By Thomas Negron
The Copa America quarterfinals are set after quite an eventful group stage. Brazil were knocked out by Peru and Ecuador after only being able to score against Haiti. Uruguay forgot to mention to Luis Suarez that he actually was not fit to play, which lead to a frustrated Suarez sitting on the bench while his team got eliminated after only two matches. The USA found themselves at the top of the group after Colombia rotated 10 of their starters and lost to a Costa Rican team that had already been eliminated. The only group that did not provide much surprise was Group D, where Argentina topped the group in spectacular fashion as the only team to get all 9 points in the group stage.
The table above shows each team’s chances of advancing to each round of the knockout stage, along with how this probability has changed since the beginning of the tournament. Most of these probabilities went up, which makes sense since a team’s probability of getting to a certain stage given they made it to the quarterfinals will be greater. However, the clear winners of the group stage are Argentina. They looked dominant in their group stage games and have been awarded with a favorable draw in the quarterfinals and potentially the semifinals. Somewhat surprisingly, Chile’s chances of advancing past the quarterfinals have gone down since the tournament began. This is due to a combination of Chile being extremely likely of making it out of the group stage at the beginning of the tournament and facing Mexico, and then potentially Colombia and Argentina, in order to defend their Copa title.
Argentina’s World Dominance
While Argentina has not won a major international tournament since the 1993 Copa America, they are on the brink of making history as a national team. Going into the summer, Argentina was the number one team in the World according to the Elo ratings. The gap between them and Germany, who are currently sitting in second, has only grown throughout the tournament. In fact, if Argentina manage to win the tournament, they have a chance of eclipsing the 2100 mark in the Elo ratings. To put this in perspective only 6 other nations have ever been above this mark, and it would be the first time Argentina did it since 1957. While we have to be careful with the interpretation as Elo ratings should not be used to compare absolute quality over different time periods, this Argentina team may be the most dominant they have had relative to the rest of the world in about 60 years. It may also be a sign of “inflated” Elo ratings due to more nations participating regularly in international matches, which makes the average team slightly worse. The highest Elo rating ever achieved was following the World Cup, where Germany became the first team to reach the 2200 point barrier. This Argentinian team may have the talent to eventually surpass this record, but if it does happen it will most likely not occur until the 2018 World Cup.
US Men’s National Team Update
Tonight, the United States will play Ecuador in Seattle, the self-proclaimed best soccer city in the US (although I am sure our secretary Brendan Kent would beg to differ), with a spot in the semifinals on the line. Before the tournament began, Jürgen Klinsmann set the team’s goal for the tournament being the semifinal and the team has a good opportunity to achieve that goal. According to Elo ratings, the US are very slight favorites due to their home field advantage. However, the absence of Seattle native Deandre Yedlin may prove costly as the right back is suspended due to receiving a red card against Paraguay. Their hopes will be bolstered by their 1-0 win over Ecuador before the tournament began, coming from a late goal from Portland Timbers star Darlington Nagbe. While Nagbe does not usually get the warmest of welcomes when playing in Seattle, the fans will surely be cheering him on tonight if Klinsmann turns to him as an impact sub. If the US are able to get past Ecuador, they will most likely be facing Argentina in the semifinals, who are the heavy favorites to make it to the finals on that side of the bracket.
Taking a note from FiveThirtyEight, I wanted to provide a significant digit for this article, 5.5%. That is our model’s probability that the US and Mexico make it to the final. It is also the probability that all South American nations decide that this tournament was not a legitimate Copa America.