What would a Copa America Centenario field, draw look like? Let’s get hypothetical

2 Comments

A 16-team, U.S.-based Copa America sounds great, but until the well after 2015 Gold Cup, we won’t know who’s actually playing. Granted, 12 spots are set — the 10 South American teams; Mexico; and the United States — but the champions for the Caribbean and Central America won’t be known for until later this year. The two remaining spots will go to the winners of a four-team playoff among the top four non-qualified finishers in next year’s CONCACAF Championship …

All of which is big fun-killer, right now. But what if we looked back at the previous Gold, Caribbean, and Central American Cups and used that to fuel our imaginations?

In other words, if CONCACAF’s tournaments play out like they did in 2012 and 2013, what will the Centenario Copa look like?

If you’re not into hypotheticals and thought experiments, “Ctrl+W” now. If, however, you feel like playing along, here’s who would have qualified:

  • South American teams (10): Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela
  • CONCACAF automatic qualifiers (2): Mexico, United States
  • Caribbean champions: Cuba
  • Central America champions: Costa Rica
  • Four other top finishers, Gold Cup: Honduras, Panama (Trinidad and Tobago, El Salvador)*

* Those four would enter a tournament to determine the final spots. Since Honduras and Panama made last year’s semifinals, we’re pretending they won the tournament. Congratulations, Honduras and Panama!

But why stop there? Those teams have to be draw into groups eventually, right? Luckily I just finished a pack of Starbuck and have all these little pieces of paper sitting around. Let’s do this!

The pots:

  • Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and the United States go into Pot 1
  • The rest of CONCACAF’s teams go into Pot 2
  • Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay go into Pot 3
  • Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela go into Pot 4

Copa America’s 2015 results might have a say in who goes into which post, but generally, this way ensures a.) no more than two CONCACAF teams end up in one group; b.) each group has at least one CONCACAF representative; and c.) South America’s other strong teams (here, the World Cup qualifiers) get dispersed. Bottom line: We needed some kind of methodology to do a draw.

Wrappers in a trash bag, four at time, here we go:

  • Group A: Argentina, Panama, Ecuador, Peru
  • Group B: Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Paraguay
  • Group C: United States, Honduras, Uruguay, Venezuela
  • Group D: Mexico, Cuba, Chile, Bolivia

I can’t believe the U.S. got the Group of Death! Sorry – just a reflex. These groups actually look pretty even. Then again, with my patented methodology, it was hard to have a truly killer group. The worst possible would have been Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, and Venezuela. That’s stacked, but if Costa Rica and Venezuela aren’t in the final eight, we’re not going to cry about it.

As for the rest of the tournament? My imagination’s tapped out, but thanks to my favorite fruit chew, I have a much better idea of what this Centenario-thing might look like two years from now.

 

Mourinho reportedly close to Man Utd contract extension

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho is scheduling an extended stay at Manchester United.

[ MORE: Donovan unveiled by Leon ]

The 54-year-old has a contract through the end of next season, the dreaded third at a club for Mourinho, but reports say United is keen to keep him around through 2021.

Mourinho has not tasted a fourth season with a club despite winning league titles at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid.

The 2019-20 season at Old Trafford would be Mourinho’s fourth. According to the BBC:

Talks have progressed well and it is now just a matter of time before Mourinho commits to remain at Old Trafford beyond the expiry of his present deal in 2019.

Somehow, this feels it should be deemed another loss for Antonio Conte.

Barkley ineligible to make Chelsea debut in FA Cup replay

Photo credit: Chelsea FC / Twitter: @chelseafc
Leave a comment

Ross Barkley was expected — and himself expected — to make his Chelsea debut on Wednesday, when the Blues host Championship side Norwich City in a third-round FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge.

Alas, the 24-year-old English midfielder has been ruled ineligible due to a lesser-known and -applied rules surrounding transfers and player registration.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup | Wednesday preview ]

Barkley completed his move from Everton to Chelsea, for $20 million, on Jan. 5, the day before Chelsea and Norwich drew 0-0 at Carrow Road. In order to be eligible for Wednesday’s replay, Barkley is required to have completed his transfer prior to the noon cut-off the day prior to the original tie. While the time of official approval is unknown, Barkley’s move wasn’t announced by the club until after 5 p.m. in the UK.

As such, Chelsea will attempt to set up a behind-closed-doors friendly this week, in order to provide Barkley a bit of game action as he builds fitness and sharpness ahead of a potential debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Barkley hasn’t seen a single minute of first-team action this season after suffering a serious hamstring injury in the summer.

FA Cup preview: Three more PL sides face 3rd-round replays

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Three more Premier League sides, including a top-four fighter, attempt to join a dozen of their top-flight contemporaries in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup ]

Chelsea and Swansea City host Championship opposition in the form of Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, respectively, while Bournemouth will make the 500-mile roundtrip to take on League One side Wigan Athletic.

The Blues, who now sit fourth in the PL after their disappointing 0-0 draw with Leicester City, could manage only a scoreless draw with the Canaries at Carrow Road earlier this month. They are winless in their last four games across all competitions — all draws — including their League Cup semifinal first-leg draw with Arsenal last week; the last three of those all finished without a single goal scored. Chelsea, who are tied with Liverpool with the fourth-most FA Cups in their history (7), lost out to Arsenal in last season’s final at Wembley Stadium.

Swansea are undoubtedly the side on highest Cupset alert, as Wolves are the runaway leaders and champions-elect in the Championship (10 points clear after 27 of 46 rounds played), thus able to devote more attention to the FA Cup than the typical second-division side. With the two sides separated by just a single place in the English footballing pyramid (Swansea, 20th in the PL; Wolves, 1st in the Championship), they appear destined to swap places by the end of May.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth’s punishment for conceding a pair of early goals to a side currently 32 places below them in the pyramid, is the long, midweek trip from the south coast to the DW Stadium in the northwest of England. It was the Premier Leaguers who needed a two second-half goals, including Steve Cook‘s 90th-minute equalizer, to draw level at home in the first meeting.

Tuesday’s FA Cup replay actionFULL ROUNDUP

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town
West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town
Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Agent: 37-year-old Ronaldinho has retired

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SAO PAULO (AP) The brother and agent of 2005 Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldinho announced Tuesday that the former Brazil and Barcelona playmaker has retired from football.

Roberto Assis made the announcement to Brazilian media on behalf of the 37-year-old midfielder, who played his last professional match in 2015 for Brazil’s Fluminense.

“Ronnie’s professional career is over. He wants to be a football ambassador, do charity, and work with his friends in music from now on,” Assis told The Associated Press.

Assis hopes to schedule some farewell matches for Ronaldinho after the World Cup in Russia, which ends July 15. The initial plan is to play games in Brazil, Europe and Asia and to also get Brazil’s national team involved, Assis said.

Last July, Ronaldinho said on the sidelines of a friendly in Chechnya that was he was “too old” to return to action.

The Brazilian’s decorated career also includes one World Cup title (2002), one Champions League victory (2006) and two Spanish league titles with Barcelona, and two FIFA world player of the year awards (2004 and 2005).

Ronaldinho started his professional career at Gremio in southern Brazil in 1998. He left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2001 and was signed by Barcelona two seasons later.

At the Camp Nou, he was the engine of a team that took Barca back to the limelight. However, after a series of club trophies, Ronaldinho’s career took a downturn. He was often accused by Brazilian and Spanish media of lacking professionalism, despite his mentoring of a then youthful Lionel Messi.

In 2008, with Messi then leading Barcelona, Ronaldinho left for AC Milan. Despite being part of a team that won Serie A in 2011, he failed to reach his previous heights as a player.

When returning home became a real option, Ronaldinho frustrated Gremio’s efforts to re-sign him and joined Flamengo instead.

Disappointing performances in Rio de Janeiro took him to Atletico Mineiro, a club that then was more often fighting against relegation than for titles.

Yet a more mature Ronaldinho took Atletico to a different level.

In his last great run, Ronaldinho carried Atletico with his superb passes and dazzling dribbles to second place in the 2012 Brazilian Championship.

A year later, he was the key to his club lifting its first Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious club trophy, but his hopes of playing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were dashed.

Ronaldinho left to play for Mexico’s Queretaro in 2014-15, but was mostly on the bench.

He played his last seven matches as a professional for Fluminense, though his performances were a far cry from his best days in Spain.

Now living in Rio, he has appeared in advertisements all over the world since leaving Fluminense.