Friday, 15 July 2011

La Liga at the Copa América

With the increasing globalisation of world football when one of the world’s biggest and best international tournaments takes place the cast of characters tend to be familiar ones.

Twenty-nine La Liga registered players were selected by nine of the 12 countries taking part in the Copa América in Argentina. With the group stages now complete here is rundown of how they have all got on so far.


Bolivia 1-1 (Agüero)
Colombia 0-0
Costa Rica 3-0 (Agüero 2, Di María)
Players selected: Sergio Agüero (Atlético Madrid), Javier Mascherano, Lionel Messi, Gabriel Milito (Barcelona), Ángel di María, Fernando Gago, Ezequiel Garay, Gonzalo Higuaín (Real Madrid), Ever Banega (Valencia)

Fears were raised a few months ago that the fallout from Barcelona and Real Madrid’s four-part series in April and early May could cause division in the Spanish national team. The same worries could easily have been applied to La Albiceleste with their posse of players from each side of the El Clásico divide.

Attention, speculation and a fair degree of criticism focused on Messi after uninspiring draws in the hosts opening two matches. Coach Sergio Batista’s pre-tournament plan to get the best out of Messi by replicating Barcelona’s 4-3-3 was eventually binned and it was the introduction of four La Liga based players that made a huge difference to the performance of the team and Messi in the final group game against Costa Rica.

Agüero was finally given a start and his two goals took him to the top of the goalscoring charts with three in total. Di María who was dropped for the first two fixtures by the sheer force of public opinion demanding a place for Carlos Tevez brought some much needed balance and pace in midfield and a fine goal from one of a barrel load of defence splitting passes from Messi.

Higuaín was guilty of missing a number of those opportunities laid on by the World Player of the Year but his presence created problems and he is likely to retain his place in the side for the quarter-final against Uruguay.

The other effective change which might surprise many La Liga followers was Gago replacing Banega. The Real Madrid midfielder was excellent in possession and linked the play between midfield and front better than the Valencia man had in the first two outings.

At the back Gabriel Milito has looked as bad as he did all season at Barcelona and his partnership with Nicolás Burdisso remains the major reason why it remains hard to see Argentina winning the tournament. It says everything about the decline of Ezequiel Garay’s promise in the past year however that these two aged centre-backs are still seen as more reliable options by Batista than the Real defender.


Venezuela 0-0
Paraguay 2-2 (Jadson, Fred)
Ecuador 4-2 (Pato 2, Neymar 2)
Players selected: Adriano Correia, Dani Alves (Barcelona), Elias (Atlético Madrid)

The Copa America has been a disappointing one for Brazil’s Spanish-based stars.

Dani Alves was finally given the starting role at right-back ahead of Douglas Maicon after the World Cup last summer. However, two games into this tournament was enough for him to lose his place to the Inter man once again. Alves was his characteristic self in the opener against Venezuela, providing a constant outlet for attack but was torn apart by Paraguay’s Marcelo Estigarribia in the 2-2 draw in Córdoba. The Barcelona full-back partly to blame for both Paraguayan goals.

Atleti’s Elias has had little time to make an impact, coming on as a sub for only 14 minutes in the final group game against Ecuador. The other Barca full-back in the squad, Adriano, hasn’t seen any action.


Mexico 2-1 (Paredes, Vidal)
Uruguay 1-1 (Sánchez)
Peru 1-0 (Carrillo (og))
Players selected: Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad), Gary Medel (Sevilla)

Chile have been the most impressive side on show so far. Whilst attention has focused on Alexis Sánchez, who should seal his move to Barcelona within the next fortnight, a number of other players including midfield general Medel have performed well.

Bravo on the other hand was at fault for Mexico’s goal in the opener and has seen little other goalmouth action.


Costa Rica 1-0 (Ramos)
Argentina 0-0
Bolivia 2-0 (Falcao 2)
Players selected: Abel Aguilar (Hércules), Luis Perea (Atlético Madrid), Cristián Zapata (Villarreal)

Colombia have been one of the more accomplished sides on show through their three group games. The fact that they have yet to concede a goal reflects well on Aguilar who has protected the defence at the back of the midfield and Perea who has again saved his best form for the national side.

New Villarreal signing Zapata hasn’t yet featured due to the sterling performances of Perea and partner Mario Yepes at the heart of the defence but should prove to be an excellent acquisition for the Yellow Submarine.


Paraguay 0-0
Venezuela 0-1
Brazil 2-4 (Caicedo 2)
Players selected: Felipe Caicedo (Levante)

Ecuador’s campaign was a disappointing one as they were one of only two South American sides to go out at the group stage. Their transitional process is however boosted by the fact they may have at long last found a goalscorer in Levante’s Caicedo.

The former Manchester City man scored his country’s only two goals of the competition against Brazil, admittedly with some help from Julio Caesar in the Brazilian goal.


Ecuador 0-0
Brazil 2-2 (Santa Cruz, Valdez)
Venezuela 3-3 (Alcaraz, Barrios, Riveros)
Players selected: Justo Villar (Valladolid), Paulo Da Silva (Real Zaragoza), Nelson Valdez (Hércules), Hernán Pérez (Villarreal)

Paraguay have been involved in two of the games of the tournament with high-scoring draws against Brazil and Venezuela. A key figure in both has been Nelson Valdez who has made a positive impact from the bench in all three games for the World Cup quarter-finalists.

Valdez scored to put Paraguay 2-1 up against Brazil and helped create Barrios’ goal against Venezuela but is still expected to start on the bench behind the country’s all-time leading scorer Roque Santa Cruz and Dortmund’s Barrios in another meeting with the Brazilians in the quarter-finals.

Valladolid’s Villar has typically strode the line between genius and folly with his calm distribution from the back but has made no major errors in the five goals he has conceded in the past two games.

Zaragoza’s Paulo Da Silva has been an ever-present in an uncharacteristically leaky backline, whilst Villarreal youngster Perez is yet to be involved.


Uruguay 1-1 (Guerrero)
Mexico 1-0 (Guerrero)
Chile 0-1
Players selected: Santiago Acasiete (Almería)

Peru have made great strides in the past few months under new coach Sergio Markarian having finished bottom of South American qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. Defensive organisation has been the vital factor in that improvement and Acasiete has displayed the sort of defensive solidity that Almería so often lacked last season.


Peru 1-1 (Suárez)
Chile 1-1 (A. Pereira)
Mexico 1-0 (A. Pereira)
Players selected: Diego Forlan, Diego Godín (Atlético Madrid), Martín Cáceres (Sevilla)

Uruguay have endured a mixed tournament thus far. Tuesday’s comfortable 1-0 win over Mexico secured qualification to the quarter-finals but by finishing behind Chile they now have the daunting task of Argentina to face on Saturday.

The two Atleti Diegos have certainly not enjoyed the best of fortunes. Godín has missed the last two games with injury and looks unlikely to face the Argentines whilst Forlan has continued on the form he had towards the end of last season. The man who won player of the tournament last summer in South Africa coast his team all three points with a glaring miss against Peru in the opener and then missed a hatful of great opportunities against Mexico.

Martín Cáceres has on the other hand looked good and in particular coped well with the threat of Sánchez in the Chile game.


Brazil 0-0
Ecuador 1-0 (González)
Paraguay 3-3 (Rondón, Fedor, Perozo)
Players selected: Nicolás Fedor (Getafe), Dani Hernández (Murcia), Salomón Rondón (Malaga)

Venezuela have been the surprise package of the tournament, going unbeaten through their three games and qualifying for the quarter-finals for the first time away from home.

Getafe’s Fedor and Malaga’s Rondón have been key in bringing an extra spark up front to what has been a well-organised defensive unit in the past few years. Both scored in Wednesday’s incredible 3-3 draw with Paraguay which saw la vinotinto come from 3-1 down with less than a minute of normal time remaining.

Back-up goalie Hernández has yet to be involved.


Colombia v Peru
Argentina v Uruguay

Brazil v Paraguay
Chile v Venezuela

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