There's an old cliche that, in an international tournament like the Copa America with a group stage and knockout stage, it's important to peak at the right time. Argentina and Uruguay, two of the tournament's three big favorites, got off to extremely slow starts, but they appear to be following the cliche. After both teams drew their first two matches, both won their final group stage game, putting in their best performances of the tournament.
Some might tell you that Lionel Messi finally showed up for Argentina, but they would be wrong. Messi's teammates finally showed up and Sergio Batista finally put a team around him that could succeed. The FC Barcelona superstar was far and away the best player in Argentina's first two games, he just had no support.
The biggest move that Batista made was bringing in Fernando Gago and benching Esteban Cambiasso, who hasn't duplicated his club form for his country since the 2007 Copa America. Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain proved to be good selections as well. Even though Argentina only beat Costa Rica's Olympic squad, it was still a great win and a good indication that Batista is starting to figure out his team.
Uruguay didn't look quite as good as Argentina did, especially considering that they, like Argentina, were playing against an Olympic team instead of a full senior team. Mexico didn't even have their full Olympic team for that game, as stars Jonathan dos Santos, Marco Fabian and Javier Cortes, among others, were all sent home. Edinson Cavani didn't start because of a knee injury and Diego Forlan, while he looked very dangerous, showed off some horrendous finishing.
Forlan is in one of those classic slumps that star strikers occasionally have in which he does everything right but the ball simply won't go in. Once he hits the back of the net, he'll have his confidence back and he'll start banging them in again without a problem. Still, even if Forlan is able to break his scoreless streak against Argentina on Saturday night, his team will need some other major contributors to step up. Cavani should be out yet again, and he is arguably Uruguay's best player at this point in time.
Both Batista and Oscar Tabares have some serious decisions to make in regards to their team selection, but it wouldn't be surprising to see both play the exact same team as they did in their final group stage matches. This will set up some great matchups in the center of the pitch, as Javier Mascherano looks to deny service to Forlan and Diego Perez attempts to harass Messi going the other way. Argentina probably have more talent, especially with Cavani injured, but Uruguay is more dangerous in wide areas and could potentially exploit Argentina's suspect fullbacks.
After Argentina's big win over Costa Rica, the Elephants Graveyard in Sante Fe will host an absolutely raucous crowd as the hosts Argentina face off against their rivals across the Rio de la Plata. Argentina are the favorites, but betting men should steer clear of this matchup.
You can catch this match at 6:15 P.M. ET on either Univision or Youtube if you live in the United States. The Copa America is streaming on Youtube to most countries across the globe. If you live in the United Kingdom, you can catch the game on ESPN UK. The game is on Fox Sports Latin America across South and Central America, including Mexico. I've found conflicting listings in Canada, so check your local listings there. For all of our Copa America, check out our 2011 Copa America section.