Brazil, Uruguay strong in Copa America, Argentina stutters

Uruguay is the Copa America’s most successful team with 15 titles. (AFP)
Updated 25 June 2019

Brazil, Uruguay strong in Copa America, Argentina stutters

  • Take a closer look at the Copa America quarterfinals this week

SÃO PAULO: The group stage of the Copa America ended with Brazil and Uruguay still the favorites and Argentina still unable to meet expectations.
Colombia also impressed early on, finishing with a perfect record and without conceding any goals, while two-time defending champion Chile stuttered after a good start.
The quarterfinals of the South American competition begin Thursday with host Brazil taking on old foe Paraguay in Porto Alegre, and a day later in Rio de Janeiro it will be Argentina facing a Venezuela team it has struggled against recently.
Also Friday, Colombia plays Chile in São Paulo, and on Saturday Uruguay’s attacking duo of Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani will face Peru in Salvador.
Here’s a closer look at the Copa America quarterfinals this week:
BRAZIL-PARAGUAY
Brazil got off to a slow start, being booed by the local crowd in its first two matches, but the 5-0 rout of Peru eased the pressure on coach Tite and boosted the team’s confidence entering the knockout stage.
Paraguay barely survived the first round, advancing with only two points as one of the best third-place finishers from the three groups. But it played better than the results showed, letting victory escape against Argentina only because of a missed penalty kick in the second half.
Brazil easily beat Paraguay the last time the teams met — in a World Cup qualifier two years ago. But it was Paraguay that eliminated Brazil the last two times the “Seleção” made it to the Copa America quarterfinals, in 2011 and 2015. Paraguay came out on top in penalty shootouts both times.
“It will be a difficult match, we will need to be very focused,” Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho said. “But the team is full of confidence, things are going well for us right now.”
VENEZUELA-ARGENTINA
Argentina would normally be favored against Venezuela, but this time there is reason for concern for Lionel Messi and his teammates.
While Argentina continues to struggle and just escaped elimination in the group stage, Venezuela enters the quarterfinals carrying good momentum.
“We will have to play better against Venezuela,” Messi said. “It’s a team with very clear ideas in attack, with very quick players.”
Venezuela, which held Brazil to a 0-0 draw in the group stage, defeated Argentina 3-1 in a friendly in Madrid in March. It drew its previous two matches with the Argentines, both in qualifying for the last World Cup.
After losing the last two Copa America finals, Argentina remains on a quest to end a 26-year title drought with the senior squad.
COLOMBIA-CHILE
Chile’s title defense will go through a red-hot Colombia, the only team to win all of its matches and not concede any goals.
James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao will be taking on Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas, two of Chile’s leaders in the title-winning campaigns of 2015 and 2016.
The Chileans couldn’t avoid the Colombians because it lost to Uruguay 1-0 in the final group game, when midfielder Arturo Vidal was among those rested by coach Reinaldo Rueda, a Colombian.
Colombia is led by Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz, and is seeking its first South American title since 2001.
URUGUAY-PERU
With Suárez and Cavani thriving, Uruguay will be favored against a Peruvian squad coming off a demoralizing loss to Brazil that prompted a wave of criticism against Argentine coach Ricardo Gareca.
Peru’s defense is the worst among the teams in the quarterfinals, with six goals conceded in three matches. Uruguay has the second-best attack with eight goals, one less than Brazil.
Cavani and Suárez have already scored two goals each for Uruguay, while Peru striker Paolo Guerrero has only one.
Uruguay is the Copa America’s most successful team with 15 titles, one more than Argentina. Uruguay’s last continental title was in 2011.


Jason Day shoots 66, trails by 2 strokes at CJ Cup

Updated 18 October 2019

Jason Day shoots 66, trails by 2 strokes at CJ Cup

JEJU ISLAND, SOUTH KOREA : Jason Day’s attempt to impress International team captain Ernie Els for a spot at the Presidents Cup took a positive turn on Thursday when the Australian shot a 6-under 66 to sit two strokes off the lead after the opening round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.

In the first event of a three-tournament PGA Tour swing through Asia, Byeong Hun An took the lead with a 64 with Joaquin Niemann a stroke behind in second. Day was alone in third place.

Day is hoping Els will choose him as a captain’s pick for the International team against the Tiger Woods-captained US team in December at Royal Melbourne.

“Overall, it’s a great start,” Day said. “I’m excited for the rest of the week.”

He said before his first round that he was still hoping for a Presidents Cup spot.

“It is certainly disappointing not to make the team on my own merits. But it is a reminder that nothing is given to you in this game,” Day said.

“I certainly want to be on the team and believe I can be an asset to the Internationals. Being in my home country certainly gives me an edge and I’ve had some success on the sand-belt (courses) and Royal Melbourne in the past.”

Defending champion Brooks Koepka shot a 69 with an eagle on the 18th, his final hole. Last year’s runner-up Gary Woodland had a 71.

Justin Thomas, who won the inaugural 2017 CJ Cup, shot 68 and Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth each shot 70. Spieth is looking to end a lengthy drought — he hasn’t won since the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale, a span of 54 tournaments worldwide.

“Overall a good way to start. I felt I played a lot better than my score,” Thomas said. “Anytime you play where you’ve won before, it creates a lot of good memories.”

Kevin Na, who won in a playoff in Las Vegas two weeks ago, had a 72 and Sergio Garcia shot 73.

There are 78 players in the no-cut, limited-field event.

The top-ranked Koepka stirred some controversy on Wednesday when he pointed out that Rory McIlroy, his closest challenger for the No. 1 ranking, has not won a major since the American joined the PGA Tour in 2015. He was responding to a question about a rivalry between the pair.

“I’m not looking at anybody behind me. I’m No. 1 in the world,” Koepka said. “I’ve got open road in front of me. I’m not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry. I’ve been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour.”