Copa America Group Stages

While this Argentina v Chile match is in its baby stage (first ten minutes) I’m going to take a few moments to draft my thoughts on the group stages as a whole. Top five takeaways from this group stage (throwing in a bit of my Euro watching as well).

1. Messi is incredible and Ronaldo is incredibly meh.

Okay, so Ronaldo isn’t totally worthless as a player. He’s done some great things in his day. But I couldn’t help feeling watching him and Zlatan versus Messi and Bale and thinking that Messi and Bale (the quiet ones) are actually worth the hype they get. Ronaldo, the last two times I’ve watched him, has done all but nothing in the matches and his teams won in spite of his lack of inspiration (OH WAIT they didn’t beat Iceland because HA. But they did win the Champion’s League final). Again, Sweden with Zlatan might have been a different Sweden (he did force an own-goal), but I could pick out several other players of his quality who could fill that same role…if they were Swedish.

Messi, on the other hand, comes on and in a matter of what, ten, fifteen minutes? He scores a hat trick. Every time he steps on the field, you don’t lose track of him as a spectator. He makes himself known. You cannot question that he had a big hand in his team’s success when he was on the field, and Argentina without Messi isn’t exactly a team to sniff at.

2. Neither the USA nor France have been great hosts….but I’d take either over Russia.

Let’s just be real. The reffing in the Copa has at times left something to be desired (although certain countries seemed to come in as kamikaze missions rather than football matches), with books so full of names it was a wonder at times that anyone was left on the field but the keepers. And that’s not even mentioning the money-minded locations and scheduling that has definitely favored some teams over others. Sure, it’s not malicious, it’s money. But that’s not really the point, is it? Uruguay was screwed.

And speaking of Uruguay being screwed (don’t worry, we’ll come back to this), can I just say that the one anthem I did NOT want to hear an extra time was Chile’s? I’m sure it’s lovely. Whatever. But at these things, it always ends up sounding like a circus theme and it just sticks out like a sore thumb. So, poor form by the organizers.

As far as France, the reffing has been good, but the country itself has been a bit of a mess. Forgetting the hooliganism and the terrorist attack that I won’t talk on more because all I know is police casualties happened – who thought it was a good idea to hold a major international tournament in a country where strikes happen ALL THE TIME? The labor “protests” which were more like riots shut down the ESPN coverage out of Paris today and they had to run things out of Connecticut while their locale was evacuated.

(BTW, it’s now minute 15 and it’s 2-0 Argentina)

My brother happened to be coming home from Italy the other day and he had to come through France and Air France announced that they were going to have a strike and released the dates of that strike (start and end) in advance. Lucky for him, it started pretty much a day or two after his flight out. But what does a strike like that even accomplish except pissing everybody off who needs to get places on those dates? Surely that isn’t productive. I hope it isn’t.

That being said, with all the issues of hooliganism of Russian fans, past issues they’re only now having lifted from their records, and the behavior of Russian fans INSIDE the stadium against England, I think that takes the cake in both tournaments as the most despicable thing. Even more than the homophobic chants of Mexican fans. And Russia, mind, is going to be a major tournament HOST.

Who thought that was a good idea?

Oh, yeah. Another decision made by money. Hmm.

3. The USA is not worthless

As an American, I don’t expect much out of the USA men’s team. Actually, I expect more out of the England team, which is my true love. It doesn’t usually matter because our women are so boss, but we’ve held our own and made it out of the group stage. I’m actually thinking we could make a good and brave showing moving forward. And…that’s all I’ve got on that.

4. Some crazy entertaining shit has happened during this tournament that doesn’t even involve actually playing football.

One of those things generally is the way the refs are CONSTANTLY being surrounded by bitching players. I would like to point out that this hasn’t really happened, by and large, at the Euros, and it’s such a huge disruption to the match. If I were the refs, I would probably be fearing for my life (like legitly), but as a spectator it’s proved a good spectacle, even when the games hadn’t been.

Secondly, and more specifically, is the Suarez thing. Now, the last time there was a “Suarez thing” he’d bit someone – again. This time, he didn’t even do anything wrong. He was on the injured list, perhaps to save him from the temptation to play him when he really was NOT fit and earn the ire of his club team if he got injured more seriously. Whatever the reasoning, he clearly had some crossed wires, because – and if you’ve not seen this, watch footage of it, it’s HILARIOUS – he is taping up. He’s warming up. He’s all ready to go on, and then when he realizes they are making the final substitution and they’re about to be knocked out if they lose and that sub is NOT HIM he throws a fit. He yells at the manager. He throws his gear. He’s royally upset, which is better than not wanting to play, granted.

But it’s the only time ever I’ve felt sorry for him, and I can’t even imagine the agony those final minutes were for him, knowing he was going to end his Copa America this year without spending a minute of playing time on the pitch.

At least he didn’t incur more suspensions?

5. I’m mildly in love with Fernando Fiore

Among the pundits for the Fox Sports coverage of the Copa America, Fernando is easily my favorite. I’ve not seen him before because I don’t watch much football in this hemisphere, but while I’m familiar with Alexi Lalas, Fernando is PERFECT. Not only are they great compliments to each other, but Fernando is so refreshing!

Regardless of what you think about what he says (or…doesn’t say?) he’s just such a natural entertainer. Unlike so many of the football players who are so not natural performers, smiling awkwardly at the camera when they bother to look at it with no natural charisma (I won’t name names for the sake of kindness, but I can think of several off the top of my head), Fernando is born for that camera. He milks it, and every time he’s on the screen, he makes me smile.

I also feel like he’s been so beneficial to me in this tournament because he knows SO MUCH about his region, and he answers my questions before I realize I have them. That’s a valuable journalist particularly in a tournament like this, with so much happening ad so much to say.

WELL, that’s all that, and I’d like to say that it’s now the 33rd minute and Argentina’s Lavezzi just scored their third goal. I’d say that’s more or less the game done, wouldn’t you?

What have your big takeaways been from the Copa? What strikes you so far? What are you looking forward to going forward? What do you want me to talk about awkwardly in the post I’m planning for tomorrow?





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