So, once again we enter the off-season period in European football, but luckily this summer we have the most prestigious South American tournament – the Copa America. Unlike the European version (European Championships) there is not qualifying process due to the fact there are only 10 South American nations due to the huge size of the continent. To compensate, two other teams from outside the CONMEBOL zone are invited to join – this time around it is Mexico and Jamaica, with it originally being China and Japan, but both pulled out due to other engagements.
The hosting of the event is rotated, with Brazil due to host it this time – however after hosting two events in the last few years, as well as the Olympics next summer, the two (Chile and Brazil) have swapped 2015 and 2019 (it’s done alphabetically). The current holders are Uruguay, who also happen to hold the record for number of wins (15). This time however they are without Luis Suarez after his hunger to succeed went too far last summer in Brazil as well all know…
For those unaware of the system – 3 groups of 4 teams, top 2 qualify for the quarter finals + best two 3rd placed sides.
We start with Chile, the host nation:
Goalkeepers: Claudio Bravo (Barcelona), Paulo Garces (Colo-Colo), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile)
Defenders: Miiko Albornoz (Hannover), Mauricio Isla (QPR), Gonzalo Jara (Mainz), Gary Medel (Inter), Eugenio Mena (Cruzeiro), Jose Rojas (Universidad de Chile)
Midfielders: Charles Aranguiz (Internacional), Jean Beausejour (Colo-Colo), Carlos Carmona (Atalanta), Marcelo Diaz (Hamburg), Matias Fernandez (Fiorentina), Felipe Gutierrez (Twente), Arturo Vidal (Juventus), David Pizarro (Fiorentina), Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras)
Forwards: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Eduardo Vargas (QPR), Angelo Henriquez (Dinamo Zagreb/Man Utd), Mauricio Pinilla (Atalanta), Edson Puch (Huracan)
Coach: Jorge Sampaoli
Likely Lineup: (3-5-2) Bravo, Albornoz, Jara, Medel, Isla, Aranguiz, Vidal, Diaz. Mena, Sanchez, Henriquez
The obvious ones are the World-Class duo in the squad – Vidal and Sanchez. Vidal has a Champions League final 5 days before it starts, so may miss the first game depending on fitness and a long flight out to Chile after the game. 5 days recovery time is decent, but add a flight and it could be touch and go.
The others to look out for? Well, Man Utd’s Angelo Henriquez is a dangerous forward. He’s just had a loan spell at Dinamo Zagreb, where he scored 29 in 36 games, including European appearances. He also had 21 goals in 17 apps for the Chilean U20’s before bagging 2 goals in 5 for the senior side, hence why he is partnering Sanchez.
What to Expect?
In their last game, they lost 1-0 to Brazil in march – a very close game. Before that, a mix of wins and losses in friendlies, which you can read nothing into as teams were mixed. Sampaoli is a well respected coach who sets up a mean side, hard working and full of pace and skill, as we saw at the World Cup. They play Mexico, Bolivia and Ecuador, and I’m expecting two wins and a game where they drop points, perhaps. Either way, a route to the quarter finals should be fairly simple.
- Outright Winner @ 4/1 (Paddy Power)
- Top Scorer – Alexis Sanchez @ 10/1 (William Hill)
- Group A Winner @ 1/2 (Paddy Power)
- Highest Scoring Team @ 7/2 (Paddy Power)
- To Reach the Final @ 13/10 (Paddy Power)
So, bookies are widely expecting them to finish top of the group. Finishing top will make sure they avoid Brazil and Argentina, the other two top seeds, but a matchup with the likes of Uruguay possible.
They are 3rd favourites for a reason. Along with Uruguay, they are the best of the rest, competing regularly with Brazil and Argentina – so the minimum expectations will more than likely be a semi final appearance, and I would expect that too quite frankly! With their high-intensity game, a win against either Brazil or Argentina would not be a huge surprise!