South America’s biggest football competition has already began as the Copa America celebrates its centenary in the USA. The host nation are one of a group of teams who have been invited to the tournament from CONCACAF (The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football), and kicked off the championships against a Colombia side in California which saw the visitors run out 2-0 winners.
Defending champions Chile, will look to hold on to their title having won the competition for the first time in their history last time out, in front of their home fans. They begin their defence with a repeat of last year’s final against a typically strong Argentina side, who are widely tipped to win the Copa this year.
Brazil are also among the favourites to lift the famous trophy even though they have not been successful in the tournament since 2007. The ‘Canarinha‘ as they are often referred to will be without talismanic skipper Neymar, who has just had the season of his life at Barcelona. This is a huge blow as Brazil have relied so heavily on him in recent years South America Champions. Given Brazilian form of late, it will be a huge challenge to see the once great footballing nation return to the very top level.
Other teams worth mentioning include Uruaguay, who are always a threat with the likes of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani leading the attack for the record 12-time holders. Equally dangerous are the aforementioned Colombians, whose campaign will be spearheaded by Real Madrid star James Rodriguez, while rivals Ecuador, are capable of springing a surprise or two as they have demonstrated with a strong start to the continent’s World Cup qualifying group.
A very useful Mexico side will again feature in the Copa having been another team invited to the competition while wildcards Jamaica, lead by Wes Morgan, the captain of the Premier League champions, Leicester City, go into their second Copa America in good form having shocked current champions Chile with a 2-1 win, in their final warm-up game last weekend.
There is no side that seems to be head and shoulders above the rest in South America, which should make for an even more exciting competition as we have seen in qualifying. The question is, which individual can guide his side to the prize. Will it be Messi for Argentina? Suarez for Uruguay or Sanchez for Chile? Or will we have a new star stepping up and making the headlines this year? All will be revealed come 26th June when the finalist meet in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium.