Copa America Power Rankings: Brazil stutter as Argentina remain favourites

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The 2015 Copa America is making for a fantastic spectacle. So far, nobody has won twice while the second round saw the resurgence of Colombia and Bolivia. Mexico and Peru on the other hand finally showed that their attacking football does have some flourish to it while danger signs loom for Brazil and Ecuador.

After the second round of games, 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 (defeated Uruguay 1-0), no change

If they were less fluid against Uruguay, they at least managed to show some solidity. In the first round, Argentina had capitulated in the second half, losing control completely. That fact had reportedly made Lionel Messi angry and Gerardo Martino responded by setting up the team to be difficult to beat. That meant benching Ever Banega for the more defensive minded Lucas Biglia.

It was however a change of mentality that seemed to see them manage the win here. Nicolas Otamendi and Ezequiel Garay were particularly impressive, shutting up shop and dominating their defensive area to ensure Uruguay didn’t get an equaliser. It was a deserved victory and one that could see Argentina start their journey.

Still, there is a sense that this Argentina is not yet the finished article. As a team, it does not carry the fluency and there is a reliance on their star players upfront to get them out of trouble. Of them, Messi is yet to dazzle in the same manner he does in Catalunya, while Angel Di Maria still seems to be a few levels behind his usual touch. As such – even with Sergio Aguero scoring – they are labouring.

  1. Chile (drew 3-3 with Mexico), no change

If anything, Chile’s second round game with Mexico may just end up being the game of the tournament. The 3-3 draw saw quality football finished off with goals. Rather uncharacteristic of high scoring games, it wasn’t one founded on incredibly ludicrous errors at the back. In fact, it was punctuated by three magnificent headers, two from Chile (Arturo Vidal and Eduardo Vargas) and one from Mexico (Raul Jimenez).

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In any case — but for tightly judged offside calls which seemed to wrongly rule out legitimate goals by Jorge Valdivia and Alexis Sanchez — Chile might well have won the game 5-3. The disallowed Valdivia goal was particularly sublime, a team goal that included Vargas clipping the ball over the top for Vidal to nod down for a stupendous Valdivia finish.

But for all their ferocity, this was a game that showed Chile’s ultimate weakness – their defence can be susceptible if forced to actually defend. Part of that has to do with the fact that Gary Medel – a defensive midfielder – is in defence meaning that as much as he helps in playing out the ball from the back, he can be caught out when required to actually put in a defensive tackle or header.

It was also the case that if Chile do not get the ball back early from pressing it high up the pitch, their defensive high line can be exposed considerably. That is exactly what happened for the third Mexico goal – a simple ball over the top for Mexican forward Matias Vuoso undid them.

  1. Uruguay (lost 1-0 to Argentina), up one place

Despite the loss to Argentina, the holders still have a genuine chance of progressing significantly far in the tournament. Missing Luis Suarez has understandably meant that la celeste has to work out the configuration of their attacking efficiency. Despite that bluntness in attack, Uruguay are otherwise defensively solid and so far could be the hardest team to break down at the tournament.

  1. Colombia (defeated Brazil 1-0), up two places

Deservedly managed to defeat Brazil, but there is still nervousness surrounding this team. Jose Pekerman seems to ultimately trust Radamel Falcao, despite the striker showing a lack of confidence, touch and sharpness. This trust in Falcao was displayed by the decision to bench Carlos Bacca and bring in  Teofilo Gutierrez, who supposedly works better in a partnership with Falcao.

It got the job done, but for a side boasting such mercurial talents upfront, it is defender Jeison Murillo who got the all-important goal. It keeps Colombia in the tournament and may lay the foundations for a kick-start. Still, this side is heavily reliant on James Rodriguez.

  1. Brazil (lost 1-0 to Colombia), down two places

It all went very wrong. Even before the final whistle, Brazil knew that Neymar would be suspended for the final group game against Venezuela. The red card that followed after the game for the Barcelona forward has however plunged the team into confusion.

Just how many games Neymar is bound to miss is unclear, but there is the sense that if they are not careful, Brazil may suffer the same sort of mental frustration and emotional capitulation that characterised their 7-1 loss to Germany at the World Cup last year.

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Luckily, the next game involves Venezuela, who may not be Germany but should not be underrated at any level. It means that one or all of Willian, Roberto Firmino, Douglas Costa and presumably Phillipe Coutinho must rise to the occasion in the absence of Neymar. From an attacking point of view, everything Brazil does seems to go through the Barcelona man. How will Brazil cope without their talisman?

There is also the question of their midfield – which was heavily dominated by Colombia’s Carlos Sanchez. Right now, the pre-tournament injuries to Oscar and Luis Gustavo are proving to be crucial. Without control of that midfield, then Brazil could be in danger of being caught on the counter attack against Venezuela. Danger looms large – but Brazil is still Brazil and it is why they are not lower on this list. Their talent may just see them through, but that talent is still miles away from what Brazil customarily produces.

  1. Paraguay (defeated Jamaica 1-0), up two places

Confidence should be building as they are still unbeaten in a tough group. They also did something that they failed to do four years ago – they won a Copa America game in regulation time. The final that they got to in Argentina in 2011 may be far from any reward they will get this time round, but a good result against Uruguay will certainly secure a quarter final spot.

  1. Mexico (drew 3-3 with Chile), up two places

Mexico proved that their attacking football can produce goals. They ran Chile close with an impressive performance. It required high energy levels to press for so long against a similarly ferocious team but the three goals will have built momentum.

  1. Peru (defeated Venezuela 1-0), up two -places

Their win against Venezuela put Group C in a precarious situation. Now, all of Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru are tied on three points, with the same goal difference. It means that anyone can go through to the next round. Peru seems to be benefitting from the fact that everyone is looking at Brazil and Colombia and thus the pressure is off. Whether they can replicate their semi-final run of four years ago remains to be seen. They are however, once more, proving that there are no minnows in South American football.

  1. Venezuela (lost 1-0 to Peru), down two places

Venezuela failed to build on their win over Colombia from the first round. This Venezuela side thus showed that they can blow hot or cold, and are not as dependable — especially with Fernando Amorebieta getting sent off before the half hour mark.  Their next game sees them face Brazil. How that goes is anyone’s guess.

  1. Bolivia (defeated Ecuador 3-2), up one place

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Bolivia was impressive in dominating Ecuador in the first half of their 3-2 win. They certainly capitalised on Ecuador’s shaky defence and won a Copa America game for the first time since 1997. This effectively meant that this was the first time since then that they have secured a victory in a Copa America game outside of Bolivia.

  1. Ecuador (lost 3-2 to Bolivia), down six places

They were miserable in the first half against Bolivia, and even though their second half showing was encouraging, it seemed to matter little as they still lost. With two losses already, their chances of proceeding look slim.

  1. Jamaica (lost 1-0 to Jamaica), no change

Thought of as whooping boys, they have held their own against much fancied South American counterparts. They have however now lost two games, and face favourites Argentina next. The sort of mistake that let in Paraguay for their goal could see Argentina rack up the goals. As of yet however, nobody has racked up the goals against them as was earlier expected.

Results

Ecuador 2-3 Bolivia

Chile 3-3 Mexico

Paraguay 1-0 Jamaica

Argentina 1-0 Uruguay

Brazil 0-1 Colombia

Peru 1-0 Venezuela

[all images courtesy of getty images]
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Posted on June 19, 2015, in South America. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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