Copa America preview: Brazil on home soil, Messi’s last shot at (int’l) glory?

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
0 Comments

For the first time in 30, the country of Brazil will host the Copa America when the 2019 edition kicks off on Friday. The pressure to win on home soil, as it was when Selecao hosted the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, will be immense.

[ MORE: Predicting the 2019 Gold Cup ]

For the first time in a long time, there is no clear-cut favorite. The best team in South America is anybody’s guess.

Tite’s Brazil was seen as a heavy favorite a couple weeks ago, but will now have to cope without its brightest superstar and captain, Neymar, after he suffered an ankle injury during a pre-Copa friendly against Qatar. Brazil can still be called slight favorites, with many thanks to the attacking duo of Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus, but more than a few defensive questions must be answered: most notably, does this veteran group of defenders, with just three of eight players under 30 years of age (an average of 58 international caps), have one more major tournament left in it?

All of the attention that will inevitably be paid to Brazil could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for some of the tournament’s other heavy hitters, particularly the two-defending champions from Chile. Lionel Messi and Argentina, who have reached four of the last five Copa finals (2004, 2007, 2015 and 2016) but lost each and every one of them, also fit that billing.

[ MORE: Premier League 2019-20 schedule announced ]

Chile hope to squeeze one last run out of the Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas and Gary Medel era, which is a slightly risky proposition given each of their injury histories and their slightly advanced ages (31 years on average). There’s also a small matter of who’ll start in goal: 31-year-old Gabriel Arias is the most experienced of the bunch, but he’s won just six caps in his career and has never played club soccer outside of South America.

Argentina, on the other hand, are about as inexperienced as a national team of their prestige could be. Messi, Angel di Maria and Sergio Aguero have 130, 97 and 90 caps to their names, respectively, followed by Nicolas Otamendi with 60. After them, Ramiro Funes Mori is the next-highest, with 25. 12 of the 23 players making up Lionel Scaloni’s squad have made single-digit appearances for the Albiceleste. Argentina’s last major trophy came at the 1993 Copa America, when Messi was six years old. Now 31 years old, the undisputed greatest player of all time might be down to his last (realistic) chance at winning a major tournament.

Colombia will again be the favorite pick as “dark horse,” but their route to a first major trophy since winning the 2001 Copa will be difficult: facing Messi and Co., in the two sides’ Group B opener on Saturday (6 p.m. ET). Japan and Qatar, the two non-South American teams invited to participate in 2019, will be fascinating wild cards as well.

What we’re saying is: Brazil and Argentina taking a small (or large) step back to the pack should make for one of the best editions of the Copa we’ve ever seen, and just about every game should be appointment television beginning with Friday’s curtain raiser between Brazil and Bolivia (8:30 p.m. ET).

Quick facts

Final date: July 7

Semifinal dates: July 2 and 3

Current holders: Chile (2015 and 2016)

Most titles: Uruguay (15), Argentina (14), Brazil (8), Chile (2), Paraguay (2), Peru (2)

Most goals: Zizinho and Norberto Mendez (17)

Most goals (active): Paolo Guerrero and Eduardo Vargas (11)

This weekend’s Copa America schedule

Friday

Brazil v. Bolivia — 8:30 p.m. ET

Saturday

Venezuela v. Peru — 3 p.m. ET
Argentina v. Colombia — 6 p.m. ET

Sunday

Paraguay v. Qatar — 3 p.m. ET
Uruguay v. Ecuador — 6 p.m. ET

Nico Schulz enjoys dream debut to help Germany beat Peru 2-1

Twitter/@DFB_Team_EN
0 Comments

SINSHEIM, Germany (AP) Nico Schulz scored late on his debut to give Germany a 2-1 win over Peru in their friendly game on Sunday.

[ MORE: France tops Holland behind late Giroud goal ]

The Hoffenheim midfielder, making his first international appearance in the club’s stadium, claimed the winner through a slightly deflected shot with five minutes remaining.

The 25-year-old Schulz, one of three new call-ups to the squad, was only playing as Germany coach Joachim Loew assesses his options following the team’s failed World Cup defense.

Loew had kept changes to a minimum when his cautious team was held to a 0-0 draw by France in their UEFA Nations League opener in Munich on Thursday.

Against Peru, Germany dominated the first half but fell behind in the 22nd minute to a strike from Luis Advincula, who beat Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen at the near post.

Julian Brandt provided the response, dinking the ball over Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese after Toni Kroos had played him in.

Peru captain Jefferson Farfan should have scored in the second half when he only had the goalkeeper to beat, but the former Schalke winger shot over the goal.

Loew brought on Paris Saint-Germain defender Thilo Kehrer with about 20 minutes remaining and Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz in the final minutes, but Schulz was the only one of the three new faces to enjoy a dream debut.

While Peru was without captain Paolo Guerrero due to a doping ban, Germany was playing without Mats Hummels because of an ankle problem and Leroy Sane due to the birth of his daughter on Friday.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Peru captain Guerrero banned again, awaiting final verdict

AP
0 Comments

ZURICH (AP) Peru captain Paolo Guerrero, who was cleared to play at the World Cup by Switzerland’s supreme court, has again been blocked from playing because a federal judge ended the freeze on his 14-month doping ban.

FIFA says the Swiss Federal Tribunal has lifted “the provisional suspensive effect” that allowed Guerrero to play in Russia. The decision means the 34-year-old Guerrero will not be allowed to resume playing with Brazilian club Internacional.

The Swiss court is expected to soon give a final verdict in Guerrero’s appeal against a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling that increased his six-month ban by FIFA to 14 months.

Guerrero tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine at a World Cup qualifier against Argentina in October. He scored one goal at the World Cup, where Peru was eliminated in the group stage.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Peru ease to victory as Australia crash out

Getty Images
0 Comments
  • Carrillo scores superb volley
  • Guerrero nets second for Peru
  • Peru’s first World Cup win since 1978
  • Australia knocked out without a win
  • Peru beat Australia 2-0 in Sochi on Tuesday, as both teams exited the 2018 World Cup at the group stage but the South American side finished third in Group C.

    A stunning volley from Andre Carrillo put Peru ahead and captain and all-time leading goalscorer Paolo Guerrero added a second after the break.

    With the win Peru have their first victory in the World Cup in 40 years, while the Socceroos crashed out of the tournament with a whimper after failing to win any of their three group games.

    Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

    Australia started well and had a few half chances in the box but it was Peru who took the lead.

    A rapid counter attack saw a cross pick out Carrillo at the back post and he volleyed across goal to score Peru’s first World Cup goal in 36 years.

    [ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

    Leckie then headed a difficult chance over for the Socceroos as they tried to get back into the game.

    Tom Rogic then waltzed through the Peruvian defense but was denied by a fine save from Pedro Gallese in goal as Australia pushed hard for an equalizer. Australia then came even closer as Anderson Santamaria miraculously cleared with Leckie ready to tap home.

    [ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

    Early in the second half Peru doubled their lead as Christian Cueva cut in from the left and Guerrero finished smartly into the far corner to make it 2-0. Peru’s all-time leading goalscorer had his goal after a turbulent few months for him off the pitch.

    Tim Cahill came on late for Australia to try and rescue the situation and he had a header towards goal which was almost knocked into their own net by the Peruvian defense.

France eliminates Peru en route to knockout phase

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
0 Comments

Peru’s loss was France’s gain on Thursday, as Les Bleus reached the Round of 16 with one match remaining in Group C play.

The French knocked off Peru, 1-0, as Didier Deschamps and his side eliminated their South American foe from the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Both Denmark and Australia — who drew 1-1 earlier on Thursday — are still alive in their efforts of advancing to the knockout rounds.

He looked to be one of the best players on the pitch once again, and Kylian Mbappe rightfully scored a tap in to give France the lead beyond the half-hour mark following a deflected cross from Olivier Giroud.

Paul Pogba was at the center of the goal as well, after nicking the ball away from Peru’s Paolo Guerrero inside the South American side’s half of the field.

Gallese made his first crucial stop in the 16th minute, when a link-up between Giroud and Antoine Griezmann forced a kick save from the Peru goalkeeper.

The Peruvians began to use their pace as the first half wore on, and Guerrero nearly scored his first goal of the tournament in the 31st minute, but Hugo Lloris was positioned well to make a save.

Paul Pogba came right back the other way just two minutes later though, and played a brilliant lofted ball into Mbappe, who couldn’t flick it past Gallese.

The Peruvians didn’t waste any time in the second stanza, and nearly came out to a flying start as Pedro Aquino struck woodwork with a brilliant outside-the-foot technique from distance.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

France closes out Group C play with a meeting against Denmark, while Peru hopes to spoil Australia’s chances of qualifying for the knockout phase.