Copa America fans have one day to regroup before the knockout rounds throw more soccer their way.
NESN.com’s Marcus Kwesi O’Mard and Nick Goss have been covering Copa America 2016 for us. They now make fresh forecasts for the rest of the tournament, with the quarterfinals set to kick off Thursday when the United States takes on Ecuador.
Who will win Copa America 2016?
MKO: So I was wrong about Uruguay. Dead wrong. No Luis Suarez, no party.
That being said, I’m casting my lot with Chile, a team that is growing in strength with each passing game. Chile looked flat against Argentina on June 5, better against Bolivia on June 10 and devastating against Panama on Tuesday. Chile will use their winning mentality and big-game experience to outlast Mexico in the quarterfinals before topping Peru (not Colombia) in the semifinals. It will win the tournament by completing its revenge mission against Argentina.
NG: Argentina, my pre-tournament pick. They’ve scored 10 goals in three games so far, and Lionel Messi is just warming up after not playing 90 minutes in any of the group stage games. I don’t see any of the remaining teams having the firepower to match Argentina goal for goal or the defensive quality to slow them down.
Argentina is the No. 1 team in the latest FIFA world rankings for a reason, and that won’t change when they win Copa America.
How will the United States fare?
MKO: Team USA will defeat Ecuador in the quarterfinal but fall to Argentina in the semifinals. Reaching the last four will make Copa America 2016 a success for Team USA.
NG: Ecuador isn’t an easy opponent, but Team USA’s impressive defending and goalkeeping should be enough for a 1-0 or 2-1 win. The ride for the Americans will end in the semifinals where they likely would play Argentina, the best team in the tournament armed with the best player in Messi.
How will Mexico fare?
MKO: Pain and heartbreak against Chile. Mexico is one of Copa America’s most compelling teams, but Chile will spoil the party for the de facto co-hosts. Mexico is unbeaten in its last 22 games (the world’s best ongoing run), but expect Chile to expose its defensive frailty and end El Tri’s impressive run.
NG: Mexico will beat Chile in the quarterfinals and progress past the semifinals, but it won’t defeat Argentina. A Mexico-Argentina final should produce plenty of excitement, though.
Who will be the top goal scorer at Copa America 2016?
MKO: It has to be Lionel Messi, right? The Argentinian superstar led the group-stage in scoring with three goals, despite playing just 75 out of a possible 270 minutes. Messi probably will play from the start in the knockout rounds, having fully recovered from a pre-tournament back injury. More goals will follow.
NG: Messi has the best chance and it would be a surprise if he didn’t claim this honor. The U.S. or Ecuador won’t be able to handle him in the semifinals, and he’ll possibly have the top scorer crown wrapped up by the time Argentina reaches the final.
Who will be the top player at Copa America 2016?
MKO: Arturo Vidal is a genuine star who’s at the top of his game right now. He drives Chile forward from the midfield and defends as if his life depended on it. He’ll lead Chile all the way and should win the Golden Ball.
NG: It’s difficult to imagine Messi being the top scorer and not being the top player as well. In addition to scoring goals, he’s creating chances for teammates with his extraordinary playmaking ability.
MKO: The Mexico-Chile quarterfinal will be the game of the tournament. They’re two of the best teams at Copa America 2016, and it’s a shame one will exit the tournament so soon.
NG: Peru upsetting Colombia in the quarterfinals isn’t as bold of a prediction as you might think. Peru defended brilliantly and received excellent goalkeeping to knock out Brazil in the last group stage game.
Chile has played well at this tournament, but it’s far from unbeatable. Expect an extra time win for Peru.
Thumbnail photo via Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports Images