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Argentina

I know picking Argentina, the favorite to win the tournament, as a winner for basically doing what everyone expected them to do seems boring, but hear me out. It wasn’t about what Argentina did, sweeping the group handily is what was expected of them. It is the way that Argentina played that got them on to this list.

Argentina outplayed Chile all night without Messi, the world’s best player – and Chile are no joke, they are one of the four most talented teams in the tournament.

Then Messi came on as a substitute against Panama, and scored a hat trick, calming any worries that his injury would slow him down.

Then Argentina calmly put Bolivia away, as they should have.

Argentina are the one favorite that really showed why they were favorites, dominating every game in the group stage. Colombia looked good until they fell to an already eliminated Costa Rica. Uruguay and Brazil couldn’t qualify for the knockout stage. Mexico played well, but in each of their games looked weak at times. Argentina haven’t looked weak for a second.

Fans of all the other teams in the tournament dread drawing Argentina, and they should. If Argentina continue to play as well as they have, there isn’t a team on Earth, much less in this tournament, that can stop them.

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No matter where they look, Venezuelan players see his face. He haunts their every waking moment.

Peru

From the murky, uncertain waters of group B, it was Peru who emerged victorious. Peru took advantage of the weak play of Brazil and Ecuador, the group favorites, and did exactly what they needed to do to win the group.

They beat Haiti 1-0 to start the tournament, and opened their match with Ecuador with two early goals. They could not hold their lead though, and Ecuador managed to catch up and draw the game 2-2.

This set up a final game against Brazil where Brazil needed to win to stay in. Peru matched an unconvincing Brazil through most of the match, but Brazil controlled the game. Brazil had more possession and more chances, but Peru had the Hand of God on their side. While it took divine intervention, Peru won the match and the group on a sneaky goal by Raul Ruidiaz.

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If you look closely, right when the GIF freezes you can actually see God push the ball into the net

While they won the group, Peru have not had a match that showed their quality like Venezuela’s final game against Mexico. However, they have made it this far with only one blip in the plan, and Colombia had best not take them lightly.

Peru have shown the ability to score and defend, and they open the knockout rounds against a Colombian side that lost to Costa Rica in their final game in the group stage. It’s about as good a situation as it could have been for Peru. Friday’s game will be a huge test for Peru, but the Peruvians have been up for every test so far.

Venezuela

Who saw Venezuela coming? In a group with two tournament favorites, Mexico and Uruguay, most expected Venezuela to go down quietly. Jamaica were favored more than Venezuela to be the surprise team in this group, but the Reggae Boyz were the only team in the tournament not to score a goal.

Venezuela looked lucky in their opening match, scoring a nice goal early but not putting the game away against Jamaica when the Reggae Boys saw a red card early in the match.

Their second match was another 1-0 win, this time over heavily favored Uruguay, on an absolutely incredibly goal, and some stunning misses from Uruguay.

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The face we all made when he scored a scissor kick against Mexico Monday night

It was their third match, however, that forced people to realize that Venezuela were for real. Against heavy favorites Mexico, Venezuela went up 1-0 early again, and again it was a stunner, this time from centre back Jose Velazquez. Venezuela pressured Mexico hard early, and an El Tri side with some notable names on the bench looked timid and unsettled.

The game went back and forth all night, but as the game went on Mexico went on the offensive. With a magical goal from Tecatito Corona and sustained pressure the rest of the night, Mexico managed to nick a draw out of an excellent game. Also, Chicharito showed off his luchador skills. That didn’t really affect the match, but I love that GIF. But Venezuela let the rest of the reams in the tournament know: Venezuela won’t go down easily, even when they play Argentina Saturday night.

Venezuela have scored arguably the two best goals in the tournament, so don’t count them out just yet.

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