Copa America 2016 GFOP Roundtable

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A novelist, an MLS striker with more than 20 USA caps, and Rob Stone walk into a bar … Maybe not a bar, but we’ve gathered three GFOPs to help us preview Copa America Centenario. Novelist/journalist Daniel Alarcon, whose most recent book, City of Clowns, has been nominated for an Eisner Award. Seattle Sounders striker and FOX Sports Analyst Herculez Gomez. And, a man who needs no introduction, the one and only, Rob Stone. Daniel will be at the tournament in support of his beloved Peru. While the latter pair will cover it all for FOX Sports. All three sent Ravens about what they expect from the tournament.

MIB: What group stage game are you most looking forward to?

Rob: The fate of all four group winners could easily be determined by the conclusion of the first day of group play. One can make a strong case that the top two teams in each group are paired together in their respective openers. USA/Colombia in A, Brazil/Ecuador in B, Mexico/Uruguay in C, and Argentina/Chile in D. Selfishly, I feel the tournament opener on between the States and Colombia is massive, because it will frame much of our summer discussion on the state of the U.S. team. But to overlook the rematch of last year’s Copa final between Argentina and Chile would be absurd.

Herculez: I'm most excited about Group A, which many could argue is easily the "Group of Death." You have the host country (USA), who will have plenty to prove after a disappointing Gold Cup and Confederations Cup qualifier vs. their bitter rivals Mexico, a Colombian side which boasts one of the best group of attacking players in the world, a Costa Rica side that is coming off a lackluster 2015 Gold Cup, but a remarkable 2014 World Cup, and a Paraguay side that has seen its last two Copa America attempts come up just shy, with a finalist appearance in 2011 and a fourth place finish in 2015. Definitely going to be a fun group.

Daniel: Peru vs. Haiti. Respectfully, I think it's a match we (Peru) could and should win. To put it another way, it's a match Peru must win to have any chance at all to get out of the group.

MIB: Give us your USMNT prediction.

Rob: Jurgen Klinsmann will be criticized. I think this month will be the most important of his tenure. Three games in nine days, and a real stretch to survive the group. An ugly exit may open the door for his departure (and Bruce Arena’s return?!?!!?), but a strong showing will embolden him and the team, as they charge towards World Cup qualification in the fall.

Herculez: Colombia will be difficult to handle in the tournament’s opening game, but a positive result would allow them to manage their encounters with Paraguay and Costa Rica for a knockout round birth. Still, Jurgen Klinsmann has set the bar at a semi-final appearance. Even with a second place finish they would most likely face Brazil or Ecuador in the next round. If it's Brazil, I don't see them advancing, but if it's Ecuador I see the U.S. getting to that desired semifinal game.

Daniel: I'm afraid we (USA) will struggle to get out of the group, at which point one wonders about the viability of Klinsmann project. I hope I'm wrong.

MIB: One unusual prediction…

Rob: Brazil won’t make it out of the group. No, I haven’t overmedicated myself. Why not Ecuador and Peru going through from Group B? Wait, Peru? The nation that has just one win, and is in eighth place out of 10 countries in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying? Yes, Peru. Why? They prosper on the big stage as of late. Back-to-back third place finishes in the last two Copa Americas, so let’s make it a third straight.

Herculez: Mexico ties Uruguay for top spot in group C (7 points), but gets edged out on goal differential.

Daniel: Gonzalo Higuaín will score a meaningful goal in a cup final. I know that sounds ludicrous.

MIB: Who is the player of the tournament?

Rob: The short list includes World Cup 2014 leading scorer James Rodriguez, Arturo Vidal, Chicharito, Sergio Aguero, Douglas Costa for Brazil (since no Neymar), Alexis Sanchez, and Messi. But I am going with Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan became the first player other than Messi or Ronaldo to top the La Liga scoring list in the last seven seasons. His 40 league goals confirm he is in all out Beast Mode. And, yes, he has some history for making his mark in big tournaments. (see what I did there)*
*Editor’s Note: Stoner’s Raven left prior to Suarez’s injury.

Herculez: Before Luis Suarez’s injury in the Copa Del Rey final I would have said he was a lock. But now I'll have to give it to his Partner In Crime Leo Messi. Argentina is just too good, and he's going to pull the strings for El Albiceleste.

Daniel: I have to believe that the best player of his generation, Lionel Messi, will one day lead Argentina to the promised land.

MIB: Who wins the tournament?

Rob: Chile is your defending champs, Mexico is on a roll, and Brazil always has to be considered, but in the end, it’s Argentina. They haven’t won a major tournament at the senior level since 1993 when they won this tournament. Messi ends that drought this June.

Herculez: Argentina over Uruguay.

Daniel: A friend of mine bought me tickets to the final. So I win.