Copa America 2015 The Boot Room Preview

Copa America 2015 The Boot Room Preview

With the club season now drawing to a close following Barcelona’s Champions League win, attention turns to South America as Chile prepares to host the continent’s prestigious international tournament – the Copa America. The ten South American nations and two invited guests from the CONCACAF region (North/Central America) will battle it out to see who reigns supreme on a continental level.

So, just how is each of the 12 teams lining up and how will they fare? Let’s take a look…

Group A

Chile

Best Finish: Runner-up (1955, 1956, 1979, 1987)

Key Men:? Claudio Bravo (Barcelona); Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal); Arturo Vidal (Juventus)

Ones To Watch:?Angelo Henriquez (Manchester United), Felipe Gutierrez (FC Twente)

This is a huge tournament for Jorge Sampaoli’s host nation as they are aiming to win the tournament for the first time ever with the added pressure of playing at home. The Copa has been harsh on Chile through the years and they haven’t made the semi-finals since 1999 and haven’t reached a final since 1987. Expectations are high though as their exciting side packed with talent is maturing and is regarded as the best in a long time. A lot will be pinned on Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, Chile’s talisman up front, and Sampaoli will be hoping that his star man is not burned out following a long but impressive debut season in the Premier League. Captain Claudio Bravo has been imperious in La Liga for Barcelona and provides a solid base for a side not exactly blessed with top quality defenders. Expect Juventus man Arturo Vidal to shine in midfield while Manchester United’s young striker Angelo Henriquez and Felipe Gutierrez of FC Twente will be hoping to alert the watching world to their ability.

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Mexico

Best Finish:? Runner-up (1993, 2001)

Key Men:?Rafael Marquez (Verona); Raul Jimenez (Atletico Madrid); Marco Fabian (Chivas)

Ones To Watch:?Jesus Manuel Corona (FC Twente); Carlos Salcedo (Chivas)

he Mexicans have been regulars guests now since 1993 and have only failed to get out of the groups just once (funnily enough last time out in 2011). Miguel Herrera’s side impressed at the World Cup last summer and this time out have sent an experimental squad to Chile with the Gold Cup (their priority) starting just three days after the Copa finishes. Herrera has named the majority of the recognised names in the Gold Cup squad but captain Rafael Marquez will go to Chile to add some experience to a squad that has a larger number of players with less than ten caps. Raul Jimenez struggled at Atletico Madrid but he is the main man up top for Mexico and will be looking to play better than he has this season while Marco Fabian is a little creative midfielder that will pose problems for many a defence. Look out for young winger Jesus Manuel Corona who has looked promising for FC Twente while Chivas defender Carlos Salcedo is an interesting prospect in defence.

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Ecuador

Best Finish:?Fourth (1959, 1993)

Key Men:?Frickson Erazo (Gremio); Jefferson Montero (Swansea); Enner Valencia (West Ham)

Ones To Watch: Miller Bolanos (Emelec); Juan Cazares (Banfield)

It’s been a rough preparation for Ecuador as they don’t have three key men for the Copa due to injury – Antonio Valencia, Felipe Caicedo and Michael Arroyo. It has presented somewhat of a headache for Bolivian coach Gustavo Quinteros who has only had two friendly defeats in charge of Ecuador since taking over at the start of the year. His squad selection has been bold with nine players having less than three caps. Quinteros has used his extensive knowledge of the domestic game when picking his squad after his success with Emelec but much will fall on more regular names such as defender Frickson Erazo. Jefferson Montero will be looked at to create in absence of Valencia and Arroyo while Enner Valencia is now the main man up top in Caicedo’s absence. Miller Bolanos is a favourite of Quinteros’ and is a creative forward who will link with Valencia while Juan Cazares is an exciting midfielder plying his trade in Argentina.

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Bolivia

Best Finish:?Winner (1963)

Key Men: Ronald Raldes (Oriente Petrolero); Alejandro Chumacero (The Strongest); Marcelo Moreno (Changchun Yatai)

Ones To Watch:?Sebastian Gamarra (Milan); Romel Quinonez (Bolivar)

The whipping boys of South America have spent the last year chopping and changing managers before finally settling on former international Mauricio Soria. His first games in charge will be at the Copa and while he has promised bold football, little is expected of the Bolivians who haven’t won at the tournament since 1997. Their most experienced player is captain Ronald Raldes at the back who will have to be at his very best for Bolivia to stop the likes of Alexis Sanchez in Group A. Ex-Wigan man Marcelo Moreno hasn’t scored internationally for over two years and Bolivia are hoping he can find a goal from somewhere while big things are expected from Alejandro Chumacero in midfield. Sebastian Gamarra is an exciting prospect at 18 and has impressed for Milan’s youth side while Romel Quinonez has already played over 100 games in goal for giants Bolivar at just 22.

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Group B

Argentina

Best Finish:? Winner (1921, 1925, 1927, 1929, 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, 1957, 1959*, 1991, 1993)

Key Men:?Lionel Messi (Barcelona); Javier Mascherano (Barcelona); Angel di Maria (Manchester United)

Ones To Watch:? Erik Lamela (Tottenham); Roberto Pereyra (Juventus)

World Cup runners-up last summer and a dizzying array of talent means that Gerardo Martino’s men are perhaps many people’s favourites to win the competition for the first time in 22 years. It’s pretty much the expected squad with Lionel Messi the obvious man that everyone will look to after he almost led Argentina to glory last summer. Javier Mascherano is perhaps the biggest key to Argentine success as his tireless work and dogged nature means that the likes of Messi, Aguero, Tevez etc. can do their work closer to goal. Angel di Maria has had a poor season in the Premier League but his work rate in a more central role was one of Argentina’s plus points at the World Cup and he was missed in the latter stages last summer. Erik Lamela has made the cut despite a tough two seasons in England and will be looking to show his quality while Juventus’ Roberto Pereyra’s good season has been rewarded with a call-up and he will provide energy in midfield.

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Uruguay

Best Finish:? Winner (1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1935, 1942, 1956, 1959*, 1967, 1983, 1987, 1995, 2011

Key Men:?Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain); Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray); Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)

Ones To Watch:? Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid); Giorgian de Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro)

The Uruguayan national team is in a transitional phase as the stars of the 2010 World Cup are phased out and younger stars are brought in. With Diego Forlan retired and Luis Suarez banned for the whole tournament, the holders are placing a lot of emphasis on PSG’s Edinson Cavani for goals. While not the most prolific at international level, Cavani is a legitimate goal threat for a Uruguay side that does not look on paper to be overly incredible. Fernando Muslera will be key in goals too as Uruguay will look to be solid at the back. Captain Diego Godin is a world class centre back and will lead the line now with Diego Lugano now retired. Jose Gimenez looks to be the next defensive star from Uruguay while playmaker Giorgian de Arrascaeta will be looking to add some creativity to Uruguay’s midfield.

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Paraguay

Best Finish:?Winner (1953, 1979)

Key Men:?Justo Villar (Colo-Colo); Roque Santa Cruz (Cruz Azul); Nelson Valdez (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Ones To Watch:?Derlis Gonzalez (FC Basel); Richard Ortiz (Toluca)

2011’s runners-up have had a rough time since the last Copa. They were appalling in World Cup qualifying and will struggle to replicate their last performance as one generation is being phased out and another is coming through. Much will rest on experienced trio Justo Villar, Roque Santa Cruz and Nelson Valdez who have central to many of Paraguay’s successes in recent years. Villar is still number one at 37 but this will most likely be his swansong and he will need to be at his best to stop Uruguay and Argentina. Santa Cruz and Valdez are the main goal threats in a side that doesn’t score often and they will have to come up big if Paraguay are to progress. FC Basel winger Derlis Gonzalez has impressed in the Champions League this season and will add creativity and flair for Paraguay while Toluca’s Richard Ortiz is a hard working midfielder who can also slot in at full back.

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Jamaica

Best Finish:?N/A

Key Men:?Rudolph Austin (unattached); Wes Morgan (Leicester City); Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps)

Ones To Watch:?Deshorn Brown (Valerenga); Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls)

The other invited side to the tournament, Jamaica will be making their debut at the tournament. Winfried Schafer will be looking to build on the Caribbean Cup triumph last year with both the Copa and Gold Cup this summer. Their success will be built upon the midfield leg work of Rudolph Austin, the captain and a man who will be at both the Copa America and Gold Cup this summer. Up front, Darren Mattocks will be the man with the unenviable task of trying to score for Jamaica while Leicester’s Wes Morgan will be looked at to lead the Jamaican backline which will be severely tested. Deshorn Brown has made a good start to his career in Europe and could be a difference maker for Jamaica while young full back Kemar Lawrence has drawn praise from team mates and manager for his defensive abilities and will look to impress.

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Group C

Brazil

Best Finish: Winner (1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007)

Key Men: Neymar (Barcelona); Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain); Filipe Luis (Chelsea)

Ones To Watch: Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim); Casemiro (Real Madrid)

The embarrassment of the World Cup has seen a large number of that side disappear from international football as a younger Brazilian side has been chosen by Dunga. Brazil will be looked at as one of the favourites because they are Brazil but this is a work in progress. They are also missing three big names through injury – goalkeeper Diego Alves, Luiz Gustavo and Marcelo. Neymar remains the talisman with the Barcelona man looking to continue his fine form from the last two international tournaments. Thiago Silva is still the leader in defence and is widely regarded as the finest Brazilian defender today while Filipe Luis has a big job replacing Marcelo especially after a stop-start season at Chelsea. Robert Firmino has been superb for Hoffenheim and has impressed internationally in friendlies while Real Madrid paid Porto to stop them making Casemiro’s loan permanent this summer and he is a candidate to replace Gustavo in the holding midfield role.

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Colombia

Best Finish: Winner (2001)

Key Men: Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco); Cristian Zapata (Milan); James Rodriguez (Real Madrid)

Ones To Watch: Jeison Murillo (Granada); Luis Muriel (Sampdoria)

Colombia’s exciting attack impressed at the World Cup and they will be hopeful of just their second Copa America victory in Chile. Jose Pekerman’s side is packed with attacking talent and flair with James Rodriguez orchestrating it all from midfield. The playmaker has fitted seamlessly into a Real Madrid side full of stars and will surely have a wonderful Copa. Radamel Falcao will be looking to regain some of his deadliest form after a disappoint Premier League season in Manchester while Milan’s Cristian Zapata will be the man tasked with leading the defensive line which will have to be at its best. Granada’s Jeison Murillo had a wonderful season in La Liga and is one for the future while Luis Muriel has something to prove at the tournament with his struggles in Serie A.

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Peru

Best Finish: Winner (1939, 1975)

Key Men: Paolo Guerrero (Corinthians); Carlos Zambrano (Eintracht Frankfurt); Jefferson Farfan (Schalke)

Ones To Watch: Andre Carrillo (Sporting Lisbon); Yordy Reyna (RB Leipzig)

Third place in 2011 was a big result for Peru but they will struggle to repeat that feat this time around. There is undoubted talent in the squad but discipline has never been a strong point in recent Preuvian football and that could become an issue. On the pitch, they will be looking to Paolo Guerrero up top for the goals while Jefferson Farfan is their main creative outlet on the wings. Carlos Zambrano leads a backline that will be severely worked by Brazil and Colombia and Peru need him to be at his best. Look out for Sporting Lisbon’s electric winger Andre Carrillo to cause some problems while Yordy Reyna’s pace gives Peru the chance to get at teams on the counter.

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Venezuela

Best Finish: Fourth (2011)

Key Men: Juan Arango (Tijuana); Salomon Rondon (Zenit); Oswaldo Vizcarrondo (Nantes)

Ones To Watch: Jhon Murillo (Benfica); Josef Martinez (Torino)

The last four or five years have seen Venezuela become a lot more competitive internationally as they achieved their best ever finish last time out. They will be looking to replicate that once again and will need veteran playmaker Juan Arango to be at his best. A superb set piece taker, Arango will be the main service provider for striker Salomon Rondon who has been a regular scorer at the top end of Russian football for the past couple of seasons. At the back, the experience of Oswaldo Vizcarrondo will be key for a backline that will have a lot of work on its hands. 20 year old Jhon Murillo’s domestic performances earned him a call up and move to Benfica this summer while Torino’s Josef Martinez is another exciting attacking prospect.

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Predictions

Group A

Chile 3-1 Ecuador

Mexico 2-0 Bolivia

Ecuador 1-1 Bolivia

Chile 2-2 Mexico

Mexico 1-1 Ecuador

Chile 1-0 Bolivia

Group B

Uruguay 3-0 Jamaica

Argentina 1-0 Paraguay

Paraguay 1-1 Jamaica

Argentina 1-0 Uruguay

Uruguay 0-0 Paraguay

Argentina 4-1 Jamaica

Group C

Colombia 2-0 Venezuela

Brazil 2-0 Peru

Brazil 1-1 Colombia

Peru 0-1 Venezuela

Colombia 3-1 Peru

Brazil 4-0 Venezuela

The Copa America sees the two best third placed sides go through meaning that Venezuela (4 points) and Paraguay (2 points, -1 goal difference) go through while Ecuador (2 points, -2 goal difference) would join Bolivia, Peru and Jamaica in going out at the group stage.

Quarter Finals

Chile 2-1 Paraguay

Colombia 3-1 Mexico (after extra time)

Argentina 2-0 Venezuela

Brazil 0-0 Uruguay (Brazil win on penalties)

Semi Finals

Chile 1-1 Colombia (Chile win on penalties)

Argentina 2-1 Brazil

Third Placed Play-Off

Colombia 0-1 Brazil

Final

Argentina 2-1 Chile (after extra time)

So, I’m backing Argentina to defeat Chile in heartbreaking fashion in a tight and tense final. That’s only my thoughts though.

What about your predictions? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @tbrfootball and tell us.

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