Cesár González golazo contra Ecuador, Copa América 2011

On 9 July 2011 Cesár González scored one of the best goals of the 2011 Copa América tournament to give Venezuela a 1-0 win against Ecuador and move themselves to the top of group B and within touching distance of qualifying for the knockout stage. The result can be seen as further evidence that Venezuela have finally shed their traditional status as the whipping boys of South American football.

The quality of the strike was reminiscent of another stunning long range strike for Venezuela in a 1-0 win against Ecuador.

Part of the Golazo series.

Copa América 2011 Predictions

My predictions for the Copa América 2011 tournament.

Group A


Argentina host Copa América for the first time since 1987 and nothing short of a win for the 14 time continetal champions would satisfy the home support. With players like Lionel Messi, Angel Di María, Javier Pastore, Ever Banega, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Sergio Agüero there is an undisputable wealth of talent in the Argentine squad however there are three factors counting against them.
  1. Once again, as in several previous tournaments, the majority of of the most talented players in their squad are attacking players who will be vying for limited places in the starting line-up while the Argentine defensive line is far from inspiring.
  2. The manager Sergio Batista is untested at this level and has made several questionable tactical decisions in the warm up games resulting in defeats to Japan Nigeria and Poland over the last year. They have also recorded some great results most notably their 4-1 demolition of world champions Spain and a 1-0 win against Brazil but serious questions remain about whether Batista has what it takes to win at the highest level.
  3. The advantage of playing the tournament on home soil is hugely diminished by the fact that 22 of their 23 players are based with European clubs and the only home based player is error prone goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo who's mistakes played a big part in River Plate's relegation to the Argentine 2nd division. A few more home based players in the squad would surely have been beneficial.
Despite these complaints I find it hard to envisage such a talented side built around the best player in the world failing to make their 3rd consecutive Copa América final and with the home crowd behind them at Estadio Monumental this team should be capable of ending Argentina's long wait for a senior international trophy.

Prediction: Winner 


Argentina look by far the strongest side in group A but Colombia should feel confident about bagging a place in the quarter-finals. Colombia have not impressed at Copa América since they won their first and only title in 2001 but their squad for this event has a number of quality players including Falcao and Freddy Guarín of Porto, Teó Gutierrez of Argentine side Racing Club, the enigmatic talent of Dayro Moreno, veteran Milan defender Mario Yepes and Hugo Rodallega of Wigan Athletic.

I reckon there is not enough strength in depth for Colombia to progress past the quarter-finals however some good performances in the early stages could bode well for the future of Colombian football.

Prediction: Quarter-finals


Bolivian football has fallen a long way back from the high tide mark of reaching the Copa América final in 1997. The strength of their squad can be determined by the fact that only five of the team currently play outside Bolivian domestic football, which is now by far the weakest domestic league in the CONMEBOL region. Shakhtar Donesk forward Marcelo Martins is their star player but the rest of the squad just underlines the problems in Bolivian football. The older generation have been under-achieving for over a decade but there are only five under-25s in the squad. The fact that the squad is made up of older players doesn't offer much in the way of big game experience either with only five of their older players boasting more than 30 caps. It is hard to see Bolivia achieving much in this tournament or using the experience to build for the future.

Prediction: 3rd in group (qualification dependent on standings in other groups)

Costa Rica

Last minute invitees Costa Rica have by far the most inexperienced side in the tournament with 11 of their 23 players without a single cap. The most experienced player in the team is 27 year old Saprissa defender Heiner Mora who only has 13 caps. Only two of the squad play outside Costa Rica, 18 year old Jacinto Calvo who plays college "soccer" in the United States and 22 year old forward Diego Madrigal who plays for Cerro Porteño in Paraguay.

I can't see anything but trouble for such an inexperienced side and hope that the confidence of some of these young players is not shattered by the maulings they will do well to avoid against Argentina and Colombia. If they can get a result against Bolivia they may well sneak into 3rd place but even if that leads to a quarter-final place they would be staring down the barrel of another mauling at the hands of Argentina or Brazil.

Prediction: Eliminated in group stage

Group B


Back-to-back winners Brazil have a highly talented squad as usual including wonderful attacking talents such as Pato, Neymar, Lucas and Robinho, however as with Argentina their fate is much more likely to be determined by the quality of their defensive players. Aside from 33 year old Lucio looks set to make his 100th appearance for Brazil during the tournament and Liverpool's Lucas Leiva who has steadily developed into one of the world's best defensive midfielders their squad looks much less robust than the teams that won in 2004 and 2007. This may be no bad thing, I'd much rather watch a fluent attacking Brazil akin to the legendary sides of old entertaining but falling short that the efficient and results orientated sides that have ground out so much success in recent decades.

Prediction: Semi-finalist


Argentine manager Gerardo Martino has crafted a well balanced and tactically disciplined side that ran Spain really close in the Quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup. He has stuck with pretty much the same team and tactics and I expect Paraguay to be the dark horses of the tournament. They have a good blend of youth and experience without actually having many world famous superstars. The squad would look even better if their human battering ram of a striker Salvador Cabañas had not been forced into retirement after being shot in the head in Mexico last year. The most famous name on the teamsheet is probably Roque Santa Cruz, who like team mates Paulo da Silva and Christian Riveros he has been strugging to get any first team action in Premier League football.

There are plenty of other less famous names in the squad my particular favourites are Nelson Rivas who ran rings around the Spanish defence until Carlos Puyol blatantly hacked him out of the game, Argentine born midfielders Néstor Ortigoza and Jonathan Santana, Enrique Vera of Liga de Quito and the defenders Antolín Alcaraz and Paolo da Silva.

If Paraguay finish second in the group they look set to face a tough tie against Chile or Uruguay however as the most well balanced squad in the tournament I reckon they could well make it to the semi's where they would almost certainly face a rematch against Brazil.

Prediction: Runners-up


Ecuador have a well balanced squad that is possibly a little on the old side and a little lightweight in attack. Their most famous players are José Valencia of Manchester United, former Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo former Birmingham striker Christian Benítez and another player that never really made it in England Segundo Castillo.

This tournament looks like the first real test for the successors to the golden generation of Ecuadorian football and I fancy them to put in a few decent displays in what is undoubtedly the toughest group.

Prediction: To qualify for quarter-finals as best 3rd placed side but eliminated by Argentina.


In 2007 Venezuela made history by progressing from the group stage for the first time ever and with the expansion of their domestic Primera División, Venezuelan football is continuing to make positive forward steps. Venezuela only just missed out on their first ever World Cup qualification finishing just two points behind eventual semi-finalists Uruguay. They have two vastly experienced players in Juan Manuel Rey and Juan Arango and one of the real standout players from the 2011 South American Youth Championships in Yohandry Orozco. I can't see Venezuela escaping from group B, but hopefully Orozco will light up the tournament and the rest of the team will do enough for the positive vibe in Venezuelan football to continue.

Prediction: Eliminated in group stage

 Group C


After their wonderful performance in the 2010 World Cup and Peñarol's surprise passage to the Copa Libertadores final optimism is high in Uruguay. They have a team stuffed with quality players, most notably Luis Suarez of Liverpool and Edinson Cavani of Napoli. they also have plenty of experience in the shape of former two time European golden boot winner Diego Forlan, international journeyman footballer Sebastián "loco" Abreu and captain Diego Lugano. The fact that there wasn't room in the squad for a single Peñarol player after their run to the Copa Libertadores final comes as a bit of a surprise especially the exclusion of Luis Aguilar who looked a hell of a prospect in the Copa Libertadores game I saw him play.

Uruguay have been blessed with an easy looking group with a Mexico under-23 side in turmoil and a Peru side that really struggle for goals and results away from home.

Argentina and Uruguay are tied on 14 wins each in the tournament and nothing would be sweeter for the Uruguayans than to take their 15th title on Argentine soil however I see them falling short, especially if they win their group because bizarrely the group winners face look set to face much tougher quarter-final opponents from Group B  (probably Paraguay or Ecuador) than the group runners-up who would look set to face an easier game against Colombia, Costa Rica or Bolivia from group A.

Prediction: Quarter-finals if they win the group / semi's if they finish as runners-up


With their senior side having just played and won the North American Gold Cup Mexico have been allowed to send a side packed with under-23 players to Copa América. The squad was further thinned when eight players were sent home after misdemeanours at their hotel. 22 year old Giovani Dos Santos is their most experienced player with 45 caps and Pablo Aguilar is the only other player to have made more than ten appearances for the senior national team. It is really hard to make any kind of predictions when I have barely heard of the majority of their squad, except that they wont be reaching the semi-finals as they did in 2007.

Prediction: 3rd in group (qualification dependent on standings in other groups)


New Chile manager Claudio Borghi has praised th work of his predecessor Marcelo Bielsa and has stuck with the majority of the side that impressed in the 2010 World Cup. They have a number of exciting players such as Alexis Sánchez of Udinese, 30 year old Monterrey striker Humberto Suazo, Matías Fernández of Sporting Lisbon, Sevilla midfielder Gary Medel and Jean Beausejour who found himself unfairly sidelined by defensive minded Birmingham City manager Alex Mcleish for the majority of the 2010-11 season.

Chile should progress to the quarter finals at least and if they finish as runners-up in the group I fancy them to reach the semi's by beating one of the weaker sides from group A, however if they win their group they will have a much tougher task against a side from group B.

Prediction: Quarter-finals if they win the group / semi's if they finish as runners-up


Peru have really struggled to score goals away from home but Copa América will present them with an opportunity to move on from their embarrasingly poor record in the 2010 World Cup qualification group. They have made positive steps under coach Sergio Markarián however their squad has a distinct lack of experience with 15 of their 23 players having made 10 or fewer appearances for the senior national team.

Prediction: Eliminated in group stage.