Group A of the Copa America could perhaps be labelled the most entertaining given that the teams all showed major defensive issues which led to open games. Mark Ooi provides a review of the group containing Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico including the key tactical system, game-changing performance, and best young player.
Key Tactical System
All teams in this group have not been impressive defensively, making for end-to-end games. This has been a group for the attackers, with results determined by the cutting edge a team has had in attack rather than defensive solidity.
Chile were comfortably the best team in the group. Claudio Bravo has been a steady presence in goal. However, their deficiencies in defence will likely prove their downfall as Jorge Sampaoli’s men progress in the tournament. The Chilean midfield quartet – Marcelo Díaz, Charles Aránguiz , Arturo Vidal and Jorge Valdivia – complemented each other extremely well and provided the platform for their game plan. As usual, with the foundations laid by Marcelo Bielsa, Chile looked to dominate every match, with their high pressing from the front and high defensive line key to their performances. The pace, guile and dynamism which has become the footballing image of Chile was a joy to watch.
With Mauricio Isla and Miiko Albornoz pushing forward at every opportunity, Chile frequently had most of their players in the opposition half. Passes targeting late runs from Isla in behind opposition defences was a recurring feature of their play, as was the chemistry between Alexis Sánchez and Isla. Though the former has not scored as many goals as he would’ve liked, nor as many as fans had expected, Alexis’ pace, power and guile has made the Arsenal man one of Chile’s best performers.
Bolivia were one of the surprise packages of the group stage. Their solid defensive efforts yielded them a point against Mexico. Following that, Mauricio Soria’s side produced a shock result as they beat Ecuador 2-3, a great result which ultimately sent them through to the quarter-finals. Martin Smedberg-Dalence was one of Bolivia’s best performers overall, and was a key contributor – 1 goal and 1 assist – in the aforementioned win over Ecuador. Bolivia did get thrashed 5-0 by Chile in their final group match, but them even getting to the next round is a brilliant achievement.
Against Chile, Ecuador lacked cutting edge in the final third in a 2-0 defeat. That said, Ecuador improved in sharpness and fluidity with each game. The impish Swansea City winger Jefferson Montero, Ecuador’s most exciting player in attack, has been arguably Ecuador’s best group stage performer. The way Montero twists and turns his opponent left, right, left and right gets you on the edge of your seat. The comfort Montero has on either foot allows him to be a threat regardless of whether he cuts infield or goes to the byline. The partnership between Miller Bolaños and Enner Valencia will be one to keep an eye on in the qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Mexico were largely disappointing, save for their exhilarating 3-3 draw against tournament hosts Chile. Coach Miguel Herrera’s 3-5-2 did not prove successful, as Mexico were dumped out of the tournament at the earliest opportunity. Some players impressed – wingback Gerardo Flores, winger Jesús Manuel Corona and forwards Raúl Jiménez and Matías Vuoso.
Jorge Valdivia lived up to his nickname – El Mago, the magician – with his remarkable play in the final third. Valdivia oozed class with his touches and has been the key in the Chilean attack, slipping the likes of Alexis Sánchez and Eduardo Vargas in behind opposition defences with his perfectly-timed and well-weighted passes. Against Mexico, Valdivia was in full flow. The playmaker was the key to Chile’s attack and would have gotten on the scoresheet against Mexico had his spectacular half-volley from outside the box not been disallowed for Arturo Vidal’s offside in the build-up – personally, I think Vidal was not offside in that play.
More than just a game-changing performance, Jorge Valdivia has been arguably the standout player in Group A. Valdivia has been the chief facilitator of Chile’s success.
Talent Radar Best Young Player
Romel Quiñónez was arguably Bolivia’s best player in their 2-3 win against Ecuador. Quiñónez just about makes it into Talent Radar as, at the time of writing, he is 22 – he turns 23 tomorrow (25th, June 2015). The Bolivian made a number of good saves and also showed good decision-making ability. To cap off his display, he saved a penalty from Enner Valencia.
Jesús Manuel Corona is the only other Talent Radar-eligible player to have featured in this group. Corona has impressed in flashes with his pace, guile and trickery. Consistent end product was lacking in his 3 appearances; however, El Tecatito was nonetheless one of Mexico’s best players in attack. A testament to the youngster’s talent and potential – he has also been included in Mexico’s 23-man squad for the upcoming Gold Cup, which kicks off next month.
For more reading on the Copa America, head this way.
Written by Mark Ooi
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