Monday, July 18, 2011


I don't know quite what to make of the fact that the Copa America semi-finals will feature Uruguay vs. Peru and Paraguay vs. Venezuela. There would have been long odds on favoured teams Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile successively losing out to their opponents in the quarter-finals. The results came about in varying ways: from the epic Argentina-Uruguay match that neither team really deserved to lose, to the near-farce of the Brazil-Paraguay game where the Brazilians somehow failed to score in 120 minutes and then didn't convert any of their penalties.

All four of the winning sides were relatively pragmatic and unambitious, took their opportunities while their opponents squandered chances, and in the case of Uruguay and Paraguay, were helped through by the heroic goalkeeping performances.On the positive side, it's unpredictable, and means we avoid a third successive Brazil-Argentina final. On the negative side, it fuels arguments about the increasing mediocrity of international football. Negative tactics have been rewarded. None of the remaining sides (with the possible exception of Uruguay) have much charisma in footballing terms and most of the star players that were supposed to light up the tournament are gone, having failed to gel with their team mates and reproduce the form they show for their clubs.

In theory, Uruguay should win easily from here. But if we've learned anything so far, it's that the form book doesn't hold. For the record, I'm picking an easy 3-0 win for Uruguay over Peru, Paraguay to edge out Venezuela 1-0 with an ugly goal scrambled in from a free kick, then Uruguay and Paraguay to play out a dire 0-0 final. Who then wins on penalties? Well, I don't have a crystal ball.

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