Copa Draw: Sore Backsides or 4-6 Points?

As everyone's seen by now, the draw for this summer's Copa America was completed last night and the three groups set. And here is what the United States Men's National Team (USMNT) and everyone else in the tournament is looking at starting in late June:

Group A
Venezeula (host)

Group B

Group C
United States (gulp!)

As An American's View usefully points out (or that's where I saw it first, at least), qualifying for the second round of the Copa America is a little like reaching the MLS playoffs (not his phrasing, by the way, but mine): 8 of the the twelve teams will make that cut - the top two from each group, plus the top two third placed teams.

An American's View also happens to be the most optimistic about our chances, stating toward the bottom of his post that he "likes the USA's chances of advancing" and doesn't see any reason why we shouldn't get four or six points. The best answer to that optimism appears in Luis Arroyave's Red Card, specifically, this line:

"July 4, the U.S. plays Paraguay in its final group stage game. Doesn't sound very intimidating, does it? Then again, that's what people said about Ghana and we all know how that went."

To get a little tangential, I'm consistently fascinated at how soccer fans (or even political observers for that matter) reach the conclusions they do about which teams will do what. I'm closer to Arroyave's thinking, but holding up Ghana as a cautionary example hardly makes the case for anything more than caution. Put another way, what do I know about the current form of Paraguay, never mind Colombia, who didn't even compete in the 2006 World Cup (right? yep.) On the other hand, why not look at Argentina and wonder whether they won't wilt on the occasion, as they nearly did against Mexico?

At any rate, that seems a fair caveat to insert before posting a roundup of the rest of the prognostications I encountered in today's wanderings: "Totally hosed" reads the headline at du Nord, though that could be a commentary on how lucky Venezuela appears to have been with their group; while the content of his post focuses on his frustration that we passed on the Copa America for so many years, Luis Bueno also doesn't seem to like our chances; and a headline like, "Group of Death Redux" says enough about where Sports Illustrated is with this draw.

UPDATE: I missed a blogger in my roundup: Mike H from My Soccer Blog. He took a unique approach to figuring our chances in Group C: he looked at our past records against the teams in question. Novel idea.

With all this read and acknowledged, where am I?

Think of the Copa as a plate of unbuttered brussel sprouts; this isn't about pleasure or happiness, but health. And long-term health at that. So put me down on the sore backside half of the ledger. Argentina will want to open strong and, with the personnel at their disposal, I'm not sure we can stop them - though I'd still place a call to Francois Oman Biyik in Cameroon for some pointers; my chief, possibly-outdated impression of Paraguay is that they're hard to score against, which should match nicely with our, um, difficulties on offense;

And, no, butter don't mask the fact that brussel sprouts taste like shit.


Brian said...

Yeah, I was one of those last summer thinking that Ghana was the "gimme" match of the World Cup, so I see why people are hesitant to even say we get 1 point in the group phase.

I will say this though, if anyone has learned anything from last year, I think it is Bob Bradley. Where Arena seemed to think that trotting out the same defensive formation would get the USA through to the second round, I think that Bradley will have a different & more flexible approach to this tournament...assuming he is the coach.

Getting destroyed at the World Cup last year could have been the best thing for USA Soccer. It was the catalyst for the USSF getting us into the Copa America and it has instilled a more humble mentality in its supporters. Could this be the point where we finally learn from our mistakes?

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