Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

CONMEBOL: Uruguay provide a victory for football

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 26, 2011

Uruguay Copa AmericaThere will be many who will have gloried in the success of Uruguay in Sunday’s Copa America final. The record champions of football’s oldest international tournament won the competition for the third time on Argentinian soil and 15th time in total in a 3-0 win over surprise finalists Paraguay, Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan (2) doing the damage with the goals.

After all the Uruguayans had shown attacking intent and a positive attitude from the very beginning even if it took them a little while to get into their stride. Paraguay, on the other hand, were prepared to play pragmatically even if it meant the football became devoid of entertainment and ambition. Ironically the only game in which Paraguay showed any ruthlessness in front of goal was also the match in which their defensive line was breached the most, albeit in the last couple of minutes, in the 3-3 draw against Venezuela in the group stage.

What made Uruguay stand out in this tournament was having a couple of stars such as the aforementioned Suarez and Forlan there to compliment the rest of the team. The two teams who were touted as tournament favourites before a ball was kicked, namely Brazil and Argentina, had many more stars in their squads but they couldn’t really gel as teams. After all both nations only managed to scrape a win in their third group stage game in order to seal qualification to the knockout rounds.

Uruguay admittedly got past Argentina in the quarter-finals thanks to the lottery of penalties but they took the game to their eternal rivals on their home turf and did so from early on, Diego Perez’s fifth minute goal proof of their early intent to take the game to their opponents.  However it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that either team could’ve won it in the end such was the attacking nature of the match. Uruguay easily disposed of Peru in the semi-finals once Luis Suarez had grabbed both goals early in the second half. It would’ve been easy to presuppose that Uruguay would change their style ahead of the final in the face of a Paraguay team that had become used to closing teams down and denying them space. This, however, went against the grain of what Uruguay stood for and they proved it in fine style in the Estadio Monumental on Sunday.

Nearly 48 hours after the tournament came to a close and Uruguayan football has a lot to feel happy about right now. Not only did they win the Copa but it has been on the up in the last twelve months having reached the FIFA World Cup semi-finals, their Under-17 team finished runners-up in the FIFA World Under-17 Championship to hosts Mexico earlier this month and their record champion team Peñarol made it to the Copa Libertadores final for the first time since 1988 earlier this year only to lose out to old rivals Santos FC. Hopefully for a nation which was, until recently, a sleeping giant of international football this win will not prove to be a false dawn and that they can build on this success in the future.

CONMEBOL: Paraguay to meet Uruguay in Copa final

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 21, 2011

Copa AmericaThe Copa America will see Uruguay take on Paraguay in the final on Sunday after both nations secured their berths with semi-final victories over Peru and Venezuela respectively.

The Uruguayans are now many people’s favourites to win the competition after their 2-0 win over Peru on Tuesday. A brace from Luis Suárez early in the second half helped him become the tournament’s top scorer, along with Argentina’s Sergio Agüero, on three goals and he will hope to secure himself the Golden Boot as well as the Copa itself in the final. Their attacking approach has endeared itself to the watching public and many will hope they lift the trophy for a record 15th time.

In contrast Paraguay reached the final for the first time since 1979 without winning a single match in regular time. Following three drawn matches in the group phase, Paraguay have played out successive goalless draws against Brazil and Venezuela in the knockout stages so far and have progressed both times thanks to the lottery of a penalty shootout. Venezuela, who reached the semi-finals for the first time, are unlucky not to have gone all the way to the final after hitting the woodwork three times and having a goal disallowed for offside. The match, however, will sadly be remembered for the post-match brawl in which players and officials threw punches at each other and were restrained by local police before things really got out of hand.

If history is anything to go by then Uruguay will be celebrating another title on Sunday as they are the only team other than Argentina to have won the Copa America on Argentine soil. Paraguay, however, will more than likely stick to the negative tactics that have got them this far but they will probably have to do it without coach Gerardo Martino on the touchline as he was shown a red card in last night’s match.

Peru and Venezuela will meet in the 3rd/4th place play-off on Saturday in La Plata whilst the final will kick-off at 16:00 local time in Buenos Aires.

CONMEBOL: Shock eliminations ensure open championship

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 18, 2011

Paraguay celebrate their penalty shoot-out success against Brazil

The Copa America is defying all expectations as tournament hosts Argentina and defending champions Brazil both went out at the quarter-final stage this weekend. Even when one takes into consideration Venezuela’s progress to their first ever semi-final and Peru’s extra-time triumph over Colombia it is fair to say that this year’s tournament is one of the most open ever staged.

As reported yesterday Uruguay defeated Argentina on penalties, a fate which was to befall the Brazilian national team on Sunday night after they failed to score past a defensively determined Paraguay. Despite numerous chances to score in 120 minutes Brazil just couldn’t find a way past keeper Justo Villar who performed heroics in what must have been one of the games of his life. The ensuing penalty shootout saw Brazil fail to convert any of their kicks, a fact which the Brazilians blamed on a poorly laid penalty spot. Paraguay scored two of their three attempts to seal their first semi-final place for 28 years. The final quarter-final saw Venezuela’s wonderful adventure continue with a 2-1 win over Chile in the only one of the last eight matches to be decided in the regular ninety minutes. Goals from Oswaldo Vizcarrondo and Gabriel Cichero saw the Vinotinto secure their best ever Copa America performance. Their previous best came in their maiden tournament in which they finished fifth in 1967.

The semi-finals will see Uruguay play Peru tomorrow night in La Plata with the other game between Paraguay and Venezuela playing on Wednesday in Mendoza

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CONMEBOL: Uruguay set-up semi-final clash with Peru

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 17, 2011
Uruguay Copa America

Diego Forlan celebrates Uruguay's win over Argentina

Uruguay have sent tournament hosts Argentina crashing out of the 2011 Copa America. Following a 1-1 draw in the latest installment of El Clásico Rioplatense, the Uruguayans kept their nerve in the subsequent penalty shoot-out and went through 5-4 on spot kicks with Carlos Tévez the only one to miss from twelve yards out.

Saturday’s quarter-final match between the two most successful sides in the tournament was the most open in the 2011 event so far with Uruguay taking the lead after just five minutes through Diego Pérez. Parity was restored after just eighteen minutes when Lionel Messi’s perfectly weighted cross found an unmarked Gonzalo Higuain in the box who steered his header home from close range. Both teams were reduced to ten men with Uruguayan goal scorer Pérez the first man sent off for two bookable offences jst before half-time whilst Javier Mascherano followed suit just minutes before full-time. Both teams even had a goal disallowed too but both decisions were correctly adjudged by the officials to have been offside. In the ensuing penalty shoot-out Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera proved the decisive factor as his save from Carlos Tévez, who took Argentina’s third spot kick, was saved and the Uruguayans, who remained 100% successful in the shoot-out, sealed the deal when Martín Cáceres struck to send his team through to the semi-finals.

Uruguay will face Peru in the last four stage following the latter’s extra-time victory over Colombia which helped clinch a place at the semi-final stage of the competition for the first time since 1997. Radamel Falcao missed the best chance of the game midway through the second half when hitting his penalty kick wide. With the game goalless at full-time the eventuality of penalties was looking possible until Carlos  Lobatón gave the Peruvians the lead after 102 minutes. Juan Vargas clinched victory ten minutes when bagging Peru’s second and they sealed their semi-final place date of destiny with Uruguay which will be played in La Plata on Tuesday evening.

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CONMEBOL: Last eight ready for knockout stage in Copa America

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 14, 2011

Copa America 2011 logoThe 2011 Copa America has completed its group stage and one thing that can be said so far about the tournament is that it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the tournament hosts Argentina and favourites Brazil. Countries such as Venezuela and Colombia have impressed from the off whilst the likes of Uruguay and Paraguay have qualified for the knockout rounds despite not performing as well as most people expected.

Argentina began the tournament with back-to-back draws which did little to inspire their fans of ultimate glory at the end of the competition. Argentina were saved in their opening match 1-1 draw against Bolivia thanks to a late Sergio Agüero equalizer before stumbling to a goalless draw in their second game against a Colombia side who have been defensively solid. Mercifully for the Albiceleste they met up with little-fancied Costa Rica in their final group match which they easily won 3-0 to finally get on the board in this tournament. However they finished second in Group A behind Colombia for whom Radamel Falcao impressed in his side’s 2-0 win over Bolivia which clinched top spot.

Brazil, just like Argentina, began their tournament with consecutive draws in Group B. Their opening match against Venezuela ended goalless while their second game against Paraguay saw Fred score a stoppage time equalizer as the Seleção scraped a 2-2 draw. Things eventually came good for Brazil last night as they sealed top spot, albeit on goal difference, thanks to a brace each from Alexandre Pato and Neymar in a 4-2 win against Ecuador, a result which sealed the latter’s elimination from the tournament. Usually minnows in the Copa America, Venezuela have proven to be the surprise package of the competition so far having beaten Ecuador and drawn against Brazil and Paraguay to finish on level points with Brazil. The game against Paraguay ended in spectacular fashion as the Venezuelans seemed destined for their first defeat in the competition before scoring two very late goals to seal a point in a pulsating 3-3 draw.

Chile topped Group C with two wins, coming from behind in a 2-1 win over a weakened Mexico side and a stoppage time winner in their final group match against Peru. Those games were sandwiched by a 1-1 draw against Uruguay in a game where either team could’ve won the game such was the open nature of it. Nonetheless the dropping of two points from that fixture was more harmful to the Uruguayans, especially as Luis Suárez hit the crossbar with a chance which seemed easier to score, and they finished the group in second place two points behind the Chileans. Mexico sent an under-22 squad to the tournament as their full national team won the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup just a week before the Copa America kicked-off but their youngsters failed to rise to the occasion and were the only nation to go home without scoring a point.

With the top two teams from each group going through to the knockout rounds the hunt for the remaining two quarter-finalists came from the three teams that finished third in their respective groups. Peru’s record of a win, a draw and a defeat in their three group matches gave them the best points total with four. Paraguay and Costa Rica both scored three points and so it went down to goal difference with the former edging it over the latter by a margin of two goals so Costa Rica, despite their valiant efforts, are eliminated from the Copa.

Uruguay’s failure to win Group C has given them a tough quarter-final draw against eternal rivals Argentina with the game to be played in Santa Fe on Saturday. The winners of that game will face the winner of the Colombia v Peru match which takes place on the same day in Cordoba. Sunday’s matches see Group B rivals Brazil and Paraguay meeting again in La Plata with the winner meeting either Chile or Venezuela, both of whom meet in San Juan, in the semi-finals.

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CONMEBOL: 2011 Copa America Preview

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 28, 2011

Argentina 2011 logoSouth America’s premier international football tournament, known to all and sundry as the Copa América, will take place in Argentina from July 1st. For the home nation it is imperative that they reclaim an international trophy as their success starved supporters haven’t experienced any silverware since the 1993 tournament. But their arch rivals Brazil will not wish to relinquish the title that they have won on four of the last five occasions whilst the likes of Uruguay and Paraguay will hope to make further progress following a successful 2010 FIFA World Cup. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the latest edition of this grand old tournament.

World football’s oldest international competition is being played for the 43rd time since its inception in 1916. In the early days the tournament was dominated by Uruguay and Argentina, a fact which is still reflected today in the number of titles won by each country (both have a joint record 14 wins each). From 1916-37 the two initial powers of the South American game won twelve out of the first 14 championships (Brazil won the other two) before Peru became the first country outside of the traditional Big Three to win the trophy in 1939.

One aspect of this tournament which did surprise for many years was the inability of Brazil to win the Copa. The Brazilians chalked up only 4 title wins in the first eighty years of a competition which featured on the calendar much more frequently than the FIFA World Cup, a competition which they have come to see as private property over the years. Indeed when Uruguay won their most recent Copa America title in 1995, defeating Brazil on penalties, beaten Brazil coach Mario Zagallo lifted four fingers into the air in the direction of Uruguay’s jubilant supporters to remind them that Brazil still enjoyed more success in the World Cup, which they also won once more in 2002. However the Selecao have been on a role in recent years having won four of the last five Copa America tournaments but they still lag six title wins behind both of their main rivals.

The record of smaller nations in the Copa America shows just how difficult it is for any country outside of the usual suspects to win it. Only on six occasions has anybody else won the trophy with Peru (1939 & 1975) and Paraguay (1953 & 1979) winning it on two occasions whilst Bolivia (1963) and Colombia (2001) have savoured one solitary title win apiece. Colombia’s Copa triumph was the last time that none of the traditional powers lifted the trophy and it is difficult to see a repeat this time around. The tournament has been enhanced in recent years by the invitation of various nations from outside South America to play in the Copa. This recent tradition will be upheld this time with the inclusion of Costa Rica (a last minute replacement for Japan) and Mexico who are now as good as established in this competition having made seven previous appearances.

GROUP A (Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Bolivia)

Tournament hosts Argentina are desperate to end their title drought having last won a trophy in the 1993 Copa America. The Albiceleste have lost to arch-rivals Brazil in the last two finals and are determined to end that run of home soil especially as the world’s best player Lionel Messi will be playing in his homeland. 2001 Copa winners Colombia are most likely to join the hosts into the quarter-finals and have a good chance of making the semi-finals should striker Radamel Falcao be in good form. It’s difficult to see either Costa Rica or Bolivia going through as a best third-placed team as the former are playing in only their fourth tournament whilst the latter haven’t got beyond the group stage in the last four tournaments.

Brazil Copa America 2007

Brazil won the Copa America in 2007

GROUP B (Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Venezuela)

After years of underachievement in this competition the Brazilians have been making up for lost time in the last decade having won four of the last five tournaments. The last two victories in 2004 and 2007 have come against Argentina and it would be a truly remarkable feat if Brazil were to repeat such an outcome this time around. Paraguay, having reached the quarter-finals of last year’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa, are a good bet to go far in the tournament especially if deadly striker Lucas Barrios repeats his prolific goal scoring form which has made him such a hit at his club Borussia Dortmund. Ecuador and Venezuela, two countries never to have won this competition, are expected to struggle but one of them may be fortunate enough to qualify for the last eight as a best third-place team.

GROUP C (Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Mexico)

Joint record champions Uruguay haven’t got their hands on the trophy since 1995 but there is a lot of optimism around that a renaissance for Uruguayan football is just around the corner. Following the national team’s run to the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup, coupled with Penarol’s appearance in the Copa Libertadores final, many are predicting Uruguay to go far in the Copa America. However they have been drawn in arguably the toughest group of the tournament with Chile, Peru and Mexico. Chile made it to the quarter-finals of the 2007 Copa but were thrashed 6-1 by eventual winners Brazil, Peru have made it to the last eight stage in the last four consecutive tournaments whilst Mexico, recent winners of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, may field a weakened team but are always a tough proposition, a fact borne out by the fact that they have reached the final twice in seven attempts albeit without ultimate success.

El Monumental

El Monumental will host the final on July 24th

Unlike in previous tournaments to be held in the country Argentina 2011 will be unique in that only one game in the whole tournament will be played at the national stadium “El Monumental” in Buenos Aires, that game being the final on July 24th. Throughout the group stages and knockout rounds leading up to the final seven cities will be playing host to the talents of South America’s finest with La Plata having the privilege of hosting six matches. Cordoba, Mendoza and Santa Fe will host four games, San Juan three and Jujuy and Salta feature in two matches each. This is the ninth Copa America tournament to be held in Argentina and history shows us that only the host nation (six times) or Uruguay (twice) emerge victorious. Will that be the case this around? Will Brazil ensure that the Copa remains firmly within their grasp? Or can an unexpected contender defy the odds and come away with South America’s biggest prize? In any case it should prove to be a fascinating tournament.

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