The 2019 Copa América kicked off with the hosts Brazil taking on minnows Bolivia, and as expected, the favourites for this year’s CONMEBOL America Cup (eventually) earned the victory thanks to a Philippe Coutinho brace and a stunning solo goal by highly rated winger, Everton.
Fernandinho showed no signs of slowing down with age and was positioned in his familiar club role of being the central defensive midfielder, despite not playing regular football since early April due to injury, as well as the phenomenal form of Ilkay Gundogan.
The veteran looked in fine form as he put in an excellent 90-minute performance. Typically and perhaps unfairly, known as a midfielder destroyer, despite his technical and passing ability, the Brazilian was excellent in breaking up the rare Bolivian attacks before they could really begin, amassing three tackles and four recoveries. And despite his height, Fernandinho was also dominant in the air, winning five aerial duels.
Alike his role for the blues, Fernandinho was the catalyst in initiating Brazilian attacks as he acted as the link between the Brazilian defence and the attack. It became a familiar sight to see our number 25 receiving the ball from Thiago Silva or Marquinhos before picking out one of the attacking players higher up the pitch. Fernandinho even managed to bag himself an assist for Brazil’s final goal.
Striker Gabriel Jesus came off the bench after 65 minutes with the game effectively already won at 2-0, with Bolivia barely getting into Brazil’s half over the 90 minutes. Jesus’ skill and energy seemed to brighten up the dull fixture whilst a particularly harrowing nutmeg over Bolivia’s Diego Wayar were one of few interesting moments in the game.
Brazil’s lack of creativity and attacking flair in the final third against Bolivia was evident with the Brazilians failing to score in the first-half despite bolstering a star-studded attack. Brazil’s failure to convert in the first-half may be a cause for the concern for their manager. With Roberto Firmino still not looking fully match-fit and Jesus having netted in his last two starts for Seleção, Tite will strongly consider the possibility of starting Gabriel Jesus in their second group game against Venezuela.
Elsewhere, Ederson unfamiliarly found himself on the bench, albeit due to a slight injury problem, and despite arguably being the better goalkeeper of the two, Tite looks to prefer Allison between the sticks. Barring an injury or a suspension to Tite’s number one choice, Ederson shouldn’t expect to start a game for Brazil throughout the Copa América.
On the second day of the tournament, Argentina faced Colombia. The two nations possess various world-class players, and following a feisty game filled with lively challenges, Colombia emerged victorious over a very lacklustre Argentina side. Colombia’s disciplined defending saw Argentina’s attacking trio of Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria kept very quiet throughout the 90 minutes, whilst Argentina’s basic game plan: give the ball to Messi whenever possible, was foiled due to the five-time Ballon d’Or winner being superbly man-marked and tracked throughout the game.
City’s all-time top goalscorer Sergio Aguero started the game for Argentina, however, the Argentine had an unusually quiet game and was excellently suppressed by Colombia’s powerful central defensive pairing of Davinson Sanchez and Yerry Mina. The duo were solid throughout the game and assured that Aguero and his compatriots’ attacks were nullified.
Aguero was substituted after 80 minutes and was arguably on the pitch for much longer than he ought to have been, considering his poor performance. Following this, it is likely that he will be dropped in favour of Juventus’ Paolo Dybala in Argentina’s next fixture against Paraguay.
Meanwhile in the Argentinian defence, Nicolas Otamendi had a torrid time against Colombia captain Radamel Falcao. ‘The general’ was outwitted throughout the game by Falcao’s off-the-ball movement and was often found out of position. However, the Argentine looked a threat in the air, coming close with a header before an unmarked Messi headed the rebound wide. Otamendi appeared to lack match fitness given his bit-part role in Manchester City’s 2018/19 campaign, and aside from Renzo Saravia, he was arguably the worst player on the pitch.
Major improvement is needed both offensively and defensively from Argentina if they wish to progress to the final stages of the tournament. However, fortunately for La Albiceleste, they have two very winnable remaining group games against Paraguay and Qatar. Had they been drawn into a tougher group it wouldn’t be inconceivable to see them getting eliminated early from the competition.
Our Argentinian blues face Paraguay in their next game, one that they desperately need to win, whilst our Brazilians face Venezuela and a win would see them progress to the knockout stages with a game in hand. Hopefully, our boys will impress on the international stage alike Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sané have done over the last few weeks.
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