Few competitions stir this hemisphere’s nationalistic fervor like the COPA America, a competition that brings together the best of the best to compete for soccer dominance. Usually, this competition goes chalk, with the best teams in the world claiming the prize. But this year feels like the year for a new champion. A team that is well-known, who has been down recently, but will raise the trophy in the end. When I put it like that, it reminds me of something…oh yeah, the GOP Primary.
Before you read further, two caveats. One, this is a thought experiment, not a political endorsement of any sort. If the truth must be known, I’m a Berner, but the Democratic party didn’t offer the absolute clusterfuck the GOP shared with the country. You’ll see my opinion shine through in some of the writing. Two, some of these candidates are shitty people, some of them are wonderful people. None of the nations involved should feel insulted by the connections drawn (particularly Mexico). Again, this is a thought experiment and a fun one, in my opinion.
USA – Ben Carson, retired surgeon. Did he have a plan or did he not? He had all the papers on his wall that says he’s smart. Also, he had the kind of life story that inspired his supporters. But then the weird shit started coming out of his mouth, like when, and I’m not making this up, “my own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain.” Sorta flies in the face of every archaeologist EVER. Carson’s campaign was all over the place, including when he famously decided to take the day off DURING the Iowa caucuses, leading Ted Cruz to claim Carson had dropped out. Klinsmann too has theories that fly in the face of all conventional wisdom. His constant mispositioning of Yedlin and Bradley (though that list could be a lot longer). His loyalty to players past their prime, specifically Jermaine Jones. And finally, let’s not forget his strange fascination with playing Mix Diskerud.
Colombia – Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas. Just 4 years ago, no one outside of Texas knew who Ted Cruz was. Suddenly, he was the newest member of the Senate. Since then, it was a rocky road for Cruz, with ups and downs in the public eye, eventually leading to almost winning the the nomination. Similarly, Colombia climbed back into prominence in 2014 (their first World Cup since 1998), led by WC Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez, before eventually losing to Brazil in the quarters. Since then it’s been mixed, with Colombia almost winning the 2015 Copa, and now they are struggling in qualifying for the upcoming World Cup. But much like Cruz, Colombia will threaten to the very end of this year’s Copa, losing in the quarters to the eventual champion.
Costa Rica = Chris Christie, Gov. of New Jersey. When Christie began his run for President, everyone remembered his keynote address at the 2012 Republican Convention and figured that this guy had a chance. He was from a small state, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t make some noise. But from the start, he was all defense, fending off accusations of temper tantrums, corruption, and “Bridgegate” (in which Christie was accused of shutting down a local bridge and making life very difficult for a politician that refused to endorse his campaign). In much the same way, Costa Rica is all defense, with their stellar keeper Keylor Navas in the net. Coming from a small island, they too hope to make a mark on this tournament, but their lack of offense will be their undoing.
Paraguay = Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky. Paraguay is a country who, due to unlucky geography, must constantly be battling the big boys of soccer. They’ve made a name for themselves battling against the established countries of CONMEBOL and for constantly being confused with a more famous neighbor, Uruguay. Overshadowed by his more well-known father, Ron, Rand Paul was unlucky enough to come from a state with little power (Kentucky), has battled it out with the established members of his party, typically with little chance of success. He’s shown he’s capable of being a challenger, but rarely a finisher. Paraguay will also be an early exit from this tournament.
Brazil = Jeb Bush, Former Gov. of Florida. He’s the name you knew before the race started and if you hadn’t been paying attention you probably would have assumed he would win. He’s resting on the laurels of generations of Bush’s before him and accomplished a fair amount himself, but he can’t win the big one. Before this year’s loss, he had gone up against a superior opponent and got humiliated. Now, after he loses everyone will try to figure out why, but the reality is, it just wasn’t his year.
Ecuador = Rick Perry, Former Governor of Texas. Ecuador is one of those teams that dominates when playing on home soil, but struggles achieving the same success on the road. Ecuador is on the rise and their group is stacked to their advantage. Brazil is missing Neymar and Douglas Costa (though MLS fans may rejoice, because Costa’s injury allowed Kakà to make the squad), so rather than aiming for second, Ecuador has every chance of claiming the top spot. They have talent that plays all over Europe, particularly Antonio Valencia with Manchester United. But they will fuck this up. Since 2006, they’ve only advanced to the knockout round of a major tournament once. Just so, Rick Perry was dominant in his home state of Texas, which has massive electoral college implications. He’s a three term governor who’s toed the line for every major issue in the GOP platform. Yet, he fucked it up. “To quote the man, “There’s nothing wrong with America that an extra dose of freedom won’t cure.” How did he not get elected?
Haiti = Rick Santorum, Former Senator from Pennsylvania. Santorum has made numerous long runs for President, typically by outlasting his opponents by counting on the support of his hardcore right-wing allies. His candidacy, though unlikely to succeed, was built on the crowds of fans who offered up Santorum as a representative of their belief that all this country needs is a man of God in the Oval Office. Though quotes like “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money” drew some supporters to his cause, he also became the target of sex advice guru, Dan Savage, who famously used Santorum’s name to term “a frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.” Haiti has made some noise in recent tournaments mostly due to its stifling defense, outlasting its opponents’ shots one after the other. They are team of lackluster players without superstars, who come together to stand against the aggression of the soccer status quo. Do they have any chance at winning? Of course not, Ecuador and Brazil should mop the floor with them, leaving nothing but a frothy mixture.
Peru = Lindsey Graham, Senator from South Carolina. Lindsey Graham’s run for the nomination was destined to failure from the beginning. He simply wasn’t the candidate the party was ready for. Sure, he was well-known and respected, at some level, but the nation wanted someone brash and aggressive, an iconoclast. Graham was everything but that. Just so, Peru isn’t the nation to win this competition, without the talent and flash of the other squads Peru is bland in comparison. They aren’t bad. Hell, they’re middle of the road, but they have no chance of winning this thing. Instead, they’ll be respectful and quietly exit the tournament with dignity the frontrunners lack.
Mexico = Donald Trump, real estate mogul, mega asshole, embarrassment of the nation. I know this is a stretch, but hear me out. Riding a wave of nationalistic support from a nation who should know better, their best years behind them, known for their swagger without substance, they march through the tournament, winning contest after contest while those in the know keep predicting their fall. Mexico will be playing home games throughout this tournament, with crowds that include both native-born fans and thousands of immigrants showing pride in their nation of birth’s team. Their squad has proven to be the best in CONCACAF and now they will show the rest of the hemisphere. I’m calling my shot, Mexico wins it all.
Uruguay = Mike Huckabee, former Gov. of Arkansas, Fox pundit. If any team wants to go back to the good old days it’s definitely Uruguay. The nation’s last World Cup championship was 1950 and they dominated the early CONMEBOL competitions. They’ve got the talent, though it might be pretty eccentric for some. So to, Huckabee longs for the days when girls were girls and boys were boys and minorities drank from other water fountains. He preaches about the morality of the past and decadence of the modern world. He uses his mouth to attack the character of his opponents (not exactly like Suarez). He appeals to some, but grosses out most people by his blatant appeals to “morality voters.” He made some noise at the beginning of the race, but eventually bowed out to the more well-balanced nominees.
Jamaica = Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Jamaica looks like a competitor, with their flashy uniforms and athletic pace of play. Bolstered by the goalkeeper, MLS #1 draft pick, Andre Blake, they had success in last year’s Gold Cup. However, that success has been limited and certainly shouldn’t be construed to be a trend that will carry them out of their group in this competition. Fiorina came out of nowhere to challenge (for a split second) for the GOP nomination. Her track record as CEO looked impressive at first until challengers began poking holes in her claims. She challenged Trump in one debate and then disappeared. Similarly Jamaica has the misfortune of being in the same group as Mexico, who I’m picking as the winner. Just like Carly, they’ll soon be home.
Venezuela = Bobby Jindal, Gov. of Louisiana. According to a recent Politico piece, Louisiana ranks last in quality of life due to, among other things, a high obesity rate, a low graduation rate, this all while losing millions of dollars due to self-imposed tax cuts. Yet, somehow, its governor continues to show up on short lists for Vice President and, in the 2016 race, a candidate for President. In the same way, Venezuela is easily the worst team in this competition, has no chance of advancing beyond group play, yet is still included in the competition. Getting invited to the dance should count for something, I guess. Much like Jindal, who didn’t even make it to Iowa, Venezuela will soon be heading home.
Argentina = Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida. Rubio has everything you want from a presidential candidate. He’s young, good-looking, has shown political savvy, is from a powerful state, has worked to serve the party, on paper he’s the man for the job. And yet, little Marco came face to face with a buzzsaw known as Donald Trump and was forced to drop out of the race, much to chagrin of the GOP establishment. Argentina’s squad is full of stars and number one in the soccer establishment rankings, ready to march to the championship. However, instead they will come face to face with Mexico and lose in first round of the knockout stage.
Chile = John Kasich, former Gov. of Ohio. There’s a statistic that no GOP President has ever won the office without Ohio. Enter the 2016 nominee contest, John Kasich, a down to earth candidate from a state that has to go red. The former governor, still extremely popular in his home state (enough to win its 2016 primary), he should have had a chance to win it all. He stayed in the competition until the end, but never stood a chance against the other candidates. Similarly, Chile has shown the skill to compete in CONMEBOL, even winning this competition last year. Expectations are high for this nation, due to its past success, but this just isn’t their year.
Panama = Scott Walker, Gov. of Wisconsin. In world trade, few spots on Earth have had more important roles than Panama. Due to the United States spending a fortune building Canal before handing it over to Panama, even the largest of nations pay due respect to the tiny Central American country. However, that importance doesn’t transfer to soccer. Similarly Scott Walker, made important by the Koch brothers who spent millions to make him the governor of Wisconsin, couldn’t translate that money into any sort of success in the national GOP race. Everyone knew his name, no one cared to vote for him. Exited before voting started, Panama will exit in the group stage.
Bolivia = Jim Gilmore, Gov. of Virginia. Bolivia much like Jim Gilmore leads most casual soccer/geography fans to wonder where they came from. But no need to worry, Bolivia, much like Jim Gilmore, won’t be around for long. Gilmore exited the race on Feb. 12, 2016 after winning 2,673 votes.
The Prediction – Mexico Trumps All
Group Images from sportslivekick.com