Coming into the pivotal second matches for Group B on Thursday night, it is doubtful that many expected Uruguay and Venezuela to be in their respective current situations. Venezuela knocked off Jamaica 1-0 on Sunday afternoon at Chicago’s Soldier Field while Uruguay fell 3-1 to Mexico later that night at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ. Still, it would be a major upset if Venezuela was able to also beat Uruguay at Lincoln Financial Field (7:30, Fox Sports 1) in Philadelphia.
At least on paper this should be a mismatch since in the latest FIFA world rankings from last Thursday, Uruguay was No. 9 while Venezuela checked in at No. 77 (only Bolivia at No. 82 is lower in the 2016 Copa America field of 16 teams). Still, the beauty of soccer tournaments like this is that anything can happen in a given game. Venezuela most likely will be playing with a packed-in defense hoping for a draw (1 point) while Uruguay desperately needs a win (3 points) to progress to next week’s quarterfinals. Jamaica meets Mexico in the other Group B match on Thursday (10, Fox Sports 1) at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. It’s hard to see Jamaica getting any points there so I would expect them to finish fourth which means that Venezuela and Uruguay are just trying to avoid third-place since Mexico looks like one of the top teams in the tournament therefore I expect them to come in first in Group B.
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Uruguay trailed right off the bat vs. Mexico, allowing an own goal in the fourth minute. Complicating things, midfielder Matias Vecino picked up two yellow cards in the first 45 minutes so they played a man down for the entire second half. Mexican midfielder Andres Guardado picked up his second yellow in the 73rd minute (making it 10-on-10) and Uruguayan defender Diego Godin tied it up a minute later. Mexico ended with a flourish though as defender Rafael Marquez scored the go-ahead goal in the 85th minute and midfielder Hector Herrera added an insurance tally in injury time.
Venezuela did most of its work in an eventful first half against Jamaica as striker Josef Martinez scored the game’s lone goal in the 15th minute and Jamaican midfielder Rodolph Austin received a harsh red card in the 23rd minute. Venezuela owned a huge 63-37 percent edge in possession so they wore down the 10-man Jamaica the rest of the way. Uruguay was similarly chasing the ball against Mexico who owned a 61-39 percent advantage in possession. Striker Edinson Cavani was mostly quiet vs. Mexico but I’d expect him to step up against Venezuela. The good news for Uruguay is that with Mexico out of the way, they should beat Venezuela and Jamaica. If they don’t, it will be a major failure by one of the world’s top men’s national teams. Goal differential is vital too so every strike, even in a blowout win or loss, could potentially matter.
Follow Metro Boston soccer writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate