Ho hum. After all the excitement of the first two rounds, the Copa America is starting to come undone at the seams a little. For one thing, three groups of four is a deeply unsatisfactory way of organising the tournament. The first two quarter-final matches were both repeats of first round matches, due to two of the teams being third placed teams, and both matches ended up being very one-sided indeed.
First up, Brazil and Chile. Brazil may well be the second favourites to win this competition, and there’s no question that beating anybody 6-1 in the quarter-finals of a major international competition is a terrific result, but let’s be honest for a minute here. Chile were terrible. Hopelessly disorganised on corners, marking thin air rather than Brazilian forwards and giving the impression once the Brazilians went a couple of goals up, this Chile team is light years away from the Salas-inspired vintage of 1998 that pushed Italy all the way in the first round of France ’98, even though Suazo’s consolation for them was the goal of the match. They were five down at the time, though.
If there was a somewhat deflated air surrounding the Brazil-Chile match, it could probably be attributed to Venezuela’s 4-1 defeat by Uruguay earlier in the day. Venezuela had shown their vulnerability in the group stages by throwing away the lead twice in their opening match of the competition against Bolivia, and this result was one that, in all honesty flattered Uruguay somewhat. Diego Forlan led the way with two goals – he had been evoking memories of his form whilst at Manchester United in the first round but came alive in this game, scoring the opening goal before Venezuela levelled just before half-time. An outrageous twenty-yard curling shot from Pablo Garcia gave Uruguay the lead with fifteen minutes to play, and Venezuela folded after this, pushing too many players forward and leaving gaps at the back for Forlan and Rodriguez to make the game safe for Uruguay. Today’s quarter-finals are Mexico-Paraguay and Argentina-Peru.
Elsewhere, presumably keen to avoid the World Cup and the European Championships, the Asian Cup has kicked off in (deep breath) Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. The groups line up as following:
Group A: Thailand, Iraq, Australia and Oman
Group B: Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, Japan and Qatar
Group C: Malaysia, Iran, Uzbekistan and China
Group D: Indonesia, South Korea, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia
The tournament kicked off with a 1-1 draw between Thailand and Iraq on the opening match, but the real drama came in the next match. Australia have sent a strong team, featuring the likes of Mark Viduka, Tim Cahill, Lucas Neill and Harry Kewell, to this tournament, but they seemed to struggle in the humid conditions against Oman, and were reliant on an injury time scrambled goal from Tim Cahill to rescue a 1-1 draw. In the other match played so far, Vietnam beat the UAE 2-0. A shaky start for Australia, then, and with four host nations, South Korea and Japan and an invigorated Iran (who beat Jamaica 8-1 in a recent friendly), they might just have their work cut out to go all the way. More on this as it unfolds.
Finally, in attempt to further underline the fact that the Premier League is now nothing like the game that the rest of us play on a Sunday morning, the FA have decided on a trial of Hawk-Eye technology, presumably with some sort of rationale stating that “the stakes are too high to not use it nowadays”. I’ll bet a pound to a penny that it won’t work.