Ecuador vs. USA
Jurgen Klinsmann entered the 2016 Copa America preaching semifinals as the goal for the USMNT, ambitious but realistic for a team that includes a number of high-level starters on top-tier European clubs. Even though they had been in the midst of a Klinsmann-induced downfall that included a fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, a huge loss to Mexico for a place in the Confederation's Cup, and almost getting eliminated from World Cup qualifying thanks to a horrific performance against some random Central American opponent, they were expecting to make the semifinals in the third-biggest tournament in the world against some of the best teams in the world.
They have now given the country the (possibly false) impression that they are better than before after a solid group stage that saw them beat out Colombia for the top spot. Using the same lineup in three straight games—something that hasn't been done in basically ever—they decimated World Cup quarterfinalists Costa Rica and cruised to a defeat of Paraguay, and although the US needed some major help from Los Ticos in order to win the group, it wasn't a bad performance by the red, white, blue and Nike.
So they've made the quarterfinal without much trouble aside from a dispiriting loss to Colombia. The USMNT will now face Ecuador, the forever-underrated South American side.
La Tri have never been among Argentina or Brazil or Uruguay or even Colombia in South America. They have qualified for back-to-back World Cups only once in their history—although they were in Brazil in 2014—and their best finish ever in the Copa America is fourth, achieved in 1959 and on home soil in 1993. They have never had a Messi or a Suarez or a James Rodriguez. There is plenty of talent on the team—including four Premier League players—but no superstars.
This is not to say they won't be a challenge for the US, though.
Ecuador are currently second in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, only behind Uruguay on goal differential through six matches. They have surprised many with wins over Argentina and Uruguay, and appear likely to qualify barring a major collapse. In the Copa America, they have picked up two clean sheets—including one against Brazil—and finished as the second place team in Group B after a blowout of Haiti on the final day of the group-stage.
They have multiple creative attackers who could play big roles against a US team without their starting right back. Enner Valencia, Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero are known commodities with an abundance of skill at forward and on the wings, and with Michael Orozco—a subpar Liga MX center back—defending them at full back, things could get ugly.
But the US remain the better team, and should be able to beat Ecuador. Then again, they should have been able to beat Guatemala as well, so you never know.
Peru vs. Colombia
Peru have accomplished two things so far in this year's Copa America: Qualifying for the quarterfinals and getting Dunga fired as the Brazil manager. Both of those they pulled off thanks to a handball goal scored against Brazil in the final group-stage game.
After a win against Haiti and a draw against Ecuador—the same results as the Canarinho—Peru went into a match against Brazil on Sunday needing a victory to win the group. Anything less would mean elimination. A Hand of God goal by Raul Ruidiaz gave them the full three points against Brazil B, sending them through to a match against Colombia in the next round. Here's a look at the goal:
Ruidiaz—currently playing for a club in Peru—joined the likes of Thierry Henry and Diego Maradona in the world of classic handball goals. More importantly, Peru made the next round ahead of Brazil (karma for not bringing their best players) and will now face Colombia in a match that really could go either way.
Los Cafeteros won their first two matches against the United States and Paraguay, then fell to Costa Rica in a match that they needed at least a point from in order to finish first in the group. Coach Jose Pekerman messed with the lineup, and the result was likely going to be a matchup with Brazil in the quarterfinal. But after Ruidiaz's goal, it was confirmed that Colombia would face Peru instead, a much more favorable draw. The US now wish they had finished second in the group.
Key in this Peru-Colombia matchup will be James Rodriguez. Whether or not he can create chances centrally against a Peru team that aren't always the stoutest defensive team will make or break Colombia.
Argentina vs. Venezuela
Argentina vs. Uruguay, clash of the titans. That was expected to be the matchup in this quarterfinal. But after Uruguay flamed out in the group-stage and Venezuela became the surprise team of the tournament, it was decided that it would be Argentina-Venezuela instead.
You can be assured that it won't be a blowout, despite the disparity in talent and pedigree here. Venezuela have found an identity and it has worked against good teams; they defeated Uruguay and came very close to beating Mexico. I talked about that identity more in-depth here, but the gist of it is that they play a hard-working 4-4-2 formation with tight defensive lines and high-pressing strikers. Argentina are a completely different commodity, however.
It is realistically possible that Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi could be on the field at the same time for La Seleccion on Saturday. That attacking talent can completely tear apart any team, just like it did to Panama in a 5-0 win. There are countless world-class players at Gerardo Martino's disposal, all of which are fully capable of destroying a weaker side like Venezuela.
When you have a player who does things like this for fun, he might be all you need:
But hey, Venezuela made it this far. Why shouldn't they beat Argentina?
Mexico vs. Chile
This has to be considered one of the more intriguing matches of the quarterfinal. Mexico are one of the major favorites, having won their group with relative ease, and Chile are the defending champs with Alexis Sanchez on a roll. This could turn out to be the highest quality game as well.
El Tri, home field advantage in hand, will need to play their best lineup—Juan Carlos Osorio has approached Klinsmann-level tinkering, including using three different goalkeepers—and ride their offensive talent to a victory over a possession-oriented, midfield-destroying team like Chile. They were able to do it against Uruguay, so why not Chile?
As for La Roja, they will be looking to get Arturo Vidal going in midfield. He hasn't played like himself recently, so he's due for a good performance. Mexico, however, are a much different commodity than Panama or Bolivia.
And they'll have to prevent this from happening:
Tecatito Corona will be playing, unless, of course, Osorio messes with us again and decides to exempt him from the starting lineup. Even if he does, you can be assured that somebody else will score a Messi-like solo goal.