Most domestic leagues around the world are coming to an end, but luckily this summer won’t be boring. It’ll be anything from it, to be honest! With multiple international tournaments running, it can be hard at times to know to choose one to follow. While the FIFA U-20 World Cup and the Women’s World Cup are running, two continental tournaments are about to kick off, the North American Gold Cup and the South American Copa America.
We covered a bit of the Gold Cup in this week’s Buy or Sell but this article will be dedicated to where most eyes will be on, the Copa America. The tournament returns to Brazil and twelve teams take part, divided into three groups of four. There are ten South American teams and two guest nations. This year, both guests are from Asia: Japan and World Cup host Qatar.
The tournament starts tomorrow, Friday, June 14, with the first game being between Brazil and Bolivia in São Paulo. So without further ado, let’s preview this thing group by group and RahimAli Merchant and I will also provide our Matchweek one predictions.
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After their World Cup exit against Belgium, Brazil has been ruthless. They beat Czechia 3-1, Qatar 2-0 and most importantly, Honduras 7-0! That, along with getting to play at home, can fire them all the way to the trophy. But sometimes, their crowd can be a disadvantage and backfire, with pressure being too much to deal with (Yeah, the world hasn’t forgotten the 7-1 loss to Germany yet. Sorry Brazil). Brazil will also be without their best player Neymar, but this may be for the better. Brazil’s squad is strong with Premier League winner Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho, Champions League winner Roberto Firmino and Ligue Une winner Dani Alves within the team.
Prediction: Group A winners & tournament winners
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They might’ve been good enough to qualify for the Copa America but Bolivia is bound to be one of the worst performers. They’re up against Brazil, World Cup team Peru and Venezuela, who just defeated the US 3-0 in their group. But although Bolivia may not have a strong set of players, their excellent teamwork can make Bolivia scary on the counter-attack. However, their team just isn’t as strong as the opponents they have to face.
Prediction: Fourth in Group A
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Peru will be one of the more confident, but wary sides, and perhaps the most interesting to see at this Copa America. Their squad will be the same one which went to the World Cup last summer, the same one which beat Australia. To make things even better, Peru’s main striker, Paolo Guerrero, is returning after a drug ban.
Prediction: Third in Group A & Quarter-finalists
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Although Venezuela is the only side in this group to have never played in a World Cup, I actually think they’ll finish ahead of Peru and Bolivia in their group. They beat one of the best teams in North America and have a win against Argentina from March under their belt. Their attack is attractive to watch with the likes of Salomon Rondon and Josef Martínez. The rest of the team is rather young but filled with potential as Venezuela were finalists in the 2007 U-20 FIFA World Cup.
Prediction: Second in Group A & Semi-finalists
Matches to watch:
Venezuela vs Peru on Saturday, June 15
Brazil vs Venezuela on Tuesday, June 18
Peru vs Brazil on Saturday, June 22
Matchweek One Predictions:
Aman: Brazil 4-0 Bolivia
Rahim: Brazil 6-0 Bolivia
Aman: Venezuela 2-1 Peru
Rahim: Venezuela 2-0 Peru
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Despite a rather dismal World Cup, you can still back Argentina to go far in this Copa America. The attack is second-to-none in South America with Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and Sergio Aguero probably making up the front three. The only difficult competition in their group will be Colombia, otherwise, I back Argentina to go all the way to the finals in Rio de Janeiro. The question will be whether they can win that final or not. It’s been heartbreaking for Argentina, losing two back-to-back Copa America finals vs Chile and the World Cup finals in 2014 vs Germany.
Prediction: Second in Group B & Semi-Finalists
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Colombia has everything well going for them. James Rodriguez returns to squad from injury and Colombia have Portuguese manager Carlos Queiroz with them. Colombia’s got a squad with pace and flair with the likes of Juan Cuadrado, Duvan Zapata and Radamel Falcao on the attack Cristian Borja in the middle, Yerry Mina at the back and David Ospina in goal. This team is definitely capable of beating Argentina, though their weakness might actually Japan if they encounter them in the knockout stages.
Prediction: First in Group B & Runners Up
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Paraguay can easily perform well and make it out of the group stages, but at the same time, everything can go easily wrong. Paraguay did make it to the Quarter-finals in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. However, Paraguay has a new manager-Eduardo Berizzo-to work with. While Paraguay historically has placed emphasis on deep defense, Berizzo wants to change the style too high pressure attacking, something which might work well with Newcastle United and Paraguay winger Miguel Almirón. Their matchup against a united side like Qatar will be interesting to see, but beating Colombia and Argentina will be hard to back.
Prediction: Fourth in Group B
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Although they lost in a friendly 2-0 to Brazil, Qatar has just won the Asia Cup, beating Japan in the finals 3-1. In that tournament, they out-did South Korea as well in the Quarter-finals 1-0. At first, it may seem easy to write off a guest side like Qatar, but Qatar’s recent form will scare any opponent they face. The team knows each other and their playing style really well, probably the best in this tournament, and there is also some young talent present, like forward Almoez Ali. The problem is that conditions in Brazil will be very different from the Middle East, with crowds being nearly entirely South American. The weather and South American playing style will also be difficult to adapt to. But wouldn’t it be nice if Qatar goes back home with a win? Maybe against Paraguay?
Prediction: Third in Group B
Matches to watch:
Argentina vs Colombia on Saturday, June 15
Paraguay vs Qatar on Sunday, June 16
Qatar vs Argentina on Sunday, June 23
Matchweek One Predictions:
Aman: Argentina 3-1 Colombia
Rahim: Argentina 1-1 Colombia
Aman: Paraguay 2-0 Qatar
Rahim: Paraguay 1-0 Qatar
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Despite winning the previous two editions of the Copa America, everything has gone downhill for Chile. They failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup last year, and this year, they’ve lost to Mexico 3-1 and Brazil 3-0, and could only manage a 1-1 draw against the US. Their group can’t be called easy either as they are put up against Ecuador, two-time World Cup winners Uruguay and Asia Cup Runners Up Japan.
Prediction: Third in Group C & Quarter-finalists
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Their recent form is probably the poorest out of the twelve teams in the Copa America. The last time they played Chile, they lost 2-1 and could only force draws against Honduras and the US. There’s even ambiguity around their manager Hernan Dario Gomez if he will take this tournament and World Cup 2022 qualification seriously or not after he admitted he didn’t take Ecuador’s failures in the 2001 and the 2004 Copa Americas seriously. However, Ecuador does have a famous attacking line, and three names, in particular, will look to provide most of the goals for Ecuador: Antonio Valencia, Enner Valencia and Jhegson Mendez.
Prediction: Fourth in Group C
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Despite losing the Asia Cup finals to Qatar, Japan’s two wins over El Salvador and Bolivia will provide them with confidence before the Copa America begins. It’s hard to see the Japanese finishing first in their group with Uruguay in their group, but if Chile’s form remains low, they can certainly push for second. Japan’s got a very young side, as 18 of their players are under 22, but that can cause some worry when it comes to being able to hold off the likes of Uruguay and Chile. Japan, defensively, is a strong team, as we saw when they beat Colombia in the World Cup, but will anyone be able to assist Shinji Okazaki up front with goalscoring?
Prediction: Second in Group C
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One of the best teams in this cup, Uruguay are almost certain to top this group. They have Luis Suarez up front, Lucas Torriera in the middle, Diego Godin in defense and Fernando Muslera in goal. Unfortunately, Edinson Cavani might be unavailable due to injury, but defensive midfielder Jose Maria Gimenez has been a proven goalscorer.
Prediction: Group C winners & Semi-finalists
Matches to watch:
Japan vs Chile on Monday, June 17
Chile vs Uruguay on Monday, June 24
Matchweek One Predictions:
Aman: Uruguay 3-0 Ecuador
Rahim: Uruguay 2-1 Ecuador
Aman: Japan 1-2 Chile
Rahim: Japan 0-1 Chile
The Copa America begins tomorrow on Wednesday, June 14 with Brazil vs Bolivia. All matches will be broadcasted in the US in English and Portuguese on ESPN+ and in Spanish on Telemundo.