Host United States and Colombia lead Group A in Copa America Centenario

The Copa America Centenario starts this Friday and when the draw was performed in February, it was widely assumed that Group A was the toughest group of the four. You have the United States, who are hosting the tournament, fourth ranked Colombia, a Costa Rica team who were a penalty shootout away from the 2014 World Cup semifinals and Paraguay, who is the highest ranked of all the pot four teams (39th).

But a lot has changed. Teams have changed since February and a crucial injury has made this a very different group.

 

The Teams (odds according to bwin.com)

United States (Host) – 29th in FIFA Rankings – Best finish in Copa America: 4th (1995) – 9/1 odds to win
Colombia – 4th in FIFA Rankings – Best finish in Copa America: Champions (2001) – 9/1 odds to win
Costa Rica – 25th in FIFA Rankings – Best finish in Copa America: Quarterfinals (2001, 2004) – 50/1 odds to win
Paraguay – 39th in FIFA Rankings – Best finish in Copa America: Champions (1953, 1979) – 80/1 odds to win

 

Best goalkeeper – David Ospina (Colombia)

If I had written this a couple days ago, I would have chosen Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas. But over the weekend, Navas was revealed to be out of the Copa America Centenario with an achilles injury, even though he played and won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid.

Anyway, this leaves the best goalkeeper to be David Ospina of Colombia. Ospina may be the backup keeper for Arsenal but now that Navas is out, the goalkeeper spot among all four teams is rather tenuous. The United States may have the best goalkeeper tandem but you can only play one at a time and neither Tim Howard or Brad Guzan seem to be in particularly great form. Ospina is the class of the field.

 

Best outfield player – James Rodriguez (Colombia)

David Ospina’s brother-in-law, James Rodriguez came onto the scene in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, scoring what was regarded as the goal of the tournament.

Now, James has seen his playing time shrink this past year but still remains as a dangerous player for Colombia. And Colombia will need him if they want to go a long way in the Copa America Centenario.

 

Player to watch – Darlington Nagbe (United States)

The easy answer for the player to watch in Group A would be Christian Pulisic but I contend that Darlington Nagbe is worthy of some attention. This summer presents a prime opportunity for Nagbe as it seems manager Jurgen Klinsmann is relying on him more and more. A great tournament this summer may be the clincher that causes Nagbe to be a lock for the national team for the foreseeable future.

 

Most important game – United States vs. Costa Rica

The two teams most likely to be competing for the second spot in Group A. Factoring that Colombia is likely to win the group and Paraguay is likely to finish last in the group, the winner of this game will likely be the second place team. While the United States won’t have to face Keylor Navas, they will still face a tough Costa Rican defense who isn’t afraid to “park the bus” and grind out a result. Maybe even utilize that strategy to sneak a win and a Quarterfinal berth just like in 2014.

 

Biggest storyline – Which USMNT are we going to see?

Before last week, the U.S. Men’s National Team left many fans with low morale and low confidence that they would be able to do anything in the Copa America Centenario. With a lackluster 8-1-7 record since the CONCACAF Gold Cup last summer including demoralizing losses in the Gold Cup Semifinal against Jamaica and CONCACAF Cup against Mexico, fans didn’t really have much hope. Now, in their Copa America Centenario tune-ups, the USMNT defeated Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Bolivia by a combined score of 8-1 including two clean sheets against the South American teams. Those results, along with some notable changes in the lineup, there is a renewed hope and could meet Klinsmann’s goal of a semifinal berth. The question will be if they can keep their current form up against tougher competition or revert back to their former selves.

 

Teams to move on – Colombia and the United States

 

Schedule:

Friday June 3 – United States vs. Colombia – 9:30 PM ET – Santa Clara, CA
Saturday June 4 – Costa Rica vs. Paraguay – 5:00 PM ET – Orlando, FL
Tuesday June 7 – United States vs. Costa Rica – 8:00 PM ET – Chicago, IL
Tuesday June 7 – Colombia vs. Paraguay – 10:30 PM ET – Pasadena, CA
Saturday June 11 – United States vs. Paraguay – 7:00 PM ET – Philadelphia, PA
Saturday June 11 – Colombia vs. Costa Rica – 9:00 PM ET – Houston, TX

About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them. Follow me on Twitter @phillipbupp

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