Thursday, July 05, 2007

I still don't care about the Copa America

Although I am deriving a certain amount of schadenfreude from the USA's suckitude. This is what you get from sending the third-string so you could beat up on teams in the Gold Cup instead (yes, I am still bitter over them knocking Canada out). I mean, I understand that you can't send the same squad to two back-to-back tournaments. But if you really want to be taken seriously in the footballing world, maybe you should send the better team to the tougher tournament. On the other hand, this way they have a built-in excuse for their non-performance in Venezuela, and they don't have to face the fact that they're really not as good as they think they are.

Anyway, in the tournament that people who aren't me (or US Soccer) actually care about, Brazil have scraped into the next round by beating Ecuador in their final group game. They finished second to Mexico in Group B, with third-place Chile also qualifying for the quarter-finals and Ecuador eliminated. Hosts Venezuela are on top of Group A, despite only winning one game, because everybody in that group has been beating each other. The exception is Bolivia, who are going home winless, while Peru and Uruguay are in to the next round. In Group C, Paraguay and Argentina have already qualified for the quarter-finals despite not having played their third game, with the USA and Columbia amassing zero points so far.

The quarter-finals, starting on Saturday, feature Venezuela v. Uruguay, Chile v. Brazil, and Peru and Mexico against the first- and second-place finishers in Group C, respectively (Paraguay or Argentina). For those of us who don't have digital cable, TLN in Canada is showing all the games with Spanish commentary.*

* I just went to check to see if/when the Copa America was on here and they've discontinued their Canadian TV listings. Anyone know if there's another site that would have those? I know about Live Soccer TV, but their search interface is kind of a pain.


Amanda said...

Oh, god, you're going to make me defend the US's team selection, aren't you? Bah. Okay, here goes: while I think everyone would agree that the Copa America is the more prestigious tournament, it's also not entirely relevant to the US's immediate goals. Winning it, which they were never going to do, even with their strongest squad, would have gotten them nothing in terms of the Confederations Cup or financial reward. Copa (sorry, that's what I'm calling it) is essentially a no-stakes tournament for the US; while getting to the quarters or whatever would have been nice, that's all it would have been. For better or worse, the US is in CONCACAF, and I don't think you can fairly blame them for the weakness of the conference. (Um, generic "you.") In the short term, winning their conference tournament still has to be the priority.

Therefore, since there was no real benefit to winning, it seems like the US decided to treat Copa as essentially a practice tournament, calling up the next-generation players and a few more established ones. One of the things they were faulted for after the World Cup was only playing against weaker teams, which hurt them when they got groups of death. Well, again, it's not the US's fault CONCACAF is weak, and they have to play Gold Cup. But now a lot of the players likely to be in the mix for 2010 (assuming qualification) will have experience against more quality teams. So, yeah, this is really a developmental squad, but I don't think that's necessarily bad.

Finally, you have to look at the issue of availability. Since Copa isn't the conference tournament for the US, releasing players for it was optional on the part of their clubs. Especially with European clubs starting training so early, this meant that many of the more experienced players had to return. (And even that doesn't take into account the fatigue issues.) So even if they had wanted to pick the exact same team as for Gold Cup, there was no way they would have been able to. While I agree it's a significantly weaker team than I would have liked, I think it'll pay off in the long run.


Jen said...

Hmmm. You make some good points. I'd argue, though, that it might have made sense to send the more experienced players to the Copa America to give them more top-level experience, and the "developmental" squad to the Gold Cup to ease them in. I mean, you'd still want to send a strong enough team to the Gold Cup to give them a good chance of winning, but Mexico was really the only team that were strong challengers there. (Incidentally, any idea what Mexico did in terms of selecting players? I can't be bothered looking it up.)

Also, I just like to snark at the USMNT. So, you know.

Amanda said...

Well, there I think you run into the problem of availability. If Gold Cup were later in the summer, it might make more sense (and you might have club teams be more willing to release players). But as it is, the majority of the more experienced players are somewhere in Europe (probably at Fulham), and going to run into problems with release. So the US was, I think, hampered to a large extent by the fact they were only invitees to the tournament and not required to attend. (A side issue, I guess, is that there's not a lot of mid-level players; people tend to either have 30+ caps or under 10. I don't know why that is, but I blame Arena.)

As far as Mexico, I have no idea what they did, but I think they don't have nearly as many players in Europe. And they probably had a little bit of hurt pride after losing Gold Cup, so who knows?

linda said...

Mexico had quite a few players beg out because they were 'tired' and wanted rest before going back to their European clubs, hence the surprise at them actually pulling themselves together for this tournament and doing so well. :)