Copa Madness: First Round Recap

By: Juan Mesa

Everybody knows that soccer generates passion and madness in South America, but the current version of Copa América may have exceeded all expectations.

Consider, for instance, the fact that guest team Jamaica became the most consistent side in the tournament. The Reggae Boyz may have lost their three games, but they did so by 1-0 every time (consistency!), while everybody was expecting landslides from rivals Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Losing by only one goal against them is enough reason to play the dancehall greatest hits and set the alarms in CONCACAF. Or to take a selfie with the guy who just beat you (?)

Bolivia won a game in Copa América for the first time in 18 years. It came out with some suffering after they almost blew a 3-0 lead against Ecuador, but the Altiplano guys ended up winning 3-2, and will face Peru for the quarter finals on Thursday.

Venezuela surprised everybody by defeating Colombia 1-0, but the result didn't hurt the Cafeteros morale, as they were able to take revenge from the World Cup and beat Brazil for same score. A frustrated Neymar headbutted his Colombian rivals and insulted referees at the end of the game, a pitiful display that got him a four-game suspension. After Brazil decided not to appeal against the punishment —that means he won’t be able to play even if Brazil makes it to the final—, the Barcelona star took to Instagram to apologize and say that training with the Verde Amarela without actually being able to play was “killing him from the inside.” Guess you shouldn’t use the ball to hit opponents or insult the ref next time.

Lio Messi has been almost non-existent, which is, sadly, the norm for him when playing in South America. He scored just one goal in three games—a penalty against Paraguay. Some fans have floated the idea that Argentina should perhaps wear Barcelona colors to get his best self on the pitch.

And of course, Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal was the star of the fastest soccer telenovela in history. In just 12 hours, the Juventus midfielder went to a casino, got drunk, crashed his Ferrari and injured his wife (who was in the passenger’s seat), tried to resist arrest by telling the cop that he would “screw the whole country by handcuffing” him, actually divided Chile in two factions (punish him/we want to win and we don’t care), apologized with tears and a trembling voice to his fellow Chileans, donated money to charity, and went back to training. Perhaps playing an international tournament at home has its downsides, too.

Is this going to get better? Quarter finals are next with Argentina waiting for a Colombia; a Neymar-less Brazil facing Paraguay; Vidal and Chile challenging the current champion Uruguay; and Bolivia and Peru playing an early underdog elimination game.

As for México’s B-team performance (0-2-1)…. Let’s just remember that the real team is preparing for the Gold Cup in July.

Juan Mesa is a freelance writer based in New York City. He covers soccer and Latin music. When he's not writing, you can find him watching soccer games, talking about soccer or collecting soccer memorabilia. To relax, he plays house music vinyls.