Well, the second round of group matches at this year’s Copa America has now been played and, with a couple of notable exceptions, we’re not a great deal closer to knowing who is going to go on to win this and who isn’t. We’ve had the worst game of the tournament (really, somebody would really be having to go some to manage a match worse than Uruguay-Bolivia), and we’ve had another outstanding performance from an Argentinian team that are starting to look like nothing so much as one of the great Brazilian teams of the 1970s and 1980s. The intriguing question is this: are they Brazil 1970 or Brazil 1982?
Group A: Venezuela-Peru and Uruguay-Bolivia – Hats off to Venezuela, who won their first match of the tournament against Peru. It took two second half goals, one from a corner and one on the break the give the Venezuelans a rare win in the finals of this competition, and with four points from two games they now appear likely to make the quarter-finals, whilst Peru are out, barring a miracle in their final match. In the other match, Uruguay and Bolivia served up the worst match of the tournament, a match that ended with a 1-0 win for Uruguay. Bolivia had had the better of the chances prior to the only goal, a scrappy tap-in from Sanchez just before the hour mark.
Group B: Mexico-Ecuador and Brazil-Chile – Mexico are through with a game to spare after beating Ecuador 2-1. They took the lead through Castillo on twenty-one minutes, largely thanks to some hideous Ecuadorian defending, and rode their luck for much of the rest of the half, especially when Ecuador had (what looked like) a goal harshly ruled out for offside (a contender for the latest flag of the tournament from the linesman, there). With ten minutes to go, Bravo doubled their lead with an unnecessarily acrobatic header from Oscar Bravo (Bravo, indeed), before Ecuador pulled one back through Mendez (with the aid of a deflection) to make the Mexicans sweat out the last few minutes. Meanwhile, Brazil finally got their campaign going with a Robinho hat-trick being enough to give them a flattering 3-0 win against Chile. His first came from the penalty spot after a highly suspect decision for a shove in the back. Brazil didn’t really look very special at all until the Chileans started to fade towards the end – two late goals gave the scoreline a considerably more comprehensive look than Brazil’s performance had deserved.
Group C: Argentina-Columbia and USA-Paraguay – You can tell a really great team from the fact that going a goal down doesn’t seem to bother them in the slightest. So it has been with Argentina in Copa America. They went behind to the USA before romping away to a comfortable win, and they repeated the trick against a weak Columbian side last night. Perea’s very neat (and almost certainly offside) backheel gave Columbia the lead, but there’s something irresistible about Argentina going forward at the moment, and a penalty from Hernan Crespo, and two further goals from Riquelme gave the Argentinians a 3-1 lead. Castillon pulled one back for Columbia, before a late, deflected shot from Milito sealed a 4-2 win for Argentina, who now have eight goals from their two matches in this tournament. They didn’t even seem to have to break into a sweat. The USA’s third team are out after gifting Paraguay a 3-1 win in their match. Paraguay had taken an early lead through Edgar Barreto before the USA stormed back, missing a hatful of chances before Ricardo Clark levelled just before half-time. Having worked so hard to get back to level terms, the USA threw it away in the second half, with a hideously underweighted backpass letting in Cardozo to put them back in front. A late free-kick by Cabanas sealed the win for Paraguay, and sent the US home with a match to spare.