Copa America Centenario: The semifinals are here

The semifinals of the Copa America Centenario are set and the United States, Argentina, Colombia and Chile are the final four nations left standing.

The semifinals will kick off on Tuesday with the host nation taking on Lionel Messi and Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas at 9 PM Eastern Time. Then it's a CONMEBOL showdown with Chile facing Colombia on Wednesday at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois at 8 PM Eastern Time. By Thursday morning, the third place match (Friday) and the final (Saturday) of the tournament will be set.

However, before that happens let's break down how each team arrived at the semifinals.

The United States is riding a three-game winning streak

The road to the final four of the Copa America did not start to smooth for the Yanks. They opened the tournament on June third with a 2-0 lost to semifinalist Colombia at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The US was now forced to win the next two matches to secure their place in the quarterfinals.

United States head coach Jürgen Klinsmann was able to turn his team around and win the final two games of the group stages. They first thrashed CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica 4-0 at Soldier Field on June 7th. Then the United States secured their place in the quarterfinals with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Paraguay on June 11th at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The United States have only conceded one goal since their 2-0 lost against Colombia in the opener of the Copa America Centenario. Photo provided by VAVEL USA.
The United States have only conceded one goal since their 2-0 lost against Colombia in the opener of the Copa America Centenario | Jim Malone - VAVEL USA.

Their last victory also won the group for the USMNT with six points and positive three-goal differential. A large part of that was due to Colombia failing to win or just tie Los Ticos in their finale of the group stage match on June 11th at NRG Stadium.

The Yanks winning the group set up a quarterfinal matchup against Ecuador at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington last Thursday. The U.S. was able to pull through and beat Ecuador 2-1 with Clint Dempsey scoring his third goal of the tournament.

However, their victory proved to be costly since three starters picked up a one-game suspension and will now miss the clash against Argentina. Those players are Bobby Wood, Alejandro Bedoya, and Jermaine Jones.

Wood and Bedoya will both miss the next game due to yellow card accumulations. Jones will be watching the semifinal match on the sidelines since he was shown a direct red card against Ecuador.

Argentina firing on all cylinders

Argentina will need Lionel Messi to guide them past the USMNT in the semifinal match. Photo provided by VAVEL USA.
Argentina will need Lionel Messi (Center) to guide them past the USMNT in the semifinal match. Photo provided by VAVEL USA.

One of the most talented national teams in the world finally is united. Argentina has players on the bench that can easily be starting on numerous national teams. However, the players have accepted their roles and just want to capture Argentina's first championship since 1993.

They were the definition of dominance in the group stages. Argentina won all three of their matches against Chile, Panama and Bolivia. They were able to score ten goals and their defense only conceded one time. In their opener of the tournament against La Roja on June sixth in Santa Clara they were able to beat Chile without Messi. Argentina defeated their South American rivals 2-1.

The Argentinean magician, Messi has only started one game in the tournament and he already has four goals. Three of those goals came against Los Canaleros in Argentina's second group match. He entered the match in the 61st minute and scored his first goal seven minutes later. In less than 20 minutes, Messi completed a hat-trick and help guided La Albiceleste to a commanding 5-0 victory.

Against Venezuela Messi made history by tying Gabriel Batistuta 's goal scoring record for Argentina, he scored his 54th goal for the national team in the 4-1 quarterfinal victory.

Colombia fights their way into the semis

The Colombians started the Copa America with a (W-D-L) 2-0-0 record. All they had to do in the finale against Los Ticos was get a point and the Colombians win the group. However, La Tricolor's manager Jose Pekerman made the decision to start 10 new players for the last game. That decision came back to haunt them as the game progressed.

The Costa Ricans entered the match with nothing to lose since they were already eliminated from the tournament. The Central Americans responded by defeating the Colombians 3-2 on June 11th at the NRG Stadium. Los Cafeteros failure to leave the game with a point finished the group in second due to goal differential.

James Rodriguez will have to lead Colombia past Chile on Wednesday. Photo provided by VAVEL USA.
James Rodriguez (Right) will have to lead Colombia past Chile on Wednesday | Stephen Furst - VAVEL USA.

Their quarterfinal match was against Peru the surprise winners of group B last Friday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. La Tricolor dominated Los Incas in every aspect. However, Peru's goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and the defense kept the Colombians off the scoreboard.

A winner did not come during regulation time so penalties were needed to decide who would advance. This was the first match of the tournament that went to penalties. La Tricolor was able to get past the Blanquirroja with a 4-2 victory.

Chile in superb form

After losing their first match against Argentina, La Roja was able to recover. They won their next two matches against Bolivia and Panama to clinch their spot in the quarters. However, none of their wins were convincing as it took a controversial penalty to defeat Bolivia 2-1 on June 10th.

Regardless, of Chile's poor performance in their second match all they had to do was get the draw in the finale and their spot in the next round would be secure. However, Los Canaleros jumped ahead early with a goal from Miguel Camargo in the fifth minute. It was the worst possible to start for the South American, but they were able to respond in style.

Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez introduced themselves to the tournament as they both recorded a brace in the 4-2 comeback victory on June 14th. Their victory locked up second place, and now La Roja had to face Mexico on Saturday at Levi's Stadium.

If Alexis Sanchez (Center) performs at the same level he did in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, Chile will be competing in their second straight Copa America final. Photo provided by VAVEL USA.
If Alexis Sanchez (Center) performs at the same level he did in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, Chile will be competing in their second straight Copa America final. Photo provided by VAVEL USA.

The defending Copa America champions entered the match as underdogs, but they came out of the gates and smashed the Mexicans with their pace on and off the ball. The South Americans ended up giving Mexico their worst defeat in a competitive match with a 7-0 final scoreline. However, Chile did leave the landslide victory with some bad news. Arturo Vidal will be forced to miss the semifinal clash against Colombia since he is serving a one-game suspension due to yellow card accumulation.   

Now let's wait and see what unfolds in the semifinals. Will the United States reach the final? Will the Colombians make their first final since 2001? Or will the final be a rematch of the 2015 Copa America?

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