Because you can never have too many previews… It’s the Copa America preview! This is long, so let's just get it started.
Their Deal: The poorest nation in South America is also one of the worst soccer teams on the continent. They last went to the World Cup in 1994 (where I first heard the Smiths “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”). And they’ve been dumped in the first round of Copa America the last three times around.
Stud Muffin: Not many names even the intense footie fan has heard. Let’s go with Juan Manuel Peña just because he plays in Europe.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Current President and socialist Evo Morales has made a lot of headlines recently.
Population: 9.1 million
GDP/Per Head: $27.87 billion/$3,100
Government - Left, Right, or Other: Left, baby, left… little bit further… yep, socialist.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 2.7
Monroe Doctrine: Since the country has pretty much always been land locked and doesn’t have oil, the US could careless. Though I’m sure we were all about the military dictatorships during the Cold War.
Random Thoughts: Hey, look, a lot of natural gas… La Paz sounds cool… hey did you know that Bolivia has not one, but two, nation capitals, La Paz and Sucre? Sucre is the constitutional and judicial capital and La Paz is where the admin is kept. This doesn’t seem to be very efficient. No matter, New Yorkers are jealous I’m sure… it is estimated that in Bolivia 30% Quechua-speaking and 25% Aymara-speaking Amerindians people.
Chances: Although it’s somewhat unlikely they could beat Peru and Venezuela and find themselves in the second round. But expect this team to finish at the bottom of their group.
Their Deal: Despite being the third largest country in South America, their size advantage has not resulted in much success on the pitch. They have a few quality players, but save the 1970s they have never been much of a powerhouse in soccer. In fact, they haven’t even qualified for the World Cup since 1982.
Stud Muffin: Recent Chelsea signing Claudio Pizarro.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Tupac Amaru if you dig out your Inca history books, Mario Vargas Llosa, Hernando de Soto, and of course Saint Martín de Porres.
Population: 28.3 million
GDP/Per Head: $181.8 billion/$6,400
Government - Left, Right, or Other: Leaning Left; but friendly with the US
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 3.3
Monroe Doctrine: The US and Peru appear to have been pretty much always friendly with each other. I’m not sure, but we can assume that the US was friendly with the military dictators of the 60s and 70s. We just signed a free trade agreement with them.
Random Thoughts: Best looking team in Copa America – PERU! Sweet jerseys… Inca, Inca, Inca… Llamas and Alpacas!... Te Amo Peru!... Andes Mountains… Cuzco… Machu Picchu… Peru is a pretty cool place, we’ve been there and enjoyed it. Lima’s nothing special, but the Incan ruins are sweet… I sort of want a pet alpaca.
Chances: All in all, not so great. They could beat Bolivia and Venezuela which would get them into the second round, but if they were in Group B or C, they’d be picked for last.
Their Deal: One of the most decorated nations in international football, they have two World Cup titles and two Olympic Gold medals when the Olympics were considered the prime international tournament. Of course, this all happened over 55 years ago. They do have some quality players, and in the Group of Crap, which makes them the favorites to win it by default. And hey, they won this thing in 1995.
Stud Muffin: Manchester United sort of flop turned Villarreal stud, Diego Forlan.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Honestly? No one. I can’t find anyone I’ve heard of before… so let’s just stick with Diego Forlan.
Population: 3.4 million
GDP/Per Head: $36.56 billion/$10,700
Government - Left, Right, or Other: Leaning Left.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 6.4
Monroe Doctrine: Hey look, it’s the Switzerland of the Americas! American and Uruguayan history has been quiet. I don’t think we’ve ever had a problem with them.
Random Thoughts: It’s Uruguay, what is there to say? It seems like a very nice, small country, that you visit after you get sick of Argentina (or if Argentina is in a finical crisis)…
Chances: Thanks to being in a bad group; they have to be considered some sort of dark horses. Odds are they win Group A and then get the second best third place team – provided that team isn’t Brazil and Argentina, they should probably be looking at a run to the Semis. And even in that game, they should probably avoid Brazil or Argentina. Don’t be shocked if they make the final, or even win it. What are the odds on this team? They look like a fantastic ten dollar bet.
Their Deal: They’ve never qualified for the World Cup, they've never won Copa America... In other words they stink. That’s because they LOVE baseball.
Stud Muffin: Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Ozzie Guillen, Johan Santana… oh a soccer player? Then Juan Arango.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Simón Bolívar and everyone’s favorite wacky, 21st century socialist turned anti-democratic President… Hugo Chavez!
Population: 25.7 million
GDP/Per Head: 176.4 billion/$6900
Government - Left, Right, or Other: Left, left, left, left, left, wanta be socialist, left, left…
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 2.3
Monroe Doctrine: Oh, lots of history here. Thanks to having a boatload of oil, the US has a lot of interest in Venezuela. In the last few years things between the US and Venezuela have been exchanging snarky comments. In fact, the CIA dabbled in overthrowing Chavez a few years ago, it didn’t work out for the CIA.
Random Thoughts: Life by the oil, die by the oil. When prices are high, life (and corruption) is good. When they’re low, life stinks… The late 80s and early 90s saw the rise of baseball players from the Dominican. This was great. But the rise of players from Venezuela has been a bit less documented, but almost better. I mean who doesn’t love Ozzie Guillen?... It’s sort of a shame Chavez went all lame, because he did/does have some good ideas… Amazingly, Venezuela is really, really close to Florida, not Cuba close, but still really close.
Chances: If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they’re meat. Done. But they some how go placed in a group with Peru and Bolivia (read: it was fixed)… and if they can win this group, don’t be shocked if the some how sneak into the Final. It’s doubtful since they are probably the worst squad in the Copa America, but it’s taking place in Venezuela. Crazier things have happened.
Their Deal: Um, like the best team, totally, like ever, dude. Despite Brazil’s success in the World Cup (five, count ‘em, five time champions) and the fact that they seem to have the most national talent, they aren’t the favorites. Both Kaka and Ronaldinho chose not to play in the tournament, leaving the Brazilians some what lacking star power. That isn’t to say they won’t win this thing, maybe with fewer prima donnas, the team will gel unlike last years World Cup. And after all, they are the defending champs.
Stud Muffin: As I said, both Kaka and Ronaldinho are staying home (or in Europe), so that leaves Robinho as probably the biggest name – but that isn’t saying much since Robinho hasn’t been all that awesome with Real Madrid. Daniel Alves is coming off a wonderful year with should have been La Liga champs, Sevilla.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Pele, Seu Jorge, Adriana Lima, Gisele, Jorge Ben, Joao Gilberto, Nene, Paulo Coelho
Population: 188.1 million
GDP/Per Head: $1,616 billion/$8,600
Government - Left, Right, or Other: Left, current President Lula, has done much to help the poor and was formerly the head of one of the largest unions in Brazil. But Lula has attempted to work with the US.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 3.3
Monroe Doctrine: Brazil’s size and historical relationship with Portugal has sort of left it as the ‘odd’ ball of US foreign policy in Latin America. For the most part, we’ve gotten along.
Random Thoughts: I have to wonder, does anyone in the world hate Brazil or Brazilians?... When I was in Boston two months ago, I learned that Brazilians are to Boston as Mexican and Poles are to Chicago or Central Americans are to DC… If you ask me, it’s just a matter of time before the US and Brazil play each other for Olympic Gold in basketball and the World Cup… Brazil, economically, is sort of like JD Drew… thanks to sugar cane, Brazil doesn’t rely on oil, instead they use ethanol from sugar cane, which is more efficient than corn, naturally the US has slapped a tariff on Brazilian sugar and ethanol, thus you have to pay more at the pump.
Chances: Pretty darn good, they should win their group where they’ll face off with the second place team in Group C… apparently the NBA and David Stern set this tourney up and Argentina and Brazil playing each other before the final. In other words, like the NBA playoffs, the winner of the semifinal game will most likely go to the final and win the Copa America.
Their Deal: Like most countries that aren’t huge, talent comes and goes ever ten years or so. In the mid 90s they were a decent squad, making it to the second round of the 1998 World Cup, but that generation of players aged, and they haven’t been back to the World Cup since. They have some nice young players, but are probably too young to do too much in this competition.
Stud Muffin: My Chelian friends rave about Matias Fernandez, who plays for Villarreal.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, and for all the wrong reasons - Augusto Pinochet.
Population: 16.1 million
GDP/Per Head: $203 billion/$12,600
Government - Left, Right, or Other: Leaning left, though think of the current government like Labour in the UK.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 7.3
Monroe Doctrine: The US probably gave two shits about Chile until the Cold War and the 1970s when a Socialist government was elected. The US responded by helping the military stage a coup d’etat where Pinochet held power for the next fifteen years. Many Chileans were killed in the process, democracy returned in 1989. Then in the 1990s, we signed a free trade agreement with Chile. They’re pretty much the only success story in Latin America from the Washington Consensus.
Random Thoughts: It’s not a food silly… Speaking of, I don’t have a clue what it stands for in Spanish… Depending on who you talk to, the free market principles in Chile are either the reason for the countries economic success over the last 20 years or it was just luck. The answer is probably somewhere in between since the free market principals didn’t work so well at first… who doesn’t love some good, home-cooked corn pie?
Chances: They’re in a tough group and haven’t really had inspiring results in friendlies leading up to Copa America. But they could beat Ecuador and Mexico looks like crap right now, so a second place finish isn’t out of the question.
Their Deal: They have appeared in the last two World Cups, thanks in part of taking advantage to their home field advantage of playing of nearly two miles above sea level. They don’t do as well at sea level, but did make the Final 16 of last years World Cup, losing to England. Though, their more recent results aren’t too inspiring.
Stud Muffin: Edison Méndez had a pretty nice year with PSV and played well in the World Cup last summer.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Christina Aguilera’s dad, and um, those animals on the Galapagos Islands.
Population: 13.5 million
GDP/Per Head: $60.48 billion/$4,500
Government - Left, Right, or Other: If nothing else, President Rafael Correa is a huge Illini fan.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 2.3
Monroe Doctrine: Let’s just say the US has had better things to do over the last 200 years.
Random Thoughts: They have the Galapagos, I hear and have seen pictures of the country that are pretty, and the equator goes through the country. Other than that… probably better off visiting Peru.
Chances: Seeing that the sea level record leaves much to be desired, second place might be a stretch even with a young Chilean team and a Mexican team that comes in limping.
Their Deal: The former powerhouse of North America, the always underachieving on the international stage Mexicans are sort of at a crossroads. It’s pretty clear that the US has passed them on the world stage: the US beat them in the 2002 World Cup, they own them on US soil, and the US has won the last two Gold Cups (for what it’s worth). On top of that, they’re getting a big long in the tooth at certain positions and no one likes current coach Hugo Sanchez. Mexico has looked utterly uninspired since he’s taken over, the Mexicans need something, anything, to happen to get their act together.
Stud Muffin: Most Americans don’t like him, but Rafael Márquez is a regular for Barcelona. Though it appears that Nery Castillo is a star in the making.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Octavio Paz – writer, Salma Hayek – actress, Pancho Villa and Santa Anna – Generals, Vicente Fox – Former President, and Fernando Valenzuela – baseball pitcher.
Population: 107.4 million
GDP/Per Head: $1,134 billion/$10,600
Government - Left, Right, or Other: If you believe that Felipe Calderón is the rightful President, then they lean to the right, much to the joy of the White House.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 3.3
Monroe Doctrine: Were to start? Where to end? For better or worse, the US and Mexico are and shall be forever stuck with each other. This relationship has worked out much better for the US than Mexico historically. Then there is the Mexican American War, which was sort of like the Iraq War where we decided to pick on someone smaller than us, but unlike Iraq, we won that war taking pretty much all of the now southwestern United States (I’d say losing California was a blow for Mexico). I’m sure if the US wasn’t busy fighting over state rights in the Civil War, we would have had something to say about Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand coming over to Mexico and declaring himself Emperor, but the Mexicans got rid of him pretty quickly. Then there was Pancho Villa and Pershing attempts to capture him… and then NAFTA. I could go on forever.
Random Thoughts: Cuauhtémoc Blanco translates to Chip White… I love the name Paco… Mexico has a little something for everyone doesn’t it?... The second largest Catholic country in the world (Brazil is first, and the US is third in case you were wondering).
Chances: They could beat Brazil. They should beat Chile and Ecuador. But considering they struggled with pretty much everyone in the Gold Cup, all best are off. BUT it should be said, Mexico has preformed pretty well in Copa America since they started going in the early 90s. And they would love nothing more than getting a crack at Argentina in the second round – a revenge game for the thriller the two teams played last year in the World Cup.
Their Deal: The favorites heading into this cup, the Argentineans played some beautiful footie last year in the World Cup. But a few questionable decisions by the manager in the quarters lead to defeat at the hands of the Germans. They have a nice mix of players and appear to be full of confidence going into this tournament. But the Argentineans have made it a bit of a habit to under perform in recent years.
Stud Muffin: Roberto Ayala on defense, Javier Mascherano in the midfield, and boast three world class strikers in Lionel Messi, Hernan Crespo, and Carlos Tevez. These guys should be fun to watch.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Jorge Luis Borges – writer, Juan D'Arienzo – tango, Diego Maradona, Angel Cabrera – golfer and current US Open Champ, Manu Ginobili, Martin Gramatica, Juan Domingo Peron – Former President, Eva – Peron’s wife and subject of a crappy musical, Cesar Milstein, Luis Federico Leloir, and Bernardo Houssay all won Nobel Prizes, and Che (Ernesto Guevara) - Revolutionary
Population: 39.9 million
GDP/Per Head: $599.1 billion/$15,000
Government - Left, Right, or Other: Néstor Kirchner has his country leaning left and depending on how bad inflation is, he'll think about getting in bed with Chavez.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 2.9
Monroe Doctrine: There’s much here, the Dargo Doctrine of 1902 set the policy that no European nation could use force against an American nation to collect debt. In the 1990s the Argentines pegged the peso to the dollar to slow down inflation, they slowed down inflation, but after the government defaulted on their loans in 2001, all hell broke loose in the country. Another interesting tidbit is the US role in the Falklands War between the Brits and Argentines. We (The US) gave the UK our blessing to invade the Falklands. Every twenty years or so Argentina calls for Puerto Rico’s indpendence.
Random Thoughts: The Argentineans do capitalism pretty poorly… I wonder what mess Maradona will get himself into next… Maradona is consider my many to be the greatest soccer player of all time, but his image prevents him from carrying the title, therefore Pele happily steps to the plate… Yum, beef… The President lives in the Pink House… From what I can gather, Argentineans think their a lot more important than they really are. In other words, they’re the anti-Brazilans… If you’re looking for a team to dive, flop, and roll around on the ground as if they’ve been shot during play, look no further.
Chances: They’re probably the toughest group, all things considered, but should still be able to find their way to the next round. If they can avoid a second place finish, and they should, they’ll face Brazil in the semis, were we should expect a pretty kick ass match. The winner of that one will most likely be your Copa America champion.
Their Deal: They qualified for three World Cups in the 1990s, but have been on the outside looking in since then. Another team that lacks a ‘star’ Columbia appears to be a sort of youngish team that is neither here or there… going by tradition, they should be something to worry about, but your guess is as good as mine. They have had some nice results leading up to the tournament.
Stud Muffin: Defenders Ivan Cordoba and Amaranto Perea are quality.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Juan Pablo Montoya, Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and international superstar - Shakira.
Population: 44.4 million
GDP/Per Head: $374.4 billion/$8,600
Government - Left, Right, or Other: Alvaro Uribe is one of the few right leaning leaders in South America, he has close ties with the US, and is not related to White Sox hero Juan Uribe.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 3.9
Monroe Doctrine: Seeing that so much coca, which is then turned into cocaine, is grown in Columbia and seeing that the US population has a never-ending appetite for the stuff, the US government is heavily concerned with Columbia. We basically offer to go destroy acres of the stuff, and if I do say so myself, this is called cheap, crap, inefficient, and wasteful policy. If the US really wanted to do something about drugs, we’d change our approach, it’s not the Columbians fault that Americans love blow… but that’s neither here or there. The last thing the US would want to see is FARC, a group of guerillas, some how getting control of the government. It’d be like bizarre-Taliban in our back yard, just without the Islamist bullshit.
Random Thoughts: I got a little fired up there… Let’s see Columbia actually has a bit of a baseball history… this is probably when I should mention that in 1994, Andrés Escobar had an own goal, allowing the US to beat the Columbians, when Escobar returned home he was murdered… I’m a fan of their unis.
Chances: It really depends on how things play out in their game with the US. A victory over the US probably will get them into the next round. But who ever finishes in second faces Brazil in all likelihood, and that’s were the dream dies.
Their Deal: They have had a bit of success, winning Copa Aamerica twice, and appearing in the last three World Cups. But the team looked like rubbish in the World Cup last year and their results thus far this year leave a lot to be desired.
Stud Muffin: Roque Santa Cruz has a ton of talent, but always seems to be hurt. He was healthy this year, but didn’t do too much… Oscar Cardozo played out of his mind in Argentina which in turn had him swapped up by Portuguese side, Benfica. He’s one to watch.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: Cindy Taylor? I’ve never heard of her, but she hosted E!’s Wild On for a while… Alfredo Stroessner was the dictator of the country for 35 years.
Population: 6.5 million
GDP/Per Head: $30.64 billion/$4,700
Government - Left, Right, or Other: The President is a member of the Colorado Party, which leans to the right.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 2.6
Monroe Doctrine: I’m not sure the US could careless about a country in the Western hemisphere.
Random Thoughts: This is when I mention that 90% of the country speaks Guaraní and the players communicate on the pitch in Guaraní. In a tourney where everyone but two nations speak Spanish, this could come in handy… It’s one of the few land locked South American countries… they lost a lot of land in the War of the Triple Alliance, one of those, wow that was really nasty shit type why didn’t we study that in history class sort of conflicts… It’s some what of a lawless country, with black markets dominating the economy
Chances: They’re in a tough draw, haven’t been playing all that well, and would need a victory over the United States or Columbia just to make the second round. I don’t like their chances.
THE United States of America
Their Deal: They won the Gold Cup (a tournament between North America countries) on Sunday and are on a bit of a role under new coach Bob Bradley. They haven’t lost since he took over late in 2006. The US is playing some nice soccer right now, no, they aren’t dominating and have some questions on the back line, but they come in as one of the ‘hottest’ teams, if not the hottest... oh wait, since our best players just played five or six games in two weeks and are tired almost none of them came to South America. It's a some what young team that lacks 'star' power.
Stud Muffin: As the awesome That’s On Point put it, as DeMarcus Beasley goes, so goes the USA. Though Landon Donovan has been on fire this year. Oh wait… they aren’t going to Venezuela, that leaves Eddie Johnson, he of great pace but of maddening inconsistency.
Most Famous Person That You’ve Heard About: It's a tie between Bill Simmons and Master P.
Population: 300 million
GDP/Per Head: $12,980 billion/$43,500
Government - Left, Right, or Other: Well the President is probably the most conservative President of the last 100 years. Meanwhile Congress is controlled by those that lean left.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the least corrupt), how Corrupt is the Country?: 7.3 (if you’re scoring at home, the US and Chile tie for the least corrupt country in Copa America).
Monroe Doctrine: We invented it, therefore we don’t really have to police ourselves.
Random Thoughts: Random thoughts about the United States… I have none at the moment, though the White Sox beat the Devil Rays and I just saw Greg Oden’s face… I hate ESPN – monopolies suck. The US is 40 to 1 to win Copa America... Mexico is 10 to 1. And considering Hugo Chavez is probably going to personally piss in our Cheerios before each breakfast, that seems about right.
Chances: I liked them a lot more on Sunday than I do now. Bradley has kept many of the best US players at home, and since the Under 20 championships are about to begin up in Canada, this even that young of a squad. It’s a bunch of B and C players. Honestly nothing to get excited about, which is a bummer. I am sort of disappointed in the US Soccer Federation, their goal this summer was to win the Gold Cup. They could careless about Copa America, probably because they know we can't win it. But if we're ever going to reach that point where we face off with Brazil in every World Cup Final, we should place more empathize on competitions where there is more than one quality team. But that would be too risky. Now we've just put our best players through six/five games in just over two weeks. And they can’t go in Copa America because of it. Is the US better off because they won the Gold Cup? Probably not.
4) The United States of America
And Who Wins This Thing?