The four best teams in the Copa America have reached the semifinals. Some may think that is a ludicrous statement since the matchups pit hosts Chile against perennial bottom half of CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying Peru and the other matchup has the talent laden Argentina meeting the second smallest CONMEBOL member nation in population, Paraguay. Others may argue that Colombia, Brazil or maybe even Uruguay would have rounded out these semifinals a bit more with some intriguing match ups, however, a closer look at the four teams still playing shows that these four are truly the best teams in this tournament.
Copa America Semi-Finals: The Best Four Teams Are Here
How they got here: Finished first in Group A beating Ecuador and dismantling Bolivia, while tying Mexico in a high scoring affair. In the quarterfinals, Chile escaped with a narrow 1-0 win after outlasting a nine-man Uruguay squad in a hotly contested match up.
Why they deserve to be in the Semi Finals: Chile has been the highest scoring team in this tournament (11 goals); the next closest team has less than half the goals scored that this team does. Their stars Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez have performed, which has made a difference since teams like Colombia and Uruguay are home because their stars did not. Chile’s supporting cast has been effective as Jorge Valdivia has been the tournament’s top assist man, Right Back Mauricio Isla has been solid and scored the game winner against Uruguay, while midfielder Charles Aranguiz and striker Eduardo Vargas are perhaps having their best run ever on the national team.
How they got here: Finished second in Group C, defeating a ten-man Venezuela team for their lone victory while tying Colombia and a late Neymar pinpoint pass away from tying Brazil before falling 2-1. In the Quarterfinals they met fellow surprise team Bolivia, before dispatching them 3-0, thanks to a Paolo Guerrero hat trick.
Why they deserve to be in the Semi Finals: Colombia may have been the most frugal defense in the tournament by allowing only one goal; however, they only scored one goal in the entire tournament before going home last week. Peru and Argentina have only allowed two goals in the tournament, leaving them as the stingiest still playing in Copa America. The Center Back combination of Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Ascues has performed better than more known combinations such as Brazil’s Thiago Silva and Miranda or Uruguay’s Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez. Players such as Right Back Luis Advincula and midfielder Christian Cueva are introducing themselves to CONMEBOL teams and the world, while Paolo Guerrero and 36-year-old veteran captain Claudio Pizarro have been constant threats to defenses.
How they got here: Winners of Group B, after stumbling out of the gate by blowing a 2-0 lead to tie Paraguay, Argentina defeated Uruguay and Jamaica in 1-0 games. In the Quarterfinals, Argentina dominated Colombia, but Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina’s incredible performance led to an eight round penalty kick shootout, capped by Carlos Tevez’ game winning penalty.
Why they deserve to be in the Semi Finals: Normally the formula for a deep run would include the name Lionel Messi, and while he has been solid for Argentina, winning two MasterCard Man of the Match awards in four games and scoring one goal, there have been other players who have played a key role for the Albiceleste. Midfielders Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore and Javier Mascherano have been solid contributors, with Mascherano perhaps being the best defensive midfielder in the tournament. Defenders Pablo Zabaleta and Nicola Otamendi seem to sacrifice their bodies for every loose ball or in every challenge, thus helping their national team win tough and gritty games up to this point. Sergio Aguero has stayed healthy and been the marksman for this team, leading the team with two goals, proving that when healthy he can help lead this team.
How they got here: Group B runners up followed their 2011 Copa America formula and tied two of their three group games, against Argentina and Uruguay and defeated Jamaica 1-0. In the Quarterfinals they met the Neymar-less Brazil, who they tied 1-1, thanks to a Thiago Silva handball, and then once again pulled a 2011 card out of their pocket and eliminated Brazil in Penalty kicks.
Why they deserve to be in the Semi Finals: Paraguay has played with a can’t lose attitude the entire way. Setting the tone when they came back to tie Argentina in the opener to defeating Brazil with their tough mental attitude in penalties. Paraguay have been led by their veterans such as strikers Roque Santa Cruz and Nelson Haedo Valdez, Center Back Paulo da Silva and Goalkeeper Justo Villar. The introduction of young striker Derlis Gonzalez as an attacking midfielder has caused team’s fits as the youngster scored the game-tying goal against Brazil and minutes later the game-winning penalty in the penalty shootout. Role players Lucas Barrios and Edgar Martinez, once first team starters, now shuffled in out of the lineup have both performed admirably, with Barrios leading the team in goals with two.