U.S. draws tough group, Mexico in good shape for 2016 Copa América
NEW YORK CITY — The host U.S. drew Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay in Group A for this summer’s Copa América Centenario, which is promoting itself as the biggest men’s soccer event on U.S. soil since World Cup 1994. The event begins on June 3 and concludes on June 26.
Here are three thoughts on the draw:
The U.S. got a tough group
As the host, the U.S. was a seeded team, which allowed the Americans to avoid Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. But you couldn’t have asked for a much harder group given the possibilities, considering it includes two quarterfinalists from World Cup 2014 (Colombia and Costa Rica) and a Paraguay team that is always difficult to play against. Group A is the hardest group in the tournament, and it won’t be easy for the U.S. to open against the toughest team, Colombia. That said, the U.S. had an extremely tough group at World Cup 2014 and found a way to get out of that group. All things considered, there will be plenty to look forward to for U.S. fans.
“Obviously it’s a difficult group, no doubt about it, but it’s doable,” said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann afterward. “We had a similar kind of scenario in Brazil and we went through, and so now we start with Colombia right away instead of Ghana.
“Colombia is one of the top teams in South America, Paraguay is a strong team and Costa Rica we know,” Klinsmann added. “So now we start right on our toes with the opening whistle in Santa Clara. It’s exciting!”
Klinsmann said he was still confident in U.S. goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan and their readiness for next month’s World Cup qualifiers, even though they have lost their starting jobs in the English Premier League. And he added that despite the disappointment of not qualifying for the 2017 Confederations Cup, he thinks the Copa América is a better soccer tournament.
“The Confederations Cup is a rehearsal for World Cup,” Klinsmann said. “What you want to test out at Confederations Cup is facilities and everything, the country, to get prepared for the best way possible to know what to experience of that country in that location. The Copa América is bigger than Confederations Cup. This is huge, just fantastic for all of us. For the players I think it will click in the next couple of weeks. We’ve talked about it, but now it’s a reality. They know who they’re playing against.”
Mexico should be in pretty good shape
Yes, Uruguay will pose a challenge to El Tri in the opener, and yes, Jamaica got all the way to the Gold Cup final last year. But the Jamaicans have slowed down since then, and Venezuela is in last place in CONMEBOL qualifying for World Cup 2018. New coach Juan Carlos Osorio will want to make his mark in the first tournament of his Mexico tenure, and the path to a deep tournament run is now set for his team. Look for El Tri to make some noise.
Brazil-Haiti will be a fun and historic game
A lot of people will be excited for Argentina-Chile, a rematch of the 2015 Copa América final won by Chile. But I’m just as excited for another game. It was cool when Haiti qualified for this tournament as the biggest Cinderella, and it will be just as cool when the Haitians meet Brazil in a throwback to a historic moment. In 2004, the full Brazilian national team—the reigning World Cup champion—went to Haiti and played in the Match for Peace. Over the years, Brazil had become almost a second national team for Haitian fans, and to have Ronaldo and Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos playing in Port-au-Prince was an unbelievable memory. Now they’ll take each other on again this summer in a game that counts.