The world's oldest international football tournament is now well under way, and although it may be too early to draw conclusions, one thing seems fairly certain: South America has become one of the most toughly disputed regions in international football.
Gone are the days of giants and minnows in this continent. Today, even the “lowlier” footballing nations seem both willing and able to thumb their noses at the regional “powerhouses.”
The first round of matches was somewhat of a disappointment for those seeking “attractive South American football,” but this is not uncharacteristic for the early stages of any tournament, where most teams are looking to get into their stride.
The poor level of some of the playing fields hasn't helped much either.
Just two days after Argentina's disappointing 1-1 draw against Bolivia, Brazil suffered a disappointing draw of their own (0-0).
Despite an early 20 minutes which seemed promising, Neymar and company ran out of ideas and seemed unable to break a pesky and emboldened Venezuela.
Earlier Colombia had eked out an unimpressive 1-0 victory over a 10-man Costa Rica, and Paraguay and Ecuador continued in the same low-scoring vein, drawing 0-0 in what hopefully will be remembered as the most uneventful match of this tournament.
Uruguay, who can boast of a rich history in this competition (14 titles won) certainly seem candidates this time around, after a tremendous showing at the 2010 World Cup.
However, they faced a surprising new version of Peru managed by Uruguayan coach Segio Makarian.
No longer the "minnows" they've proven to be in recent times, Peru seemed more than up to the task, going ahead 1-0 with a textbook finish by Hamburger SV striker Jose Paolo Guerrero.
Liverpool forward Luis Suarez scored the equalizer before long, but the match was well contested throughout and seemed as if it could go either way.
The most impressive performance to date was put in by Chile, who despite falling behind 1-0 to a young Mexican side, never seemed to lose control and came back to win 2-1.
Speed, pressure and attacking football are all legacies of outgoing coach Marcelo Bielsa, and not much seems to have changed under Claudio Borghi in this regard.
Look to Chile to be one of the more entertaining sides to watch in this Copa America.
In conclusion, nine of the 12 teams in this tournament have recently hired new managers, and many of them are undergoing intense restructuring. As a result, this tournament may present surprises and will be crucial in preparation for the grueling, drawn-out CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers.
Despite the poor level of play thus far, one should expect the intensity to increase, as key matchups between Argentina and Colombia in Group A, Brazil and Paraguay in Group B and Uruguay and Chile in Group C may very well decide the outcome of the group phase.
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