The Copa America Centenario is almost more than halfway done with the group stage matches, and although it’s still very early in the competition, certain teams have stepped up and shinned above the rest of the pack. Teams like Colombia, Mexico and Argentina have emerged as favorites.
The CONCACAF champions ride a 21-game unbeaten streak and are set to make their way to the quarterfinal practically untouched. They survived their toughest opponent by beating a Suarez-less Uruguay 3-1 in their opening game in Arizona, even after Diego Godin tied the game 1-1. Striker Javier Hernandez is on the verge of becoming Mexico’s historic goalscorer, but the goals don’t always come from “Chicharito”. Their opening game demonstrated that everyone on the team is capable of scoring. Even their 36-year-old captain Rafa Marquez, who I’m pretty sure was already a veteran during the first ever Copa America in 1916, has some scoring in him. El Tri has proved that they’re a strong title contender with one of the tournament’s meanest defenses.
Colombia has danced their way into the quarterfinals after a victory over 10-men Paraguay. Star player James Rodriguez has been lighting up the field, reminiscent to his World Cup performances. The Madrid midfielder has two goals already in two games, and his vision and domination of the ball makes him the most dangerous midfielder of the tournament, so far. Their quarterfinals opponent will come from possibly the weakest group in the competition. Therefore, anything less than a semifinal appearance could be considered a failure.
Last year’s runners-up defeated the holding champions Chile 2-1 without the best player in the world. A possessed Di Maria led Argentina to a victory that could’ve been worse had Higuain not started. Much like in the World Cup, Argentina’s defense had a very reliable core. Ironically, only left back Marcos Rojo played in the World Cup. Otamendi started during last year’s Copa America, but both Mercado and Funes Mori have made their impact this year. If Di Maria wasn’t enough to scare you, remember that Argentina have a secret weapon no one else has. Some short dude named Messi who is rumored to be kind of good. Messi did not play the game against Chile and is rumored to make his debut against Panama. With Messi on the right, Di Maria on the left and possibly Aguero in the center, Argentina’s forwards seems very menacing.
Every tournament has their black horse. Peru had the potential to be the case this year, but after losing their 2-0 lead to Ecuador and needing a win against Brazil, their chances appear slim.
The Copa America is far from over, and the best is yet to come. So far, these are the teams that jumped out as the main title contenders. The way the tournament is designed, we could see all of these teams in the semi finals, but again, this is soccer, and anything can happen.