Copa America Power Rankings: Round One

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Fireworks display at the opening ceremony

It certainly seems so much more indefinite and uncertain. After the first round of matches at the 2015 Copa America, there is no clear indication of who might win this tournament. That certainly points to the depth of talent in South America that makes the gaps in quality between nations that much smaller.

However, patterns are formed over time and there is some sense to be made out of all the chaos. Indeed, if any lesson is to come from the early games of Copa America, it is that those who seemed to be pre-tournament favourites are not as far from the chasing pack as was thought they would be.

Here are the Copa America 2015 power rankings:

  • The power rankings will be published after every round of games.
  • The power rankings are meant to assess likelihood of winning the tournament and take into account not just mere performance, but also the potential outcome this may have on a team for the rest of the tournament. As such, it presumes that context is key and invariably more important than the result of a single game.   

1. Argentina (Rating: 6/10)

In the end, it seemed shambolic. As Paraguay equalised for a 2-2 draw against Argentina, the goal seemed to be an indication of the manner in which los albiceleste had thrown away a game in which they had seemed certainties to win.

The problem was that the first half had been all the more sublime. Argentina’s passing was exquisite, their moves surgical as they sought to penetrate a Paraguay side that seemed intent on minimising their attacking quality. Lionel Messi had been busy being Lionel Messi – a nutmeg here, a shimmy there, a dribble that saw masses of players converge around him and of course, a customary goal. His penalty coolly placed to add to Sergio Aguero’s opener.

Even the second half had started brightly, with chances to kill off the game. But then, the tide shifted and Paraguay, sensing an opportunity, clawed back first with Haedo Valdez’s incredible goal before Argentine born Lucas Barrios equalised at the death.

The questions will invariably be directed Gerardo Martino’s way. The former Barcelona manager’s failure against a team that he led to the 2011 Copa America final was telling. There was the case that Argentina lost control of the midfield once Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain came on. More so was the timing of the substitutions, which came with the scoreline at 2-1 and with the momentum clearly shifting Paraguay’s way.

Still however, Argentina tops this list for the mere fact that no other side at Copa America has a similar depth of attacking quality. There is also the fact that for the most part, this Argentina looked significantly more balanced than Alejandro Sabella’s World Cup losing finalists. That has to do with the selection of Ever Banega and Javier Pastore to the side and to the starting XI.

Banega — slotting alongside Javier mascherano at the back of midfield — showed the sort of form that saw him star in Sevilla’s Europa League triumph. Pastore on the other hand was such a balletic presence, gliding across the pitch and picking out seemingly impossible through balls for Messi and Aguero.

It does mean that if Martino minimises on the sort of error that saw Argentina lose the midfield battle, then they should be well placed to compete for the tournament. However, the questions as to the capability of the coach – and the competence of that shaky looking defence – came to the fore.

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Chile celebrating an opening win

2. Chile (Rating 8/10)

The opening game of the tournament saw the hosts start brightly before a nervy period followed. However, Chile’s 2-0 win over Ecuador was the only game that saw a side triumph by more than a goal’s margin.

Buoyed by the home crowd – and with seemingly less tricky fixtures left in the group – Chile will certainly look to come out of the group stages brimming with confidence. The form of Alexis Sanchez, the midfield supremacy of Arturo Vidal as well as the finishing of Eduardo Vargas, combined with the high tempo pressing and attacking game which manager Jorge Sampaoli preaches should carry them through and makes them a dangerously competitive side.

3. Brazil (Rating 6/10)

Brazil probably deserved their opening win, but probably too did Peru. It thus brings a sense of Brazil getting away with it. They rarely seemed in control, yet were the side that had the better chances.

Most of those chances fell to Neymar, and it was he who provided a moment of genius to provide an assist for Douglas Costa’s late winner. It emphasised just how much this team is reliant on him. Indeed, it even seems his importance has grown after the manner in which Brazil capitulated without him at the World Cup semi finals, plus the fact that he is now team captain.

It is however not a shame to be over-reliant on a player of Neymar’s abilities. Individually, he probably stands only behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the player most likely to influence a team with his individual quality. It also bodes well that the sense of responsibility placed on his shoulders will only make him a better player for a Brazil that is rebuilding.

This after all is a young Brazil squad, and one that may very well turn out at the next World Cup. For that, Dunga deserves credit – even though he is first to underrate the chances of his side.

The best thing however for Brazil is that a slow start can only now accumulate momentum. If that is the case, it seems to follow in Dunga’s last managerial stint as Brazil’s manager. Then, his 2007 Copa America had began slowly with a 2-0 loss to Mexico. They would go on to lift the tournament.

4. Uruguay (7/10)

It is all about what is missing for Uruguay. For the first time in a very long time, Diego Forlan is not at an international tournament for them while talisman Luis Suarez — who makes them tick — is missing as he continues to serve his international ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini.

It does however always feel almost criminal to rule out the holders of a previous competition from a current one. That sense of supremacy should carry Uruguay through, as well as the tactical nuances of Washington Oscar Tabarez. Uruguay also have the much famed South American ‘guarra’—the ability to dig deep and punch way above their weight – epitomised by the fighting spirit of Diego Godin. It should also not be forgotten that there is sufficient talent in this squad – in the likes of Edinson Cavani, Chrisitan Stuani, Cebolla Rodriguez and up and coming stirker, Diego Rolan.

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Defending champions, Uruguay

5. Ecuador (6/10)

Ecuador would probably have equalised against Chile if Enner Valencia’s header had not hit the crossbar. Instead, they watched as Chile went on to score a second. It was however an impressive performance even in light of Chile’s glowing lights. Even in the absence of Antonio Valencia, Ecuador looks well organised. Slowly by slowly, they continue to show their progress which has meant a spot at every World Cup since 2002. The continent’s grand prize may be beyond them but they have the ability to cause an upset in a quarter-final.

6. Colombia (Rating: 5/10)

For once, the whirlwind football was lacking as Colombia looked a shadow of the team ranked fourth best in the world. Boasting the talents of James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado, as well as a front line from which Jose Pekerman can pick either of Radamel Falcao, Carlos Bacca, Jackson Martinez, Teofilo Guttierez, Luis Muriel and Victor Ibarbo, it is odd that Colombia did not score a goal.

However, maybe that should be pointed to the fact that Colombia is the one of the few Copa America teams that arrived in Chile with their most important players playing at a level below their top form. Rodriguez is just recently back from injury while Falcao endured a nightmare season on loan at Manchester United that seems to have sapped away his confidence. It means that for all of Carlos Bacca’s heroics for Sevilla, Colombia will need one of these two to significantly step up. Especially as their next game is against Brazil.

7. Venezuela (Rating: 9/10)

Did well to contain, then spring upon Colombia to slay one of the tournament’s outright favourites. It should not be forgotten that this is a side that reached the semi-fianls of the 2011 Copa America. Two years later, they were unlucky to miss out on an opportunity to qualify for a maiden World Cup appearance. They have shown that they could yet again be the giant slayers.

8. Paraguay (Rating: 7/10)

Famously went through the whole 2011 Copa America tournament without winning a game in open play before being levelled 3-0 by Uruguay in the final. That was however a totally different regime and Paraguay have deteriorated greatly in the intervening four years. They do however seem to be approaching that level of organisation that so characterised their campaign four years ago, and maybe even some level of ambition.

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Born in Argentina, Lucas Barrios equalised for Paraguay against the country of his birth

9. Mexico (Rating: 6/10)

With a CONCACAF Gold Cup to play for in July, Mexico can be forgiven for taking this tournament a bit lightly. Still, their performance seemed to put to bed this assertion. Mexico were definitely the better side against Bolivia. Their only fault was in failing to find that final pass that would lead to a goal. That failure to move to the next level will cost them this tournament but they must surely hope that the gamble to rest some of their key players for the North American competition which comes later on will pay off.

10. Peru (Rating: 8/10)

Were probably not expected to run Brazil so precariously close.

11. Bolivia (Rating: 6/10)

Held on against Mexico and though there are signs that this side can produce better, there is a lack of quality to suggest that they actually will.

12. Jamaica (Rating: 8/10)

As guests, they do, much like Mexico have one eye on the Gold Cup. The reggae boys will however be no pushovers and did well in their opening game against the holders Uruguay.

Round One Results:

Chile 2-0 Ecuador

Mexico 0-0 Bolivia

Uruguay 1-0 Jamaica

Argentina 2-2 Paraguay

Colombia 0-1 Venezuela

Brazil 2-1 Peru

[images courtesy of getty images]
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Posted on June 15, 2015, in South America and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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