Copa America 2019 Group Stage Preview

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The Copa America Tournament to find out who is the best in South America will begin this Friday.  The host nation Brazil will be favored to win, but will face even more pressure as usual from their rabid fans as soccer star Neymar will not be playing in this tournament due to injury and due to a charge of assault.

The Copa America consists of 12 teams with three groups of four teams each.  After Group Stage play, the first and second place teams in each group along with the top two third place teams will play in the quarterfinals.

The twelve teams involved in the Copa America always consist of the ten major countries within South America:  Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.  Normally, the tournament invites two other countries from either Central America or North America.  However, with the CONCACAF Gold Cup also starting on Friday, the two teams brought in for this tournament are Japan and Qatar.  Here is a quick look at all three groups.

Group A

1. Brazil.  Even though Neymar is not playing, Brazil could still field two teams with elite players at every position.  Although the history of Brazil is known for flashy play-making and for plenty of goals being scored, this team also has an outstanding defense at goal with Alisson (Liverpool) and Ederson (Manchester City) and with defenders Dani Alves (Juventus), Thiago Silva (PSG), Marquinhos (PSG), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), and Joao Miranda (Inter Milan).

Nevertheless, Brazil will come at teams in droves with players such as Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Willian (Chelsea), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Richarlison (Everton), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Allan (Napoli), Fernandinho (Manchester City), and David Neres (Ajax).  If Brazil loses or ties in group play, then that result would be quite surprising.

2. Venezuela.  You could say that Venezuela is ready for this tournament after they destroyed the USA 3-0 this past Sunday.  The key for Venezuela is to get the ball to forward Salomon Rondon (Newcastle), who scored twice against the USA on Sunday.  He is strong enough (6’2″, 175 lbs) to consistently keep central defenders at bay.

3. Peru.  After making it to the World Cup last year, Peru will look to build off of that experience.  However, their best player, Jefferson Farfan (Lokomtiv Moscow), is 34 years old.  The young players need to step up if they want to qualify for the quarterfinals.

4. Bolivia.  Bolivia’s only advantage of high altitude will be taken away as the matches will be played in Brazil.  Bolivia will be outclassed.

Group B

  1. Colombia.  Colombia has the complete team with goalkeeper David Ospina (Napoli), with defenders Cristian Zapata (AC Milan), Yerry Mina (Everton), and Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur), with midfielders James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich) and Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), and with forwards Radamel Falcao (Monaco) and Duvan Zapata (Atalanta).

2. Argentina.  Although Argentina quite possibly has the best two players in the tournament in the forward duo of Lionel Messi (Barcelona) and Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), that quality has not led to any team success for Argentina.  After a horrific appearance in the World Cup last summer, Messi said that he would no longer play for Argentina.  However, Messi was coerced to play for Argentina again after a change in coaches.  The problem for Argentina will be in goal without a proven goalkeeper for this tournament.

3. Paraguay.  Even though forward Oscar Cardozo (Libertad) is 36 years of age, he still remains the focal point for this team.  Their style of play is very physical as Paraguay’s goal is to win 1-0 every time out.

4. Qatar.  Qatar will gain some much-needed experience as they will host the World Cup in 2022.  Their games are fun to watch because they go all-out in attack while leaving themselves completely vulnerable for counterattacks.  The guy to watch is forward Almoez Ali (Al Duhail) as he led Qatar on a Cinderella run earlier this year as Qatar won the Asian Cup with an upset victory over Japan.

Group C

1. Uruguay.  Out of the three groups, Group C will definitely be the toughest.  However, Uruguay has the star power up front with Edison Cavani (PSG) and Luis Suarez (Barcelona) along with the defense in the back with the Atletico Madrid duo of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez.

2. Chile.  The defending Copa America champs will look to defend again.  Their defense is not as strong as last time, but they have a quality midfield with Charles Aranguiz (Bayer Leverkusen), Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich), and Erick Pulgar (Bologna) along with the scoring expertise of Alexis Sanchez (Manchester United).

3. Ecuador.  Ecuador has interesting players in Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) and Enner Valencia (Tigres UANL), but the class of the rest of their players does not match up to Uruguay and Chile.

4. Japan.  Japan is using this tournament for other players to gain experience since they did not send their normal starting lineup to Brazil.