Copa America Centenario is a competition with a tremendous amount of history. Copa America did take place last summer but CONMEBOL decided to create another competition because they are celebrating 100 years as an organization. This will also be the first time that the Copa America will be taking place outside of South America.
The USA are the hosts and are one of six teams who have been invited to the competition as guests. The South American teams have not brought their best players to this tournament but hopefully the lack of star power doesn’t hurt the competition.
Colombia are clearly the favorites in this group and they have a big three that will be tough to contend with. James Rodriguez will be looking to impress with the possibility of leaving Real Madrid this summer and Juan Cuadrado and Carlos Bacca had decent seasons in Serie A. However, outside of Cristian Zapata, Columbia does not have much to work with defensively and they can be exposed as they go on in the tournament.
Copa America will be a perfect measuring stick for the USMNT to see how they stack up against some of the best teams in the world. Hopefully the hosts will receive some great support from the fans but this group will be tough for the USA to advance.
Every single game in this group will be a battle, but if they can come out with a win or draw against Colombia, they’ll be in a great position to get out of the group. Darlington Nagbe will be the crucial player in the middle of the field for the United States. If he plays well, the USA can make it to the semifinals.
Paraguay will be a very difficult team to play against because of the experienced attacking players they brought to the tournament. Regardless of how well they play on defense, Rooque Santa Cruz, Nelson Valdez, Derlis Gonzalez and Juan Iturrbe will give opposing defenses fits.
The question is can they keep the ball out of their own net? Paraguay does not have the best keeper or defense in this tournament. However, if there’s a candidate for a breakout star, it’s Derlis Gonzalez.
4. COSTA RICA
Oscar Ramirez may be a legend in Costa Rica but he will have his hands full trying to replicate what Jorge Luis Pinto did at the 2014 World Cup. Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz will be the playmakers for Los Ticos and they’ll have play at their absolute best if Costa Rica want to advance.
Everyone knows that Brazil has a ton of talent and they have a lot to choose from when it comes to tournaments like these. However, Brazil didn’t bring out their best players despite not having won Copa America since 2007. There will be no Neymar or David Luiz or Thiago Silva for Brazil which means there will be a ton of pressure on Willian, Coutinho and Hulk to pick up the scoring. If those three can do that, Brazil can win it all.
Ecuador will benefit from an easier group and they have the talent to even surprise Brazil on the right day. Ecuador will have to handle their business against Peru, a side who refuses to give up.
Los Amarillos have a Premier League big three to keep an eye on. Antonio and Enner Valencia along with Jefferson Montero will be pose a lot of problems as a front three. They will have to be at their best to help get Ecuador to the quarterfinals.
The best Peruvian players play in the Netherlands and Brazil which shows they have some decent talent in decent leagues but they’ll have to be solid defensively if they want to find a way out of this group.
Haiti is one of the teams who received an invitation to Copa America but they won’t be able to leave much of an impact on this competition. Out of all 16 teams, Haiti might be the worst one at the tournament and they have 500 to 1 odds to win it all.
I like Mexico to win this group because they came to win Copa America based on the roster that was picked. This roster looks really similar to the team that was at the 2014 World Cup and they’ll be eager to do better after Robben’s dive fueled Holland past them in the Round of 16.
Mexico have three of the best goal scorers in the tournament and while Oribe Peralta has been consistent, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez had the best season of his career in Germany. Mexico is a definite dark horse to win Copa America.
Uruguay will be without Luis Suarez which means they’ll have to learn to win without him. They have looked good in the tune up games leading up to the event but things seem to go downhill when Suarez is not around.
The goal scoring responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Edinson Cavani who could work his way to a nice new contract if he plays well this tournament. Uruguay has the defense to keep most South American teams out but it’ll be a tall task to do it throughout the whole tournament.
Venezuela are led by West Brom striker Salomon Rondon but they also have two players in Serie A and three players who play for Malaga in La Liga. If Uruguay are not careful, then Venezuela could be the surprise team of the tournament by taking them out.
Jamaica actually have a Premier League Champion on their roster in Wes Morgan, the man who captained Leicester City to history. Jamaica will be a tough out because of their physicality and athleticism but their lack of technique will be their downfall.
After last year’s disappointing loss in the Copa America final to Chile, Argentina did not pull their punches when picking this roster. This team is clearly here to win the competition and the bookies agree since Argentina are the favorites with 2 to 1 odds to win it all.
Lionel Messi always has to deal with the pressure and lack of success at the international level but anything less a championship could make things worse.
Chile are the defending champions and they also made sure to bring all of their stars to this competition. Chile have some of the best chemistry in the entire tournament. They’ve proven to have a strong depth in the midfield and Arturo Vidal in the heart of that with Alexis Sanchez up top makes them so difficult to defend. A rematch in the final would hopefully live up to the hype.
Panama are similar to Peru in that they make up for a lack of skill with intensity, passion and a high work rate. The problem is they have to play Argentina and Chile which means they aren’t getting out of this group.
COLOMBIA 2 – ECUADOR 1
ARGENTINA 3 – URUGUAY 1
BRAZIL 3 – USA 2
CHILE 1 – MEXICO 1 (CHILE 5-3 PKs)
ARGENTINA 3 – COLUMBIA 0
CHILE 2 – BRAZIL 1
ARGENTINA 1 – CHILE 1 (ARGENTINA 9-8 PKs)
This rematch is the matchup that makes the most sense to me, especially since both federations have made it a clear priority to put out the best team possible. After losing in the World Cup Final to Germany and to Chile in the Copa America last year, this may finally be the time Argentina ends its drought with Messi.
Tata Martino was brought in for one reason, and that’s to get this team over the final hurdle of winning major competitions. This would be first step for Argentina heading into the 2018 World Cup.
Chile will make it difficult for them and defend like crazy but hopefully this time, Gonzalo Higuain actually takes his chance in a big moment. Messi and Argentina should take their rightful place as the best team in the Western Hemisphere.