No Excuses for Argentina as Copa America Playoffs Begin
Argentina is the No. 3-ranked national team in the entire world.
Argentina has arguably the single best player in the world.
Argentina has won this tournament 14 times.
There are no excuses for Argentina this year as we begin the Copa America playoff. Just eight teams remain as Chile defeated (and eliminated) Uruguay in the first round of the knockout stage. Argentina is obviously one of those seven squads remaining having won Group B.
The other teams remaining include Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile and Paraguay.
Argentina entered this tournament as heavy favorites, and they are still the front-runner to win it all. They weren't exactly ultra impressive in group stage play having beat Jamaica by just one goal, and drew a tie against Paraguay, 2-2. In that contest, Argentina blew a 2-0 lead. Even their victory over rival Uruguay was just 1-0. Argentina won Group B with seven points scoring just four goals and allowing two.
Regardless of points accumulated or group stage play, Argentina has to get the job done this year for a number of reasons. Messi won't be in the prime of his career forever. The Copa America is the single greatest soccer tournament in all of South America, but it is also the hardest and most difficult to win. Pele may have led Brazil to three World Cup victories, but he never did win a Copa America championship.
Many fans thought Argentina would bring home the trophy last time in 2011 because they were the host nation, but that dream ended sooner than expected. Argentina was bounced in the quarterfinals against Uruguay by penalty kicks. Uruguay would go on to win their record 15th Copa America championship, surpassing Argentina for most all-time. Argentina won't be playing at home anytime soon in this tournament. The 2016 Copa America will be played in the United States, 2019 in Brazil, and 2023 in Ecuador.
Aside from not returning home until at least 2027, Uruguay being eliminated, and having the best player in the world, Argentina also benefits from superstars being absent. Brazil is without their most talented player, Neymar, who is suspended for the reminder of the competition. Who would have thought Argentina wouldn't have to face Neymar or Luis Suarez (both Barcelona players) on their way to a championship? Opportunities won't come around like this very often, if ever again.
Colombia is still a very young squad who managed to get just one win in group stage play. Brazil is always viewed as a "powerhouse team" because of their championship success, but Neymar's suspension and an ankle injury to goalkeeper Diego Alves leaves wide gaps with this squad. Peru, Paraguay and Bolivia are great squads, but they lack superstar talent.
One could make the case that Chile will be Argentina's biggest threat. If Chile and Argentina do meet, it would be in the championship game on July 4. Chile must defeat the winner of the Peru vs. Bolivia game while Argentina must win two more games. Chile has never won a Copa America, but they are very balanced from top to bottom. Chile's biggest issue is consistency. A 3-3 draw against Mexico's backups, and 1-0 win over Suarez-less Uruguay isn't extremely convincing.
If Argentina can win three more games they will successfully win it all. Argentina should be able to close the deal considering they were just in the World Cup finals and they are very experienced. The only question now is, can they handle the pressure?