When a team can reach the finals of a tournament without winning a game, there’s a problem. And that’s exactly what Paraguay did last night with its shootout victory over Venezuela. There were a grand total of zero goals in the game but there was a huge brawl afterward that turned the game from bad to embarrassing. Really? It’s the semifinals of a major tournament, no one score and the game turns into a battle after the PKs.
This was Paraguay’s second tie against Venezuela in this Copa America with the first coming in the group stage but at least that one ended 3-3. They also tied Brazil twice, 2-2 in the group stage and 0-0 in the quarterfinals where they advanced on penalties.
All in all, there have been 13 games that haven’t ended in a draw or penalty kicks. That’s out of 24 games so far. Nearly have the games have ended up as a draw, including two quarterfinal matches and one of the semifinals (and they went to PKs). Paraguay could actually win this tournament by scoring five total goals and not winning a game!
The top two teams, Brazil and Argentina, failed to advance past the quarterfinals and won just two games combined. During the whole tournament, there have been just 46 goals (less than two a game). And if you take away July 13 when there were 12 goals in two matches, that leaves 34 goals in 22 games.
Uruguay has been the lone bright spot as it continues its solid play from the World Cup, where it made the semifinals. Of course, even Luis Suarez and company struggled in group play, needing a win in their final game to advance.
I know the weather is terrible, but it was bad last year in South Africa and teams still played attractive soccer.
Of course, the system is broken already. CONMEBOL, the South American soccer association, has just 10 teams in it so it invites two teams, any teams, to participate as well. Those teams can participate in their own region’s tournament as well but they must bring an olympic squad (U23 squad plus three overage players). So now the tournament has 12 teams.
That leaves three groups of four. Eight teams make the quarterfinals, three from two groups and two from one group. Come on, that system makes no sense. Third place in a group qualifies for the next round in only two of the three groups.
Costa Rica and Paraguay played in different groups, both came in 3rd place in their respective groups, but Paraguay advanced because it had a larger goal differential (Costa Rica actually won a game though). Now Paraguay is playing for the championship.
Why not just create two groups of five and keep it to just CONMEBOl teams? Play normal group stages with the top two teams advancing right to the semifinals. Teams play the same number of games (six) but the system becomes much more fair.
But even with the broken system, this year’s Copa America could have delivered quality, entertaining soccer, but it didn’t.
Beyond the lack of goals, the defense hasn’t even been that good and goalies haven’t played particularly well. It’s just been poor quality soccer. The fans haven’t been that into it (can someone explain to me why no one ever sits in the first 5-6 rows?). Players have flopped too much and too many are more concerned about the transfer window in Europe then the games in Argentina.
There’s no one player or team to blame for it, but Copa America 2011 has been a huge bust.