Events

Copa America 20162016 COPA AMERICA PREVIEW

The Copa America is in its centenary year and naturally, it’s their biggest tournament ever. It was formed 100 years ago when it was called the South American Championships. Only four teams competed in a group which Uruguay won ahead of Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

They expanding from that group of four teams to groups ranging from three to seven participants until 1975. This was the first time they expanded to multiple groups, with three groups of three teams.

In 1989 they expanded again to 10 participants, with two groups of five times. This lasted for only two tournaments until 1993, where they expanding again, deciding to invite two non South American teams to form a tournament of three groups of four teams.

This year the tournament will be held outside South America for the first time, when it’s hosted by the USA. It will also be the first time 16 teams will compete with six non South American teams invited. The Copa America runs from 3rd June until the 26th June.

GROUP A

COLOMBIA

ColombiaCaptain: James Rodriguez
Star Man: Jams Rodriguez
One to Watch: Carlos Bacca

Recently Colombia were a team on the up. They looked impressive in the World Cup but only reached the QF’s in last years Copa America, to match how far they got in 2011. So far, they have been indifferent in their World Cup qualifiers and currently sit in 5th place with 3 wins from 6 games and not yet firing on all cylinders.

Colombia will again look to Rodriguez’s flair, who himself has had an indifferent season with Madrid, to spearhead the team. Cuadrado had his own renaissance at Juve after his Chelsea hell, and is playing well along with Milan’s Bacca. They also have the likes of defenders Murillo & Arias as well as goalkeeper Ospina. A notable absentee is Jackson Martinez. It will be interesting to see how they cope without him and Falcoa.

Prediction: Fourth

COSTA RICA

Costa RicaCaptain: Brian Ruiz
Star Man: Keylor Navas
One to Watch: Joel Campbell

After their impressive World Cup where they topped a group containing Uruguay, England & Italy. Beat Greece, then got knocked out by third placed Holland in the QF’s on penalties. They must be confident of going further than the two QF places they have reached in this tournament from their four appearances. They qualified by winning the Central American Cup tournament in 2014.

Most of their success has been born out of having a well-drilled and organised unit, that is hard to break down and get behind. Keeper Navas is the rock behind that unit. They like to soak up pressure and catch teams on the break. This is where the pace of Campbell, Ruiz & Urena come into play. Their fortunes can go either way in this tournament.

Prediction: Quarter Finals

PARAGUAY

ParaguayCaptain: Paulo de Silva
Star Man: Edgar Benitez
One to Watch: Dario Lezcano

Paraguay have finished second, then fourth in the last two Copa America tournaments, and that was either side of not qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. They are a more defensive team who like to stifle opponents, then use pace in attack down the wings to put crosses in to their attackers. They are used to playing with a target man who they work off.

This tournament they are missing those target men, strikers Barrios and Santa Cruz, so they will need some new stars to step up. Lezcano is one of those stars. He already has a great scoring record in his fledgling international career. Along with him, the likes of Benitez, Gonzalez and young striker Iterbo, who opted to play for Paraguay over Argentina, can give them something in attack to add to their defensive style.

Prediction: Group Stages

USA

USACaptain: Michael Bradley
Star Man: Clint Dempsey
One to Watch: DeAndre Yedlin

As hosts, it’s only natural America have high hopes in this competition. Especially after Chile won their first ever title last year as hosts. Although the pressure is mounting on manager Klinsmann, after some very disappointing performances in recent tournaments, including a Gold Cup semi final defeat to Jamaica.

USA will try to play their usual high tempo, all action, all energy style. They have a good mix of experience with the likes of Dempsey, Howard, Beckerman and Jones but they also have some exciting youngsters with Yedlin, Brooks, Wood and 17-year-old striker Pulisic in a tournament that could be make or break for many in this squad, not least the manager.

Prediction: Group Stages

GROUP B

BRAZIL

BrazilCaptain: Kaka
Star Man: Willian
One to Watch: Hulk

I’m sure one and all will be interested and intrigued to see what Brazil will bring to this tournament. Especially as there are some notable absentee’s due to the Olympics in Rio this summer. After winning the tournament in 04 & 07, they have failed to get past the QF’s in the last two tournaments.

Though they will be missing a few. They will however, be led by Kaka in what is possibly his swansong tournament. They will also be boosted by the creativity and industry of the ever impressive Willian and the power of Hulk up top. With that being said, Brazil can still call on the likes of Dani Alves, Filipe Luis, Renato Augusto, Luis Gustavo and Coutinho in what is still a quality looking, exciting squad.

Prediction: Quarter Finals

ECUADOR

EcuadorCaptain: Walter Ayobi
Star Man: Enner Valencia
One to Watch: Jefferson Montero

Due to their favourable group draw, Ecuador must have hopes of doing well, even though they have failed to get out of the group stages since 1997. They play an exciting, attacking brand of football, with plenty of pace down the wings. They are also in good form as they currently sit joint top of their World Cup qualifying group with 13 points from 6 games.

Enner Valencia will be the focal point of their attack, providing he stays fit. They will be boosted by Antonio Valencia and the impressive Montero down the flanks. In addition to skipper Ayobi in defence, they also have Peredes. With the likes of Arroyo, Mena, Cazares and Bolanos further forward.

Prediction: Third

HAITI

HaitiCaptain: Johnny Placide
Star Man: Soni Mustivar
One to Watch: Dickens Nazon

Haiti will be competing in the Copa America for the first time due to a 1-0 play off victory over Trinidad and Tobago. They do no have a great history in major tournaments and are struggling at the bottom or their semi final world cup qualifying group with Costa Rica, Panama & Jamaica. However, the did get to the QF’s of the Gold Cup last year.

They are an athletic, defensive outfit who have a unique style where they are most effective going forward on the counter attack, using pace and skill. This is spearheaded by midfielder Mustivar but helped by keeper Placide and defender Jerome. In attack they will look to Guerrier and Belfort, who scored the winner against Trinidad.

Prediction: Group Stages

PERU

PeruCaptain: Paolo Guerrero
Star Man: Paolo Guerrero
One to Watch: Yoshimar Yotun

Peru have finished third in the last two tournaments and you would think that would fill them with confidence going into this tournament. Unfortunately, much of the stars of those squads have been left out, as manager Ricardo Gareca is in the midst of a transitional period, ushering in new, younger stars. This has left them struggling in their World Cup qualifying group as they sit 8th with 4 points from 6 games.

Guerrero finished the last two tournaments as the top scorer and joint top scorer, so naturally their hopes will rest on him. In support, he will have the neat and tidy footballer Yotun behind him, along with Cristian Cueva and Alberto Rodriguez in a team that’s fresh with young, athletic footballers full of running, but may struggle technically.

Prediction: Group Stages

GROUP C

JAMAICA

JamaicaCaptain: Rodolph Austin
Star Man: Wes Morgan
One to Watch: Simon Dawkins

Jamaica impressed in their very first Copa America last year. Although they lost all three games to Argentina, Uruguay & Paraguay, they only lost each game 1-0 and competed throughout. They then went on to finish runners-up in the Gold Cup, topping their group and beating USA in the semi’s, before losing 3-1 to Mexico in the final. They qualified for this tournament by winning the Caribbean Cup in 2014.

Unfortunately, their performances have yet to match those of last year. In another tough group, they will need the likes of Premier League winner Morgan to show all his defensive qualities. As well as Marriappa. Along with Austin in midfield, Barnes, McAnuff & Dawkins up front. It seems Jamaica are still deciding whether they are a defensive, counter attacking, keep ball team or full throttle attacking outfit. There in lies the problem.

Predictions: Group Stages

MEXICO

MexicoCaptain: Rafael Marquez
Star Man: Javier Hernandez
One to Watch: Hector Herrera

Last year Mexico got knocked out in the group stages with a weakened squad, due to their pursuit of the Gold Cup, which they won. This year, with no distractions, they go full steam ahead to win the Copa America for the first time at the 10th try. They also won the CONCACAF Cup against USA in 2015. Since then, they have won six straights games without conceding a goal.

Mexico certainly have a squad and players capable of winning this tournament. They are an organised, well-drilled and surprisingly technical outfit. Led by the experienced Rafael Marquez. with Reyes & Moreno in defence. The likes of Guardodo & Herrera in midfield also Jimenez, Peralta and Hernandez (Chicharito) up front. Mexico really mean business.

Prediction: Quarter Finals

URUGUAY

UruguayCaptain: Luis Suarez
Star Man: Luis Suarez
One to Watch: Edison Cavani

Uruguay come into the this tournament looking strong, with their talisman Suarez back and in top form. Last year they sneaked through the group in third place, then got knocked out by eventual champions Chile in the QF’s. They are currently in good form and are joint top of their World Cup qualifying group with 13 points from 6 games.

Luis Suarez will be eager to get going after being banned last year. Uruguay have a formidable CB pairing of Godin & Gimenez as well as Pereira. With Sanchez, Lodeiro, Rodriguez & Ramirez in midfield. Along with Suarez, they have Cavani, who seems to be either very good or very bad. Hernandez & Stuani up front. They are the most successful team in this tournament and their blend of solid defence and attacking flair will be hard to stop.

Prediction: Winner

VENEZUELA

VenezuelaCaptain: Tomas Rincon
Star Man: Solomon Rondon
One to Watch: Luis Manuel Seijas

It looks as though this tournament will be an uphill battle for Venezuala and new manager Rafael Dudamel, who was only appointed in April. Last year they began with a win over Colombia but still finished bottom of their group. They have the worst record of any team coming into this tournament with 1 win in 11 games and are bottom of their World Cup qualifying group with 1 point from 6 games.

Even worse for Venezuela, they are without their all time top scorer Arrango. This new crop is really up against it, led by skipper and midfielder Tomas Rincon. They will need all the experience and scoring abilities of Solomon Rondon. Defenders Rosales & Villanueva. Midfielders Seijas, Otero and Guerra. As well as Martinez up front.

Prediction: Group Stages

GROUP D

ARGENTINA

ArgentinaCaptain: Lionel Messi
Star Man: Lionel Messi
One to Watch: Angel Di Maria

Argentina, with all the stars at their disposal are beginning to move into the realms of always the bridesmaids and the era of disappointing underachievers. Beaten in the final of the Copa America last year and the World Cup final the year before. They have been runners-up in three of the last four Copa America’s and their temperament will have to be questioned.

Messi, who is widely known as the best footballer of this generation. Must frustrated with this clear blot on his considerable copy book. He must know it’s vital he leads his country to a major tournament victory, and soon. They certainly have the players with Otamendi, Rojo & Ronclaglia at the back. Mascherano, Di Maria, Banega, Pastore & Gaitan in midfield. Along with Messi, Aguero & Higuain up top. I dread to think what the mental ramifications will be if they come up short once again.

Prediction: Runner Up

BOLIVIA

BoliviaCaptain: Edward Zenteno
Star Man: Juan Carlos Arca
One to Watch: Rodrigo Ramallo

It’s well known, without altitude advantage in their own country, Bolivia are a very different prospect. Although last year they surprised all by managing to sneak out the group with a first win on foreign soil in 8 years, with a 3-2 win over Ecuador. They then went out to Peru. That was the first time they got out the group since 97 and only the third time since 1967.

Since then, they have not exactly been in good form. They currently sit second from bottom of their World Cup qualifying group, with 3 points and 1 win from 6 games. Led by defender Zenteno, he will have his work cut out and will hope their attacking duo of Arca & Ramallo can provide some relief in what will look like a very difficult group stage.

Prediction: Group Stages

CHILE

CHILECaptain: Claudio Bravo
Star Man: Alexis Sanchez
One to Watch: Arturo Vidal

The champions will be hard pressed to emulate their feat of last year. They may also be a little annoyed that they will only have a year to be called champions. Especially after winning the tournament for the first time in 2015 and knowing the next tournament will take place in 2019. They are currently sitting fourth in their World Cup qualifying group with 10 points from 6 games.

Led by skipper and goalkeeper Bravo. As usual they will look to Sanchez to drive them forward, but they have the likes of Defenders Isla, Beausejour, Medel. Midfield maestro Vidal along with Fernandez. Also Vargas providing support up front. Chile’s exciting brand of attacking flair will always win admirers, but more importantly, it is hard to beat.

Prediction: Quarter Finals

PANAMA

PanamaCaptain: Felipe Baloy
Star Man: Blas Perez
One to Watch: Anibl Godoy

Panama are playing in their very first Copa America and come into a very tough group. They qualified by beating Cuba in a play off 4-0. Their third place in the Gold Cup last summer gave them confidence, and they are currently in contention of qualifying for the final group of their World Cup qualifying section, with two games to play. Since the Gold Cup they’ve had an indifferent run of 5 defeats in 12 games, but only losing by the odd goal.

Panama are another solid defensive unit who try to stay compact and keep the ball. This is led by defender and skipper Baloy, who will need to be on his game. Along with fellow defenders Henriquez & Machada. Notable midfielders are Godoy, Gomez and Quintero. They also have strikers Perez, Tejada, Torres and 19-year-old Diaz. Panama will hope their defensive unit will form a good base to spring a surprise.

Predictions: Group Stages