Ranking the biggest disappointments of Copa's group-stage exits
Two weeks down, and half the Copa America Centenario field has headed home – or is on their way to the airport – and who honestly thought Brazil and Uruguay would be among them?
The South American powers were considered championship possibilities when the tournament kicked off on June 3, but both, alas, were nothing but pretenders. Brazil never charmed, although they missed the quarterfinals only because nobody spotted a hand ball, and Uruguay – winner of the most Copa America titles, with 15, a mark Argentina is hoping to match in another week and a half – didn't have enough gas with Luis Suarez's injury keeping him unhappily glued to the bench.
There are not too many surprises among the other eliminated teams, which include every CONCACAF side that isn't the U.S. or Mexico, even if Costa Rica seemed to have a real shot at the second spot in Group A before the games began.
Here's who's out, in order of disappointment:
The Olympics took precedence this summer, costing Dunga's side a real difference-maker in Neymar – he's instead been partying in L.A. and Vegas – and with so many players pulling out because of injury, there just wasn't enough class in the side, not even with Willian and Philippe Coutinho and Dani Alves, to warrant their pre-Centenario status as title contender. That said, they'd have won Group B and would now be preparing for a Colombia showdown had Peru's hand-of-Raul Ruidiaz strike not counted. Sure, the Seleção got robbed, but Brazil wasn’t really deserving, either, and Copa America success wouldn't have masked the real problem, which is that Dunga's preferred style, which emphasizes defensive organization, just doesn't fit the Brazilian psyché. It didn't work during his first tenure as coach, and it cost him his job again earlier this week after failing for a second time. If something isn't done soon, we might see the first World Cup without Brazil.
We'll never know if Los Charruas might have met expectations had Luis Suarez not done in his hamstring in Barcelona's Copa del Rey triumph, but they sure missed their biggest star on the field. They were out after falling apart at the end of the opener with Mexico, conceding in the 85th and 93rd minutes after rallying from an early deficit, and upon Venezuela's Rocky-like upset in the second game. Suarez thought he could play, and he lashed out when he discovered during that second game that he wasn't on the active roster. Had he been, maybe things are different. There wasn't enough creativity elsewhere, and Edinson Cavani, finally given the reins to the attack, wasn't up to the task. They're not the worst team going home, by a long shot.
Ramon Diaz was the first Centenario casualty, resigning as manager after Los Guaranies, who'd figured they had a good shot at joining Colombia as Group A's quarterfinalists, limped to last place in the quartet while scoring just one goal. They were at a disadvantage throughout, thanks to the tournament's second-worst travel docket (from Orlando to L.A. to Philly, a total of 7,366 miles -- and another 6,500 miles from Asuncion). They were utterly taxed by the heat and humidity in Florida, where they trudged through a scoreless draw with Costa Rica. They couldn't contain James Rodriguez in a the loss to Colombia, then were unfortunate not to find an equalizer in a fine second-half performance against the U.S. Paraguay was decent defensively, giving up just a dozen shots on goal, but Oscar Romero's red card against Colombia was costly, and if they'd unleashed Victor Ayala before the second half of the second game, things might have turned out better.