Copa America Centenario Preview

Today is the start of Copa America Centenario. The Copa America is an international football tournament that features the teams in South America. This tournament is the oldest international continental football competition in the world, starting in 1916. There are 10 nations in South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. 8 of the 10 nations have won the tournament. The only two that have not are Ecuador and Venezuela. Uruguay has won the competition the most with 15. The Copa America typically has 12 teams play in it, which means 2 teams from other confederations are invited. Mexico has appeared in the competition the most and finished the highest of all the non-CONMEBOL team with two runners-up finishes. This summer is the 100 year celebration of the tournament and for the first time ever, the tournament is not taking place in South America. The United States will host the competition as it is expended to 16 teams. The 10 CONMEBOL teams and 6 teams from CONCACAF will play. The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Haiti, and Panama are the 6 teams from the CONCACAF. Here is a quick preview of the groups and the teams involved.  I am also going to have my buddy Conor come on and pick the Copa America and the European Championships with me.

Group A

Teams: United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay

Group A has the host nation, the United States. They should have great fans at all of the venues and be looking to make a big splash in their 4th Copa America appearance. America did not have a great 2015 and they were not given any help by the draw. Any one of these four teams could make an argument to advance. The faces of the US are changing as we should see the talented Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe and Bobby Wood lead this team. Their youth may be the key.

The favorite in the group has to be James Rodriguez and Colombia. They made it to the quarterfinals in Rio but have struggled since the tournament. There is a lot of talent, and with James looking to remind the world of his talents following a slightly disappointing season with Real Madrid, they should be the first team to advance from this group. They won the Copa America in 2001 and finished runners-up in 1975.

Costa Rica is coming into this tournament with a lot of confidence. They also made it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Rio. Keylor Navas has seen his star continue to rise as he helped Real Madrid win their 11th Champions League title this season. They also won the last Copa Centroamericana in 2014. They have reached the quarterfinals of the Copa America twice.

Paraguay is a defensive juggernaut. They will be very tough to break down. They have only lost 2 of their last 7 games including draws with Ecuador, Brazil, and Argentina. They will feature a staunch defense lead by Miguel Samudio. They made it to the semifinals of the 2015 Copa America and won the tournament in 1979 and 1953.

My Picks – Colombia and United States

Conor’s Picks – United States and Colombia

Group B

Teams: Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, and Peru

Brazil are one of the most well-known and well recognized teams in this tournament, however, their talisman will be sitting this tournament out. Neymar is being rested for the Olympics, but that does not mean that there is not a lot of talent on this team. They still have Dani Alves, Casemiro, Willian, Lucas Moura, Coutinho, and Hulk. Brazil will hope to win their 9th Copa America and give a better showing then the last time they were on the international stage.

Ecuador has to be the second favorites of the group. They have never won the competition and will look to change that as they have been dominating the World Cup qualifying games. They have beaten Argentina and Uruguay and are now tied for first in qualifying. They have some amazing pace in Antonio Valencia, Michael Arroyo, and Jefferson Montero. They could be a dark horse to win the whole thing.

Peru and Haiti are not expected to make much noise. Peru is in the middle of rebuilding their ranks and looks to bring a young team. Peru did win the Copa America in 1939 and 1975. Haiti was a surprise to qualify and will be happy to earn a point at the tournament. This is Haiti’s first appearance in the tournament.

My Picks – Brazil and Ecuador

Conor’s Picks – Brazil and Ecuador

Group C

Teams: Mexico, Uruguay, Jamaica, and Venezuela

Mexico has to be one of the favorites to win the tournament not named Brazil or Argentina. They have gone unbeaten in their last 11 games and have not conceded a goal in their last 5. They are playing extremely well under Juan Carlos Osorio. All of their games are in states that border Mexico and they should have very pro-Mexican crowds. Can Chicharito lead Mexico to their first ever Copa America title?

Their top rivals for the top spot are going to be without their talisman as Luis Suarez is expected to miss the start of the tournament and possibly return for the game against Jamaica. Uruguay is the most successful team in the Copa America having won it 15 times but the last time was in 2011. Can Suarez heal in time to help win the trophy again 100 years after they won the first one?

If the injury to Suarez does have a bigger impact on Uruguay then that will open the door for Jamaica. This team has been getting closer and closer to becoming a big name in the region. They knocked off the United States in the Gold Cup last year and finished as runner’s up. Giles Barnes will need to find his form if they are to qualify.

The last team in the group is the other team that has not won the Copa America, Venezuela. They are currently last in the World Cup qualifying and a good bet to be the first team out this summer. They are struggling to put a good performance together and will face some tough competition this weekend.

My Picks – Uruguay and Mexico

Conor’s Picks – Mexico and Uruguay

Group D

Teams: Argentina, Chile, Panama, and Bolivia

The one question in group D has to be is this the summer that it finally happens. The only thing missing from Lionel Messi’s CV is a major senior title with Argentina. He has not won one with the team and his country has gone 23 years without a trophy. Since winning the 1993 Copa America, Argentina has lost a World Cup final, 2 confederations Cup finals and 3 Copa America finals.

Chile’s reign as the top team in South America will be short lived unless they are able to defend their title. This does not mean that they cannot win the title again. Fans of the La Roja will hope that they do not have to wait another 99 years for their next Copa win and will hope that behind Claudio Bravo, Gary Medel, Arturo Vidal, and Alexis Sanchez they can repeat as champions.

Panama has been steadily improving over the last couple years but they were not handed a nice draw. They will be favorites to finish third in the group since Bolivia struggles away from the heights of La Paz. Both of these teams will try to be tough to break down, but the other two teams should have just too much talent.

My Picks – Argentina and Chile

Conor’s Picks – Chile and Argentina

Early Copa America Centenario Pick

My Pick – Uruguay

Conor’s Pick – Argentina

Schedule for the Group Stage (all times EST)

USA vs. Colombia – Friday, June 3 – 9:30 pm – Fox Sports 1

Costa Rica vs. Paraguay – Saturday, June 4 – 5:00 pm – Fox

Haiti vs. Peru – Saturday, June 4 – 7:30 pm – Fox Sports 2

Brazil vs. Ecuador – Saturday, June 4 – 10:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

Jamaica vs. Venezuela – Sunday, June 5 – 5:00 pm – Fox

Mexico vs. Uruguay – Sunday, June 5 – 8:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

Panama vs. Bolivia – Monday, June 6 – 7:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

Argentina vs. Chile – Monday, June 6 – 10:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

USA vs. Costa Rica – Tuesday, June 7 – 8:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

Colombia vs. Paraguay – Tuesday, June 7 – 10:30 pm – Fox Sports 1

Brazil vs. Haiti – Wednesday, June 8 – 7:30 pm – Fox Sports 1

Ecuador vs. Peru – Wednesday, June 8 – 10:00 pm – Fox Sports 2

Uruguay vs. Venezuela – Thursday, June 9 – 7:30 pm – Fox Sports 1

Mexico vs. Jamaica – Thursday, June 9 – 10:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

Chile vs. Bolivia – Friday, June 10 – 7:00 pm – Fox

Argentina vs. Panama – Friday, June 10 – 9:30 pm – Fox

USA vs. Paraguay – Saturday, June 11 – 7:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

Colombia vs. Costa Rica – Saturday, June 11 – 9:00 pm – Fox Sports 2

Ecuador vs. Haiti – Sunday, June 12 – 6:30 pm – Fox Sports 2

Brazil vs. Peru – Sunday, June 12 – 8:30 pm – Fox Sports 1

Mexico vs. Venezuela – Monday, June 13 – 8:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

Uruguay vs. Jamaica – Monday, June 13 – 10:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

Chile vs. Panama – Tuesday, June 14 – 8:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

Argentina vs. Bolivia – Tuesday, June 14 – 10:00 pm – Fox Sports 1

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