Thursday, July 25, 2024

Copa America semifinals: What to know about Argentina vs. Canada and Colombia vs. Uruguay

A handful of South America’s best teams plus a North American Cinderella story make up a compelling set of semifinals at the Copa America, which will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday in the U.S. with all eyes on Sunday’s final at Hard Rock Stadium.

Argentina remain the tournament favorites after mostly making easy work of their matches so far, though their penalty shootout win over Ecuador inspired brief worry that Lionel Messi’s quest for perhaps one final international trophy might be cut short. They aim to rebound as the heavy favorites against Canada, who have made a surprising run to the final four just weeks into Jesse Marsch’s tenure as the head coach.

On the other side of the bracket, Colombia and Uruguay meet in the middle of their respective resurgences. Colombia extended their unbeaten run to 27 games with a 5-0 win over Panama, continuing a run that makes them one of the most impressive sides at the Copa America so far. Uruguay have been no slouch, though, demonstrating that they are a top contender after outscoring the opposition 9-1 in the group stage and ousting Brazil in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals.

Ahead of a fascinating bath of semifinal matchups, here are the storylines to keep an eye on once the games begin.

Semifinal schedule and how to watch

All times U.S./Eastern

Tuesday, July 9
Argentina vs. Canada, 8 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

Wednesday, July 10
Uruguay vs. Colombia, 8 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

Argentina vs. Canada, July 9, East Rutherford, N.J.

Argentina’s attacking depth: As long as Messi is at a tournament, the spotlight will naturally shine on him, but Argentina’s run to the semifinals has been all about sharing the spoils with the next generation. A wide variety of attackers have delivered in attack — while Messi has just one assist so far at the Copa America, Lautaro Martinez and Alexis Mac Allister lead the team with four goals and two assists, respectively. It’s a particularly exciting development for Martinez, who has mostly been a substitute since the 2022 World Cup and even came off the bench in the first two games of the Copa America. His form after winning the Golden Boot in Serie A, though, has carried over strongly to the international tournament and he might just be the star of Argentina’s run to the final four.

That is good news for Argentina not just in the short term, but for the long haul. After winning the 2021 Copa America and the 2022 World Cup, La Albiceleste are determined to hang onto their honors in the build-up to the 2026 World Cup. With a multigenerational roster of talent, they have all the potential to be the team to beat in two years’ time.

Can Canada keep it up? Canada’s ambition was obvious when they hired Marsch before his first game in charge last month, but the fact that it paid off so quickly is impressive in its own right. The ultimate test of their progress will come in their game against the No. 1 ranked Argentina, which feels like a textbook definition of a David vs. Goliath match. It forces the question: How far can Canada actually go?

The good news for them is that they have nothing to lose as the underdogs, and they will take plenty of positives from their opening-day defeat to Argentina. Despite losing 2-0 on the day, Canada took 10 shots and posted 1.16 expected goals, demonstrating an ability to do some damage in attack. It’s reflective of their biggest pain point all tournament long — Canada have been wasteful up top, putting just 35% of their shots on target and underperforming on their 5.68 expected goals tally by scoring just twice during the competition. They will still be the underdogs even if they figure out how to score on Tuesday, but the game serves as a measuring stick for them to measure themselves against as they prepare for the 2026 World Cup. There’s little Argentina can do to erase the optimism that Canada will come out of this Copa America with, which makes them a very compelling Cinderella story to follow for the next two years.

Colombia vs. Uruguay, July 10, Charlotte, N.C.

James Rodriguez’s resurgence: James Rodriguez’s ability to rise to the occasion of an international tournament is undefeated, and this Copa America is no exception. He leads the competition with five assists and 14 chances created in four games, serving as the star of an equally impressive Colombia show. Their 5-0 win over Panama in the quarterfinals extended their unbeaten run to 27, making them a real contender to win just their second Copa America title.

It also means that the second Copa America semifinal is set up to be the more competitive of the two. Colombia’s unbeaten run is not just the result of playing clearly inferior opponents, but in recent months includes wins over Spain and Brazil. Regardless of how this Copa America ends for them, they are establishing themselves as one of the most exciting national teams at the moment. While the focus will be on winning the whole thing, this feels like just the start of what could be a very memorable cycle for Colombia.

Uruguay’s dominance: Uruguay’s historic success felt very much like the past for the last few years, but the 15-time Copa America champions feel as close as they have in a long time to staking their claim over the trophy yet again. Marcelo Bielsa’s hiring last year has helped a talented group live up to their potential, and at this tournament, they have outscored their opponents 9-1. Nicolas de la Cruz has been one of the most impressive players at the Copa America so far with 13 chances created and two assists in four games, while Darwin Nunez and Maximilliano Araujo each have two goals so far.

The team also demonstrated a different type of mettle in their penalty shootout victory over Brazil, when they survived a physical game and Nahitan Nandez’s 74th-minute red card to advance to the semifinals for the first time since they won the Copa America in 2011. Wednesday’s semifinal against a competitive Colombia side will be a big test of their resolve, especially without Nandez and potentially without Ronald Araujo, who picked up an injury against Brazil.

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