Take physic, pomp

The 2015 Copa America reaches semi-final stage

It hasn’t had a mention on the blog to date, but as the last quarter final has just finished and Brazil were beaten on penalties by Paraguay, we now have the full semi-finals line-up for Monday and Tuesday and a few words on each game:
First semi-final, Monday: Chile versus Peru
Host nation Chile has played just about the most attractive football of the tournament so far. The attack has real bite, Alexis Sanchez, Jorge Valdivia and Arturo Vidal are working well together, but the defence looks shaky at times and hasn’t really faced a top class team so far, either.
Peru is the surprise semi-finalist nation. For sure it had an easy quarter-final against the very modest Bolivia team, but Peru made its own luck by playing better than anyone expected in the group stage, particularly when getting a point off the strong Colombia team. Peru then showed it had a decent attack by putting three past Bolivia (and it could have been more). The defence is sloppy at times and that will likely be its undoing against the sharpness of Chile, unless Peru manages to tighten up considerably. However the attack isn’t bad.
Bottom line: Chile is deserved favourite to win this one. Peru’s chance is in an open game where its front line manage to match Chile’s for goals, then the game goes to penalties. I’d give Chile an 80% chance of going through to the final, but an upset isn’t impossible in this one. 
Second semi-final Tuesday: Argentina versus Paraguay
Argentina hasn’t played at its best so far and only squeaked past Colombia on penalties after missing a dozen chances during the match. The defence looks great, midfield needs to be a little more vertical and supply the front line more quickly, Messi needs to find his shooting boots.
Paraguay is scrappy and technically good, having improved back to its normal strength under new manager Ramón Díaz (sidebar trivia: all four managers in the semi-finals are Argentine) after a couple of years in the comparative wilderness. Paraguay also drew 2-2 with Argentina in the group stage of this tournament, coming back from 2-0 down and showing real fight and spirit to do so (it also helped that Argentina got complacent in that match and failed to respect its opponent enough). But it won’t get the room it got against Brazil today in next week’s match.
Bottom line: Argentina will win this match and go through to the final. Against Colombia yesterday it was the “everything-but-the-goal” team, that won’t last with such high quality in the squad. When this Argentina starts flowing, it’s a pleasure to watch that’s beaten only by Barcelona’s style and grace (the frustration of watching both of those when not firing on all cylinders exists too, equal and opposite). Paraguay is a respectable team but doesn’t have enough to win this game. Peru has more chance against Chile than Paraguay vs Argentina.
As for a call on my likely Chile –  Argentine final set-up, I’ll defer out of respect for the potential upsets from Peru or Paraguay. Nothing’s certain in football and both the underdogs in the semis have their chances here, neither has an impossible task ahead. A post Wednesday on the final, including prediction.

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