It is a sizzling #SummerOfSports in 2019! Latin America is gearing up for its very own footballing extravaganza. Brazil will host the 46th edition of the Copa América from June 14 onwards. South America will soon be struck by the football epidemic! 10 national teams from South America will be competing against two nations from Asia for the coveted crown. Here is our form guide for 2019 Copa América.
Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru
The Green and Yellow brigade are the hot favourites as usual. This is despite the Samba Boys not having won a major tournament since 2007. The heart-breaking exit in 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals will still be fresh in the minds of the Brazilian fans. They have suffered an early setback as Neymar has been ruled out of the tournament with an injury. He suffered a ligament rupture last week in a warm-up friendly against Qatar. In his absence, all eyes will be on the Brazilian club Grêmio’s young winger, Everton. He’s made people in Europe sit up and take notice! His combination with Richarlison and Philippe Coutinho promises foot-tapping fare.
Bolivia is woefully out of form. They are a far cry from their form in the 60s when they were crowned the champions of Latin America. Their best performance in the recent past has been a 3-0 win against lowly Myanmar. It doesn’t seem that they will go beyond the group stages.
Venezuela doesn’t have stars but is a cohesive unit under skipper Tomás Rincón. With 91 international appearances, the midfielder is easily one of the most capped in this edition. However, the player to watch would be Newcastle forward, Salomón Rondón. If he can be prolific in front of the goal, Venezuela may well strike gold.
Peru, like Bolivia, is underperforming of late. With only five players having international caps in double digits, it is a very raw side. Striker Paolo Guerrero, their most experienced gun, is the only hope for inspiration.
Players to watch out for:
Richarlison and Philippe Coutinho (Brazil), Paulo Guerrero (Peru), Salomón Rondón (Venezuela)
Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Qatar
From the days of Diego Maradona to Lionel Messi, Argentina has always relied on individual brilliance to take them home. This time also, La Albiceleste will depend heavily on their stars. Apart from Messi, they have Nicolás Otamendi, Sergio Agüero, and the veteran Ángel Di María. It is an experienced and talented line-up. Surely, this time, they should be going the distance!
Colombia has a wall under the bar in David Ospina. With Ospina shoring up the rear and Davinson Sánchez poaching goals, Colombia may be a force to reckon with. They will be ably supported by Everton’s prolific midfielder, Yerry Mina. To add to their strength are James Rodríguez and Radamel Falcao. Columbia definitely is the team to beat in this edition!
Apart from the hard-working Óscar Cardozo and defender Santiago Arzamendia, there’s nothing much to write home for Paraguay. They are having a wretched run of form for the last couple of years. It’ll be a miracle if they progress through to the knock-outs!
Qatar is making its debut in Copa America. They are a fast-improving side with a good run of form in 2019. Qatar defeated Japan in the final to win the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in February. Watch out for Akram Afif — he’s fast becoming an Asian footballing superstar.
Predictions for next round: Argentina, Colombia, Qatar (One out of two best third-placed teams)
Players to watch out for:
Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero (Argentina), Davinson Sánchez (Colombia), Akram Afif (Qatar)
Uruguay, Ecuador, Japan, Chile
The La Celeste boasts of a flamboyant unit. If Diego Godin is a master at stonewalling opposition attacks, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez can ruffle any defensive line-up. Watch out, though, for 23-year-old midfielder Nahitan Nández. He’s rumoured to be at the top of the list for European clubs’ scouting agents. He may be the next superstar from Uruguay.
Ecuador is an unknown entity. The squad went through a major shake-up after failing to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2018. New coach Hernán Gómez has brought in fresh legs and a new 4-2-3-1 formation that relies more on touch than force. The squad is yet to taste success at the international level. They have nothing to lose and hence, may prove dangerous.
Japan was surprised by Qatar in the 2019 Asian Cup finals. They will be looking to avenge their defeat with a title triumph in Brazil. It is a team that depends more on team-work than individual brilliance. The Samurai Blues are placed in the toughest group but can surprise the South American teams with their quick counter-attacks.
Having won the last two Copa America titles, La Roja will be eager for a hat-trick of Copa America triumphs.
However, Chile seems to have its task cut out. The classy Alexis Sánchez will have to inspire the side if they are to do it again this time. The Arsenal forward, however, has been below his best this season in the English Premier League. Chile, however, has a habit of reserving their best for Copa América.
Predictions for next round: Uruguay, Chile, Japan (One out of two best third-placed teams)
Players to watch out for:
Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez (Uruguay), Alexis Sánchez (Chile), Enner Valencia (Ecuador)