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Here's what's coming in the Copa America and Euro 2024 men’s semifinals

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

It's a big week for soccer fans as both the Copa America and Euro 2024 men's tournaments head into their semifinals. Argentina, Canada, Uruguay and Colombia will battle it out for a chance at the Copa America finals. While Spain, France, England and the Netherlands will face off for a chance at the Euro 2024 title. Greg O'Keeffe is a senior writer with The Athletic and joins us now to help break it all down. Hi, Greg.

GREG O'KEEFFE: Hi. Good afternoon.

SUMMERS: All right, I want to start off with Euro 2024. Tell us what you're looking for as the final four teams head into their matches.

O'KEEFFE: I mean, they're an exciting set of matchups. England have kind of got there by hook or by crook, really. And they don't have the most popular manager at the moment. But they do certainly have arguably the best crop of players at the tournament in terms of the squad breadth. So they'll go into their showdown with Holland as highly rated to make it to the final, purely because they've just been so resilient. They haven't played anywhere near their best, but they ground out results.

SUMMERS: Two of the favorites heading into this tournament - France and England - have not exactly lived up to their hype offensively. Do you think that we'll see these teams try to create a few more goal opportunities?

O'KEEFFE: Look, there's an interesting symmetry in so many ways with England and France. I mentioned how sort of highly rated England squad is. But France's, too, contains arguably one of Europe's best players in Kylian Mbappe. They've got a brilliant mix of experience and young talent. But the manager, Didier Deschamps, has been equally quite lambasted back at home for sort of keeping the handbrake on the team - or that's the perception back in the French press - that they haven't really flowed in the way that supporters would like them to. And yet, there they are in the last four.

And that symmetry, as well, in terms of how football can, you know, galvanize and unite a country in England. They've just finished a general election. There's been a big political move from the sort of Conservative Party towards the sort of centrist-left Labour Party. And France, of course, has the drama of Sunday and the, you know, see-sawing electoral process, which looks as if the left wing has taken first place there. So both countries very much going through some, you know, compelling times. But then nobody can really rule out the sort of dark horses and the favorites overall - so far, Spain - whoever they will face. And Spain have played the best football so far. And I think they will be very sure odds, indeed, to win it.

SUMMERS: Now, let's turn to the Copa America. What should fans keep an eye out for in these next few matches?

O'KEEFFE: Well, they're some fascinating games as well. And fans should definitely look for how Canada - as the underdogs of the final four - how they match up to Argentina. Canada - first time at this stage ever in Copa America. And they have an American manager in Jesse Marsch, who has got a point to prove - perhaps feels he was overlooked for the U.S. Men's National team's job. And he's there now. The U.S. aren't. And he's got this team full of European talent. And they've already played Argentina in the group stages, and they gave him a bit of a scare. Albeit they lost 2-nil. So that's not going to be an easy win by any means for Argentina. But obviously, as they ever are, all eyes will be on Lionel Messi and what he can do.

And then there's an intriguing matchup with Uruguay and Colombia. Uruguay have another crop of great players who've shone in Europe and elsewhere - but particularly Darwin Nunez in Liverpool. And Colombia, you know, have been a bit of a surprise package. They've gotten into this last four with a team - perhaps their main player is someone who is perceived to be coming in to the back end of his career in James Rodriguez. Well, that's a player who absolutely loves playing for his country. So it's very hard to see between Columbia and Uruguay who's going to win, but it's certainly going to be an exciting matchup.

SUMMERS: That was Greg O'Keeffe, senior writer at The Athletic. Greg, thank you.

O'KEEFFE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LADY WRAY SONG, "GET READY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.