Just in the group stage alone, the 2016 Copa America has been both wildly entertaining and unpredictable. The quarterfinals start on Thursday (9:30, Fox Sports 1) with the U.S. (2-0-1) taking on Ecuador (1-2-0) at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. On Friday (8, Fox Sports 1), Peru (2-1-0) meets Colombia (2-0-1) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. That particular matchup is surprising for a couple reasons: for one, Peru won Group B and Colombia was the runner-up to the United States in Group A. Coming into the tournament, nobody would have picked Peru to finish with more points than Brazil and Ecuador. Likewise, after Colombia dominated the U.S. 2-0 in its opener, who could have imagined that the Americans would claw back to go in front of Colombia based on a better goal-differential (plus-3 over plus-2)?
Peru’s 1-0 victory over Brazil on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA was the craziest result thus far. The game-winning goal by Peruvian striker Raul Ruidiaz came on a blatant handball after midfielder Andy Polo had crossed the ball to him right near the Brazilian net. After a lengthy review, the referees first said it was no goal then they changed it back to a goal. It certainly didn’t help FIFA’s deserved reputation as the shadiest governing body (sorry NCAA) in sports although conspiracy theorists will have a hard time explaining how Peru would be chosen to beat Brazil. Regardless of how it occurred, it was one of the best wins in Peru’s mostly forgettable soccer history. The last time that Peru had beaten Brazil at the Copa America was in 1975 (when they won the whole thing). Brazil had led the all-time series 29-9-3 and not getting out of the group stage at Copa America for the first time in 29 years cost manager Dunga his job on Tuesday.
There is little question that Colombia will still be heavily favored in this match. They are one of the top teams in the world and the only reason that they didn’t win Group A is because they lost to Costa Rica (1-1-0) 3-2 on Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. Costa Rica had barely a prayer in terms of advancing to the quarterfinals so it is a little strange that Colombia sleepwalked against them when they only needed a tie to win the group. I find it hard to see them losing focus like that again with a semifinal spot on the line. The winner of Peru-Colombia will meet the winner of Mexico (2-1-0)-Chile (2-0-1) on June 22. Peru shut out Haiti (1-0) in its opener and allowed two goals in a draw vs. Ecuador. Their defense will need to stay strong since Colombia scored seven goals (they also beat Paraguay 2-1) in their first three matches.
Follow Metro Boston soccer writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate
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