Breaking down the Euro 2020 and the 2021 Copa América
It's a glorious summer for Austin soccer fans. Even as we celebrate the dawn of the Verde Era here in Austin, we also have the world's two biggest continental championships running on TV day and night. Both Euro 2020 and the 2021 Copa América have a COVID cloud hanging over them, but both have provided delightful soccer, and with knockout rounds approaching, both promise some tasty matchups to look forward to.
And looking ahead, even before those tournaments end, the U.S. men get into action in our own continental championship, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, being played July 2-Aug. 1 in venues around the country, including a semifinal at Q2 Stadium here in Austin, Thursday, July 29. Then come the U.S. women at the Olympics (July 21-Aug. 6), and the U.S. men again, with eight games of World Cup qualifying squeezed into three weeklong windows in the fall. But for now...
The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship is the quadrennial international men's championship of Europe. It was postponed last year, obviously, but organizers kept the 2020 name and all the originally scheduled dates and venues, just 364 days later. That was controversial, as some think it's a bad idea to have teams jetting around 11 countries that are all still struggling with the pandemic, but so far, so good. Group play ended Wednesday, and the knockout stage begins this weekend, with games at 11am and 2pm on ESPN and ESPN2.
Thus far: Italy has looked great, flashing an attacking flair not usually seen from the Azzurri, while their customary lockdown defense allowed just two weak shots on goal in three shutout wins... Belgium went a perfect 3-0 as well; those two are on track to meet in a quarterfinal that could produce the tournament winner... The other favorites have not really impressed thus far: The Netherlands are the other team to go 3-0 but looked fragile in back against the weakest group; England kept three clean sheets, but didn't create many chances themselves; Spain didn't look like themselves until a 5-0 rout of hapless Slovakia; and France, Germany, and Portugal all exposed flaws in each other in the group of death.
Round of 16
Sat., June 26: Wales-Denmark (11am), Italy-Austria (2pm)
Sun., June 27: Netherlands-Czech Republic (11am), Belgium-Portugal (2pm)
Mon., June 28: Croatia-Spain (11am), France-Switzerland (2pm)
Tue., June 29: England-Germany (11am), Sweden-Ukraine (2pm)
Fri., July 2: France/Switzerland-Croatia/Spain (11am) Austria/Italy-Belgium/Portugal (2pm)
Sat., July 3: Netherlands/Czech Republic-Wales/Denmark (11am), Germany/England-Sweden/Ukraine (2pm)
Tue.-Wed, July 6-7, 2pm
Sun., July 11, 2pm
2021 Copa América
The South American championship was likewise postponed from 2020, but renamed and resited. It was originally scheduled to take place in Argentina and Colombia, but within 10 days last month Colombia was removed as co-host amid protests against President Iván Duque Márquez, then Argentina was removed as the nation went into COVID shutdown. Brazil stepped in the next day, because although they themselves have some of the worst infection and death rates in the world, they also have a strongman dictator, Jair Bolsonaro, who doesn't care about such things. So the games are going on, all behind closed doors, and with vaccinated staff and players and limited delegations. This Sunday and Monday come the last games of the group stage, in which the 10 nations are split into two groups; the eight-team knockout round starts next weekend, and runs through the final on July 10.
Group A (South): Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia
Group B (North): Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador
Host Brazil won its first two games 3-0 and 4-0, scoring early and late, and dominating throughout against two of the weaker teams in the tourney... One of those, gutty Venezuela, still has a chance to advance into the knockout round, despite losing as many as 13 potential starters to COVID protocols... Colombia and Peru have the talent to spring an upset, but also the inconsistencies to rule them out as true contenders... The real challengers to Brazil come from Group A: Argentina and Chile both have veteran squads who are likely here for the last time in their careers; they fought to a draw in the opening game, and will likely meet again in the semifinal a week from Tuesday... All games are on Fox or FS1.
Thu., 6/24: Bolivia-Uruguay (4pm), Chile-Paraguay (7pm)
Sun., 6/27: Brazil-Ecuador (4pm), Venezuela-Peru (7pm)
Mon., 6/28: Uruguay-Paraguay (4pm), Bolivia-Argentina (7pm)
Fri., July 2, Quarterfinals: B2-A3 (4pm), B1-A4 (7pm)
Sat., July 3, Quarterfinals: A2-B3 (5pm), A1-B4 (8pm)
Tue., July 5, 6pm; Wed., July 6, 8pm
Sat., July 10, 7pm