Sunday, 17 July 2011

Continuing our successful Quarterfinal predicitons

With the first two quarterfinals done and dusted, and after the resounding, undeniable success of yesterday’s predictions, enjoy Man On!'s foray into the next two games the Copa has to offer...

First up, Brazil. Like Argentina, guilty of some well-publicised underwhelming performances before springing to life in their final group game. Against Ecuador, Pato and Neymar opened their accounts with two goals each, but the concerns remain that Brazil would benefit from a true centre-forward. Despite goals for the two strikers, the change in Brazil’s fortunes didn’t come from up front, but at right back. Maicon came in for the underperforming Dani Alves and made a real difference to the balance of the side, contributing an assist. His performance certainly warrants another start on Sunday.

In Brazil’s quarterfinal the opponents come in the familiar shape of Paraguay. When the two sides met in the group stage, only Fred’s last minute goal denied Paraguay what would have been a famous victory, and they will be full of confidence that they can repeat the heroics of one week ago, especially as Brazil are unlikely to add a focal-point to their attack in the shape of a true number 9. This game sees the tournament’s two top-scoring sides face-off, but don’t necessarily expect goals galore. With the caution that comes with a previous encounter under their belts and on a poor pitch in La Plata, both teams will also be desperate to avoid adding to their ample ‘goals conceded’ column as well.

Quarterfinal prediction Brazil 1-1 Paraguay, Brazil to win on penalties.

After the underperformance of all the seeds in this competition, many people would point to Chile as a team with the potential to go all the way. Talismanic striker Humberto Suazo is yet to find the net and despite scoring the equaliser against Uruguay Alexis Sanchez has not played as well as he is capable of. All the same, Chile put in some good performances so far and are perhaps the most well-balanced side in the entire competition. The attractive football that many of you will remember from the World Cup is continuing into the Copa, but as always the Chileans don’t throw caution to the wind and tend not to push on until mid-way through the second half.

The last side to make up the quarterfinals are the unbeaten Vinotinto, Venezuela. Definitely the opponents that the Chileans would have chosen themselves but underestimate them at your peril. On paper, more of a force going forward than reliable at the back, but something of an anomaly in the game against Paraguay might be skewing that figure. In reality, the Venezuelans certainly know how to defend, as they showed against Brazil and Ecuador. Cesar Farias’ side can be astoundingly resilient and might spring a surprise here.

Quarterfinal prediction Chile 1-0 Venezuela

Man On! are fortunate enough to be heading to La Plata this afternoon, and will be no doubt spanking all our hard earned cash on Quilmes, Choris and betting against Brazil. Don’t follow our lead, you saw how yesterday’s predictions went!

Friday, 15 July 2011

La Copa begins in earnest

The results are in. With the group stage over, you have had a day to catch your breath, sip your mate and take in the best Argentina has to offer. For Man On! it was more a case of having a night off,  picking our brains for something to write and sorting out our ticket to the final. I’m sure you will be relieved to hear that, after some gruelling hard work, all three of these goals have been achieved. 

The first week of the Copa was hardly rollercoaster stuff. You don’t need your finger particularly firmly on the pulse to have noticed that favourites have underperformed, centre-forwards and their goals have gone AWOL and that the most over-quoted stat of the last fortnight involves Venezuela, Copa America wins and Miss Universe competitions. In fact, the lack of action was so stark that we bet that not all of you were still paying attention when late flurry of goals, slightly more befitting of South America’s football showpiece, finally arrived. With this in mind, Man On! is proud to bring you up to speed on what’s happened so far and what to expect in the coming weeks. First, to Saturday’s quarterfinals…

Some reports would have you believe that Colombia topped Group A purely because of some terrible performances from Argentina. Although based in fact, this fails to tell the entire story. Of course, victories against perennial minnows Bolivia and a ten-man, predominantly under-23 Costa Rica do not justify hyperbolic praise. However, against the tournament hosts Colombia posed a real and dangerous threat and only failed to win for the grace of a man of the match performance from goalkeeper Sergio Romero. With Radamel Falcao leading the line after a prolific season at Porto (39 goals in 42 games), Colombia should be seen as a side capable of taking advantage if the favourites continue to slip up.

In Cordoba, their opponents will be Peru, who qualified for the quarterfinals as the best third-placed side from the group stages. Under Uruguayan coach Sergio Markarián they play an expansive, attacking brand of football. However, they are certainly over-reliant on Hamburg’s Paolo Guerrero, scorer of both their goals in the Copa thus far. La Rojiblanca are certainly capable of springing a surprise, but also of a late defensive lapse and of poor marking from set-pieces, as seen against Chile in Mendoza. 

Quarterfinal prediction: Colombia 3-1 Peru

Saturday’s other game sees the return to action of the hosts, Argentina. After well-publicised no shows against Bolivia and Colombia their array of attacking talent rediscovered their touch versus Costa Rica. Batista changed his formation to what was effectively a 4-2-3-1, and we finally got a glimpse of the Lionel Messi that we all know and love. Equally significant was the introduction of Gonzalo Higuain to the starting line-up. Despite missing most of the chances that Messi laid on a plate for him, he successfully dragged defenders out of position and open up plenty of space for the three behind him to play into. Presuming that the much-maligned Batista sticks with his new improved game-plan, you can expect to see Argentina firing on all cylinders again on Saturday.

Just over the Rio de la Plata await Argentina’s fierce rivals Uruguay. Man On! was lucky enough to be in La Plata for their nervier-than-necessary win over Mexico and can confirm that La Celeste are indeed yet to find the form that saw them reach the World Cup semifinals last summer. Diego Forlan seems to be carrying an indifferent season with Atletico over into this tournament, and Luis Suarez continues to perform better at club level than on the international stage. However, even without their attacking powerhouses playing as they can, organised at the back they certainly are. If, as rumoured, Cavani is out for el clásico rioplatense then chances might be at a premium, but Uruguay can normally rely on a stable defensive unit. Versus Mexico, Egidio Arévalo looked particularly controlled sweeping up in front of the back four.

Quarterfinal prediction: Argentina 1-0 Uruguay, and expect fireworks.