Major tournament exit opens up tantalising Leeds United managerial head-to-head

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One former Leeds United boss can still make the Copa America final this weekend after another crashed out in the semi-finals but the two could yet meet in an intriguing Elland Road alumni battle.

Marcelo Bielsa's Uruguay face Colombia in the second semi-final at 1am BST on Thursday morning, having already overcome Brazil on penalties in the quarter-finals. Should Uruguay progress they will meet Argentina in the final after Lionel Messi and co beat Jesse Marsch-managed Canada in the first semi-final. Goals from Julian Alvarez and Messi himself were enough to see off the Canadians, who will now move on to the third versus fourth-placed match at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina at 1am BST on Sunday morning.

Which means that a Colombia victory will set up a tantalising first ever managerial head-to-head between Marsch and his fellow ex-Leeds manager, Bielsa.

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So far in the tournament Bielsa's men have scored nine and conceded just once and despite going down to 10 men they kept Brazil to a scoreless draw before winning through on spot-kicks. Canada also needed penalties to get through the semis, having drawn 1-1 with Venezuela in their quarter-final, and scored just once in their three group stage fixtures as they finished second behind Argentina.

Bielsa has been in fine form off the pitch, leaving a pair of press conferences in fits of laughter. He first jokingly demonstrated how little impact he has on the minds of players, using Tottenham Hotspur’s Rodrigo Bentancur as an example. Turning to Bentancur, Bielsa asked if he remembered the Brazilian player to whom he had compared the Spurs man. When Bentancur answered in the negative, Bielsa responded: “It’s so important for the media to see the influence I have on these players.”

Now the 68-year-old has made his point about journalists asking both he and his player Maxi Araujo questions about each other, while they sat together for a press conference. "Let's agree that the questions you ask are very special," he began. "You ask Maxi about me, while I am next to him. You ask me about Maxi while he is sitting next to me. I believe that Maxi is a vulgar player, that what he has achieved was by luck and I don't think he will achieve anything else. I had never seen him play, I selected him because someone recommended him to me." Bielsa finished his gag with an affectionate pat on the arm for the Toluca midfielder.

Marsch, meanwhile, speaking ahead of Canada's game against Argentina, reiterated why he was so invested in his first job since departing Elland Road. “I felt how strongly they wanted me here, and I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need all the other b******t,” Marsch said. “I never doubted my ability as a coach. What I’ve always doubted in this business is how do you find the right people to work with? And so the best thing about where I’m at right now is it feels home to me. It feels like I’m working with a group of players that I think value the things that I bring. I value the things that they’re about."

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