other than just repeatedly try unimaginative crosses that Colombian defenders dealt easily. It’s the type of tactic that provincial sides offer. It is not the tactic Brazil should offer, even a generation as limited as this. Roberto Firmino is set for a move to England this summer and had earned a spot in the Selecao’s starting XI against Colombia, but he had a poor game and skied a sitter. Brazil could yet dig their way in to win it, but it says much that that is what they must try to have a chance of doing so. Now with a confident Venezuela yet to play, Brazil are far from secure.</p