Copa America Group C preview: Can Brazil rebound vs. Colombia, Peru, Venezuela?

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With just a few days to go until the 2015 Copa America kicks off in Chile, we will be looking at all three groups as 12 teams do battle on the west coast of South America to be crowned Champions of CONMEBOL.

[ RELATED: Latest Copa America news ]

Will defending champs Uruguay defend their trophy, or can Argentina, Brazil or Colombia wrestle the crown away from Luis Suarez and Co.?

Next up, here’s a look at Group C, where the nation of Brazil looks to put back together the pieces of a broken national team when they face off against Colombia, Peru and Venezuela.

Brazil

Remember the last two times the entire world watched the Selecao walk off the field? They’d just been beaten 7-1 (7-1) and 3-0 by Germany and the Netherlands, respectively, in back to back games. Not only was the national team embarrassed, but so was the nation itself. Fast forward 11 months, and Luiz Felipe Scolari is no longer in charge, as Dunga is back for his second stint as national team boss. The manager is different this summer, just as the players are, for the most part. Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is set to make his major tournament debut, while fellow youngsters Felipe Anderson (22, Lazio), Roberto Firmino (23, Hoffenheim), Fred (22, Shakhtar Donetsk), Casemiro (23, Porto) and Douglas Costa (24, Shakhtar Donetsk) have been brought in to replace the likes of Oscar, Ramires, Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo.

Best Copa America finish: Champions – 1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007
Manager: Dunga
Star man: Neymar — The 23-year-old has been named Brazil captain for the summer, and it’s in no way a surprise as he’s simultaneously the side’s most reliable player (43 goals in 62 caps at the age of 23) and ever-present mainstay (of Robinho’s 96 caps, 16 have been won since the 2010 World Cup). If you thought the pressure was on Neymar last summer, just wait until you see the team he’ll be expected to carry this time around.

Colombia

No side won over more neutral fans during last summer’s World Cup than did Colombia. Was it the immediately recognizable yellow jerseys? The free-flowing, attacking soccer? The outrageous fan support? The wondergoals and breakout nature of James Rodriguez’s tournament? In truth, it was probably all of the above. This summer, Los Cafeteros head into major international competition not as a dark horse, but as something of a favorite to win Copa America. With much of the same squad as last year, Colombia should once again be one of the most entertaining teams to watch, with two notable additions up front: Radamel Falcao and Carlos Bacca. Falcao’s struggles while on loan at Manchester United were well-documented, but Bacca bagged 28 goals for Sevilla en route to a fifth-place finish and a second Europa League title in a row.

source: AP
James Rodriguez & Juan Cuadrado, Colombia

Best Copa America finish: Champions – 2001
Manager: Jose Pekerman
Star man: James Rodriguez — Like Neymar, Rodriguez is still only 23. Only this time around, it won’t be his first crack at a major tournament. Throw in the last year spent competing for a place day in and day out at Real Madrid, and Rodriguez might yet top last summer’s stunning performances, if we’re all lucky. After finishing third in 2011, it’ll be tough for Peru to improve upon their most recent Copa America outing, and being drawn into a group with Colombia and Brazil never does anyone any favors, but it’d be a pretty big shock if La Blanquirroja didn’t qualify for the knockout stage.

Peru

One of the most veteran-laden sides of this year’s non-favorites, with Juan Manuel Vargas, Jefferson Farfan, Claudio Pizarro, Carlos Zambrano, Luis Advincula, Christian Ramos and Yoshimar Youtin all possessing either Copa America or World Cup qualifying experience. Being drawn into a group with Brazil and Colombia never does anyone any favors, but this is a Peru team with plenty of talent and know-how in major tournaments to get out of the group stage. Improving upon their third-place finish in 2011, though? That’ll be a tough ask.

Best Copa America finish: Champions – 1939, 1975
Manager: Ricardo Gareca
Star man: Paolo Guerrero — If Peru are to upset the Group C apple cart, it’ll almost certainly be thanks to the goalscoring of Guerrero. The 31-year-old is enjoying the most fruitful patch of his club career these days, at Corinthians, and pushing the likes of Farfan and Pizarro out of the side.

Venezuela

The pace at which the Venezuelan national team has improved and closed the gap between themselves and the continent’s middling sides is pretty remarkable. 11 of the 23 players on Venezuela’s Copa America roster currently play their club soccer in Europe, which is two more than their competition for a third-place finish, Peru. The two sides faced one another in a friendly back in March, with La Vinotinto prevailing 1-0 victors. Home-and-away victories over Honduras in February (3-2 and 2-1) see Venezuela enter the 2015 Copa America with lots of confidence and good form with which to back it up.

Best Copa America finish: 4th place – 2011
Manager: Noel Sanvicente
Star man: Salomon Rondon — The 25-year-old bagged 20 goals in his first full season at Zenit St. Petersburg, so he comes into this summer’s tournament full of confidence and the taste for goal fresh in his mind.

Schedule

June 14: Colombia vs. Venezuela – Estadio El Teniente, Rancagua
June 14: Brazil vs. Peru – Estadio Municipal German Becker, Temuco
June 17: Brazil vs. Colombia – Estadio Monumental David Arellano, Santiago
June 18: Peru vs. Venezuela – Estadio Elias Figueroa, Valparaiso
June 21: Colombia vs. Peru – Estadio Municipal German Becker, Temuco
June 21: Brazil vs. Venezuela – Estadio Monumental David Arellano, Santiago

Prediction

1st – Colombia
2nd – Brazil
3rd – Peru
4th – Venezuela

Toronto score 4 goals in ET to bounce DCU, Rooney (video)

Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The game in 200 words (or less): Toronto FC outplayed D.C. United by a wide margin but needed extra time — and a 13-minute explosion of goals — to book their place in the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they’ll face top-seeded New York City. The Reds led for exactly an hour, thanks to Marco Delgado’s goal just after the half-hour mark, only to throw their advantage away — after failing to convert a number of chances to go 2-0 up — in second-half stoppage time. The 1-1 scoreline lasted for all of about three minutes of game time before Toronto scored not once, not twice, not three times, but four times in the first period of extra time. Now, Greg Vanney’s side will cross its fingers and hope to get Jozy Altidore (quad) and Omar Gonzalez (hamstring), who didn’t play in this one, back for Wednesday’s game against NYCFC.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

What did we learn?

  • Worst time for a goalkeeping error: You might be thinking, “Well, yes, duh, of course it is, there isn’t a good time for that.” The playoffs, however, are really not the right time, however, and United learned that the hard way when Bill Hamid failed to hold onto a simple bouncing ball in front of goal. Stefan Frei was lights out for the Seattle Sounders earlier on Saturday and Jesse Gonzalez recovered from a poor start (and was bailed out by three goals scored by FC Dallas), and Quentin Westberg was stellar for Toronto in this one.

  • Set-piece defending, once again: Earlier in the day, we saw Seattle fail to defend set pieces and let Dallas back into their game on multiple occasions. Toronto weren’t any better in the dying seconds of regular time. With under two minutes remaining, this is how they defended a United corner kick…

That’s comically bad for a regular season game in the middle of April, let alone for a dark-horse candidate in the playoffs, up a goal in stoppage time. Every chance counts tenfold in the playoffs, and set pieces are no different.

  • D.C.’s desire still in doubt: To lose in extra time, away from home, is one thing. To capitulate and concede four goals in 13 minutes — almost as if to say you didn’t want to score the late equalizer in the first place — is shameful. Wayne Rooney‘s time in MLS ends with his team down 5-1 in extra time and him being subbed off after 105 minutes.

 

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jonathan Osorio

Goalscorers: Delgado (32′), Rodriguez (90’+3), Laryea (93′), Osorio (95′, 103′) DeLeon (105’+1)

Serie A: Juventus win 5th straight; Napoli cruise past Verona (video)

Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ LA LIGA: Real Madrid lose to Mallorca; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann send Barca top ]

Juventus 2-1 Bologna

Juve were made to work a bit — but not too much — en route to a 2-1 victory over Bologna. It’s their fifth straight win in league play and again puts them four points clear of Inter Milan, who are yet to play this weekend.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with a pinpoint finish from a tight angle in the 19th minute, but Bologna hit back just seven minutes later when Danilo smashed home a half-volley after Juve failed to clear a corner kick. It was 1-1 at halftime, but not much longer than that. Miralem Pjanic picked out the near post and slotted home past the goalkeeper in the 54th minute to give Juve their deserved winner.

Napoli 2-0 Verona

Napoli, on the other hand, had their backs against the wall early when Verona visited the San Paolo Stadium. Goalkeeper Alex Meret was the hero early on with a fantastic double-save before Carlo Ancelotti’s side settled in and took control of the game.

Arkadiusz Milik got on the end of Fabian Ruiz’s cross right in front of goal, leaving the Polish forward with the simplest of tap-ins to make it 1-0 in the 37 minute. Milik made it 2-0 when he got a glancing touch on a sensation free kick from Lorenzo Insigne in the 67th.

The victory sees Napoli hang onto fourth in the league table and move to within two points of second-place Inter.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Lazio 3-3 Atalanta

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Sassuolo v. Inter Milan — 6:30 a.m. ET
Sampdoria v. Roma — 9 a.m. ET
Udinese v. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Cagliari v. SPAL — 9 a.m. ET
Parma v. Genoa — 12 p.m. ET
AC Milan v. Lecce — 2:45 p.m. ET

Sounders top Dallas in all-time, extra-time playoffs classic (video)

Andy Bao/The Seattle Times via AP
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The game in 200 words (or less): How about one word? Insanity. Simply put, an all-time classic in MLS Cup Playoffs history. It’s a small sample size, no doubt about it, but MLS’s new single-elimination playoff format appears to have solved the problem of uninspiring early-round action. Seattle advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of Real Salt Lake versus Portland Timbers, with a 4-3 extra-time victory, but it wasn’t without 120 minutes of nonstop drama. Seattle went from 2-0 up inside the first 25 minutes, to level at 2-2 inside 65, to 3-2 up 10 minutes later, to level again with under 10 minutes of regular time remaining. They needed 113 minutes to do it, but Seattle broke the deadlock for the final time when Jordan Morris completed the first hat trick of his career.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

What did we learn?

  • Sounders making magic out wide: No matter how many times they saw it, Dallas simply couldn’t slow down the Sounders wide attackers and full backs from creating superb scoring chances from out wide. This has been one of the Sounders’ greatest strengths for a couple seasons now, yet Dallas seemed wholly unprepared for it. The speed and crossing ability they have out wide is a huge problem for a lot of teams, especially when Morris and Raul Ruidiaz are moving around freely in the box.

  • Sounders’ defensive struggles unsolved: For all the chances they created on one end, Seattle couldn’t control the game or even slow it down in middle and defensive thirds. Whether it was on the counter-attack, through sustained possession by Dallas or set pieces, Seattle struggled in the worst way. Even after going ahead in extra time, Seattle stood idly by as Dallas created a couple of golden scoring chances and were so close to finding themselves level again at 4-4. They won’t have (m)any more “get out of jail free” cards to play as they advance to the latter rounds.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jordan Morris

Goalscorers: Ruidiaz (18′), Morris (22′, 74′, 113′), Cannon (39′), Hedges (64′), Acosta (82′)

La Liga: Real Madrid shocked by Mallorca; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann send Barca top

AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

Eibar 0-3 Barcelona

Lionel Messi goal – check; Luis Suarez goal – check; Antoine Griezmann goal – check; clean sheet – check. If there exists a perfect recipe for a Barcelona victory this season, the Blaugrana put it to good use en route to a fourth straight La Liga victory and top spot in the league table on Saturday.

Griezmann opened the scoring in the 13th minute, followed by Messi in the 58th and Suarez in the 66th. Marc-Andre ter Stegen didn’t have to make a single save as Eibar managed just five shots in the game.

Mallorca 1-0 Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s unbeaten start to the season was snapped at eight games on Saturday, when Los Blancos went to Mallorca and suffered a hugely underwhelming 1-0 defeat. Zinedine Zidane’s side — already without the likes of Gareth Bale (calf), Luka Modric (bruise), Toni Kroos (adductor) and Marco Ascensio (knee), among others — finished the game with 10 men after Alvaro Odriozola earned his second yellow card in the 74th minute. The defeat sees Madrid fall off the top spot, now sitting second behind Barca.

Lago Junior scored the game’s only goal in the 7th minute and Mallorca held on for 83 more, allowing just four shots on target (12 in total). The early goal was Mallorca’s only shot on target over 90 minutes.

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Valencia

Atleti coughed up a late lead and settled for a 1-1 draw with Valencia, but the worst news of the day comes in the form of an injury suffered by Joao Felix. The 19-year-old’s ankle buckled underneath him late in the second half. Atleti finished with 10 men after their $140-million superstar was forced off.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Leganes

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Alaves v. Celta Vigo — 6 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad v. Real Betis — 8 a.m. ET
Espanyol v. Villarreal — 10 a.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao v. Real Valladolid — 12:30 p.m. ET
Sevilla v. Levante — 3 p.m. ET