The business end of the Copa America Centenario is upon us. The 16 countries that entered the fray have been whittled down to the final four, giving us two semi-final ties that promise to serve up no shortage of excitement, goals and fine football.
The line-up could not be more appetising. Hosts USA, the only team left in the competition who have yet to win it, are joined by holders Chile, Argentina – beaten finalists at the most recent edition, as well as at the last FIFA World Cup™ – and Brazil 2014 quarter-finalists Colombia, who are bidding for their second continental title 15 years after their maiden crown. FIFA.com previews all the action.
The big match
USA-Argentina, Tuesday 21 June, NRG Stadium, Houston, 8pm local time
This should be a fascinating clash of contrasting styles. USA rely on a compact unit, swift circulation of the ball and a solid structure at the back. They are blessed with a number of players blending physical prowess and pace, while coach Jurgen Klinsmann has made a strong collective ethos the cornerstone of his game plan. That approach has paid off in this competition, yielding some big results and the country's second ever run to the Copa semi-finals, 21 years after the first. Spurred on by the dream of making history, the hosts will be determined to showcase everything in their repertoire in front of a partisan crowd in Houston.
On the other hand, Argentina's biggest strength lies in their constellation of individual stars headed by the unpredictable, free-scoring trio of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Kun Aguero. La Albiceleste can also boast a spine of players who have been playing together for some time and possess a wealth of experience, including having reached two finals in as many years: at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ and the Copa America Chile 2015.
So far, the side coached by Gerardo Tata Martino have not just exhibited their fearsome firepower – they are the joint-top scorers with 14 goals, alongside Chile – but have also compiled the best defensive record, having conceded just twice. Thanks to this combination, they have comfortably advanced to this stage and are yet to be beaten.
This will be the third meeting between the two countries in this competition. The honours have been shared in the previous encounters, with one victory apiece: the Stars and Stripes were 3-0 winners at Uruguay 1995, while the two-time world champions triumphed 4-1 at Venezuela 2007.
In the spotlight
Colombia and Chile have not met in the Copa America since 2001, when the Cafeteros came out on top on home soil and went on to capture their only title.
The pair's paths to the semi-finals could hardly have been more different. Jose Pekerman's charges were pushed to the limit by Peru, eventually prevailing in a penalty shoot-out following a 0-0 stalemate in the 90 minutes of normal time. The Colombians were a long way from their best and the coach acknowledged that they had struggled to handle the pressure of being billed as heavy favourites. They will be out to perform significantly better in the last four, when they have the chance to avenge their semi-final defeat at the hands of Chile in 1987 and make a long-awaited return to the final.
The defending champions, for their part, are firing on all cylinders following a slow start. After succumbing to Argentina in their opener and then scraping past Bolivia, they have really upped their game in a manner similar to during their triumphant campaign last time out. They enter this tie with their confidence sky-high following their historic 7-0 quarter-final rout of Mexico, although they will have to do without influential midfielder Arturo Vidal, who is suspended. La Roja will also be buoyed by their healthy advantage in the head-to-head stakes, having won seven of their 12 matches against Colombia in the competition, drawing two and losing just three.
Did you know?
Hosts USA are the only semi-finalists to have had a man sent off as yet. DeAndre Yedlin picked up two yellow cards against Paraguay in the group stage, while Jermaine Jones was shown red in the Stars and Stripes' quarter-final against Ecuador. There have only been three other red cards shown thus far in the tournament: two to Ecuador players, namely Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Achilier, and the other to Paraguay's Oscar Romero.
50 – The number of shots Argentina have taken in the Copa America Centenario to date. Of those, 14 ended up in the back of the net, 13 were saved, one hit the post and 22 went off target. USA, for their part, have had 33 attempts, scoring seven goals. Regaining possession, meanwhile, is one area in which the hosts have the upper hand over their upcoming opponents, having won the ball back 132 times compared to La Albiceleste's 89.
What they said
"We're well aware of how Colombia play and they're sure to make us work hard. It'll be very difficult, just like every match is, and we'll try to impose our game. This group of players has written the most glorious chapter in Chilean football history and here's hoping we can keep adding pages to it." Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi