The quarter-final line-up at the Copa America Centenario features six CONMEBOL nations, including the two sides that contested last year’s final, and two CONCACAF powerhouses. The four ties are hard to call, though the pick of them is the contest between Chile and Mexico. The defending champions in their respective confederations, both will be in action at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.
Also featuring prominently on the last-eight bill are 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ runners-up Argentina and tournament hosts USA. FIFA.com sets the scene as the competition enters the knockout phase.
Quarter-final fixtures (all times local)
USA-Ecuador (Thursday 16, Seattle, 18:30)
Peru-Colombia (Friday 17, New Jersey, 20:00)
Argentina-Venezuela (Saturday 18, Boston, 19:00)
Mexico-Chile (Saturday 18, Santa Clara, 19:00)
The big match
Mexico-Chile, Saturday 18 June, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, 19:00 local time
This promises to be an exciting tie between two sides who have match-winners in their ranks and who play a similar game, pressing high up the pitch and adopting a direct approach in attack. Adding even more colour and drama to the occasion will be their sizeable and vociferous sets of fans.
The pair played out a 0-0 draw at the very same stadium in a 2014 friendly, but few are expecting to see a repeat of that scoreline on Saturday, especially with the two sides having fought out a pulsating 3-3 draw in the group phase at Chile 2015. Narrow 1-0 winners over La Roja in a friendly earlier this month, Mexico also have the edge in the head-to-head, winning three of the six Copa America meetings between the sides, though the last of those victories came back in 2001.
With the exception of the draw they salvaged against Venezuela, Mexico have been the more consistent of the two so far and have extended their unbeaten run to an impressive 22 matches. For their part, Chile improved as the group phase went on, and while they have yet to reach the heights they achieved in 2015, they will have been buoyed by the fact that both Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez are back among the goals.
In the spotlight
With Brazil and Uruguay already back home, Argentina are firm favourites to win the competition. The 2015 runners-up have been in fine fettle so far. Though Lionel Messi is still working his way back to full fitness, La Albiceleste were the only side to collect maximum points in the group phase, during which they scored more goals and conceded fewer than anyone: ten and one respectively.
While La Albiceleste have won all four of their Copa encounters with Venezuela, the last of them dating back to 1991, La Vinotinto seem to be developing a clearly defined style of play under Rafael Dudamel and have just enjoyed their best group phase ever. “We’re competing. Win, lose or draw, we always give our all,” said the coach.
USA have been attracting plenty of attention after recovering from their uninspiring debut outing with two solid wins. Led by the veteran Clint Dempsey, the hosts face an exacting test of their credentials against an Ecuador side that has fulfilled its objective of progressing beyond the group phase for the first time in seven attempts. La Tri’s next objective is to improve on the fourth place they achieved in hosting the tournament in 1993.
Prior to the competition, many were wondering if Colombia would live up to the expectations generated by their richly talented squad and their experienced coach Jose Pekerman. The answer so far seems to be yes, though their tie with Peru looks too close to call. Fresh from knocking Brazil out, Ricardo Gareca’s side remain unbeaten.
Did you know?
Argentina have reached the quarter-finals on all but one occasion since the current tournament format was adopted at Ecuador 1993, that sole exception being Colombia 2001, a competition in which they did not take part. Though La Albiceleste failed to reach the semis in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2011, they were champions of that 1993 tournament – their last title to date – and finished runners-up in 2004, 2007 and 2015.
3 - the number of teams that have reached the quarter-finals with a pass accuracy of over 90 per cent, though none of them will be facing each other. Argentina lead the way on 93 per cent (with 1,587 passes completed out of 1,707), followed by Colombia on 92 per cent (941 out of 1,026) and Chile on 91 per cent (1,696 out of 1,857).
What they said
“Ecuador are going to be tough opponents. We played them in a friendly before the Copa America and beat them 1-0, though that was a different Ecuador. They didn’t have Antonio Valencia or Walter Ayovi. This Copa America is full of surprises and we have to be ready to suffer.” USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann, on his Facebook page