Copa America 2011: Who's Looking Up and Who's Worried?

Neri SteinFeatured ColumnistJuly 20, 2011

Copa America 2011: Who's Looking Up and Who's Worried?

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    The 2011 Copa America is coming to an end, and in a way no one expected. 

    Brazil and hosts Argentina were both stifled throughout and were gone by the quarterfinals, while Uruguay and Paraguay have continued their impressive form from last summer's World Cup.

    Venezuela, Colombia and Peru have also had some surprising runs in the tournament.

    Some teams are certainly have some bright futures, while others are stuck at a crossroads. 

    Now that the final is coming up, let's examine how the 2011 Copa America will affect some of South America's big teams. 

Mexico

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    Mexico isn't in South America, but they're regular invitees to the Copa America and have had some impressive runs there. This just wasn't their year.  

    Mexico lost all three of its group games in the Copa America, but that's more due to the fact that they were not at full strength having just competed in and won the CONCACAF Gold Cup. 

    They've already secured a spot in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil through that, but playing against tougher South American opponents this summer can help make this already young and impressive Mexican side even more so. 

    This was one of their worst Copa America performances, but it won't dampen their spirits too much. 

Uruguay

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    Uruguay had an impressive run in the World Cup last summer (forget the Luis Suarez handball for a second; they've played some good football), finishing fourth. 

    Coach Oscar Tabarez is taking the two-time World Cup winners back up to the top of South American football, starting with an appearance in the Copa America final Sunday. 

    They defeated Argentina on penalties in the quarterfinals and have a relatively young side that could once again have a deep run in the 2014 World Cup. 

    And we all know how Uruguay fared the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup. 

Paraguay

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    Paraguay made it to the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup, where they were defeated by eventual champions Spain in one of the more exciting matches last summer.

    They've reached the semifinals of the 2011 Copa America after four straight draws, two against Brazil. 

    In the quarterfinal match against Brazil, they stifled Brazil's attack throughout and then held their nerves from the penalty spot as they watched Brazil miss four penalties. 

    Coach Gerardo Martino will be leaving his post after this summer, but will stick around to oversee a smooth transition.

    Their defense has been the surprise so far this summer, despite allowing two last-gasp goals to Venezuela and one to Brazil, and if they can just close out games better, they could become a very tough matchup.  

Argentina

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    Hosts Argentina have some of the best players in the world, but are still trying to make it work. 

    They were held by both Bolivia and Colombia, scoring just one goal, before breaking out and defeating Costa Rica 3-0 in the group stages. 

    But they were sent out in the quarterfinals by Uruguay on penalties. It's another disappointing ending for an Argentina side that were embarrassed by Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals last summer.  

    There are still a lot of questions surrounding Serigo Batista's side, and it's almost as if he has too much talent than he knows what to do with.

    Argentina have won the previous two Olympics and were runners-up in the past two Copa Americas, but they have not made it past the quarterfinals in the World Cup since they lost in the 1990 final.

    With Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Javier Pastore and more in their ranks, they certainly are capable of doing it. It just remains to be seen whether or not these players can start meeting their expectations for the national side. 

Brazil

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    Brazil have not won the past two World Cups, and for Brazilians, that is unacceptable. The five-time winners are hosting the 2014 World Cup, and they certainly want to put on a show.

    They've struggled to find consistency in recent years and had a rather uninspiring run in the 2011 Copa America. 

    Two draws against Venezuela and Paraguay preceded a 4-2 win over Ecuador, but then Paraguay shut down their offense in the quarterfinals.

    In the penalty shootout, Brazil shockingly missed four shots and were sent home much early than expected.

    Brazil, like Argentina, has plenty of talent and is just trying to figure it out before the World Cup.  

    Mano Menezes has had back and forth results in his first year as coach of A Selecao, but young superstar Neymar is one of the most talked about footballers in the world and could certainly turn Brazil's fortunes around quickly.