2015 Copa America preview, picks, schedule: South American giants collide in Chile

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The 2015 Copa America tournament is here, as Chile is bracing itself to welcome some of the best players on the planet.

Argentina and Brazil are the heavy favorites to win the tournament but with the likes of Chile, Colombia and Uruguay around there are sure to be plenty of surprises along the way.

[ GROUP PREVIEWS: A | B | C ]

So, with three weeks of tournament play taking place in Chile here is everything you need to know.

The contenders

Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are the favorites to win it all but you cannot rule out upstarts Colombia and host nation Chile. Defending champions Uruguay stunned host nation Argentina to win the last Copa America tournament back in 2011 and we will get another shock in Chile? Perennial giants Brazil and Argentine will fancy their chances and Brazil has won four of the last six tournaments as they’ve beaten Argentina twice in the last three finals. Expect a good old fashion slugfest between these bitter rivals at some point during the knockout stages.

The hosts

As for Chile, their run to the World Cup last 16 excited many last summer but there’s a feeling that Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Co. are in their prime and ready to deliver a big performance on home soil. The Chileans have never won the Copa America but with a favorable group they have been given every chance to succeed under their passionate coach Jorge Sampaoli. Chile’s games in Santiago will be sellouts and their fans will create a carnival atmosphere if they do well. Plus, it is always good for the tournament if the host nation makes a deep run.

CONCACAF reps

Two countries flying the CONCACAF this summer, as Mexico and Jamaica test themselves against the best South America has to offer. For Miguel Herrera and El Tri, they have a young squad after prioritizing the Gold Cup which takes place in the U.S. in July. As for Jamaica, they proved to be stubborn opponents during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and the Reggae Boyz may surprise a few people as head coach Winfried Schafer leads them into their first-ever appearance in the Copa America tournament. Mexico could easily make it out of Group A but Jamaica is in a stacked Group B alongside Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. Good luck with that…

Top storylines

  • Can Uruguay compete without Luis Suarez? – His nine-game international ban for biting goes on, huge blow for the defending champs. Can Cavani lead them to glory?
  • Can the pretenders rise to the occasion? – We have mentioned hosts Chile, but can Colombia win their second title after triumphing in 2001? With James and a rejuvenated Falcao, this could be their best chance.
  • Lionel Messi aims for first trophy with Argentina – Fun fact (not for Lionel): Messi has never won a major tournament with Argentina. The World Cup runners-up will fancy their chances of winning in Chile. If they do, Messi will have to be at his best.
  • Time to see how far Brazil have really progressed – 12 months on from that 7-1 shellacking by Germany in the World Cup semifinals, Brazil has a new manager and plenty of new players. Dunga has enjoyed 10-straight wins since taking over and the Selecao have only conceded twice since September 2014. Just how good are his new defensive-minded side? We are about to find out.

Superstars on show

Earlier this week at PST we ranked the top 20 players who will feature at Copa America. Needless to say, the list oozes quality as some of the best players on the planet will look horns. As we mentioned above, Suarez is banned so it will be a shame he won’t spearhead Uruguay’s title defense. Anyway here’s a ranking of the top 20 players and to give you a little taster of just how strong the field at this tournament is, look at the top five below. Just look at it…

1. Lionel Messi
2. Neymar
3. Alexis Sanchez
4. Sergio Aguero
5. Edinson Cavani

Schedule (Games broadcast on beIN Sports in the U.S.)

Thursday 11 June

Group A – Chile v Ecuador, 7:30 p.m. ET

Friday 12 June

Group A – Mexico v Bolivia, 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday 13 June

Group B – Uruguay v Jamaica, 3 p.m. ET

Group B – Argentina v Paraguay, 5:30 p.m. ET

Sunday 14 June

Group C – Colombia v Venezuela, 3 p.m. ET

Group C – Brazil v Peru, 5:30 p.m. ET

Monday 15 June

Group A – Ecuador v Bolivia, 5 p.m. ET

Group A – Chile v Mexico, 7:30 p.m. ET

Tuesday 16 June

Group B – Paraguay v Jamaica, 5 p.m. ET

Group B – Argentina v Uruguay, 7:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday 17 June

Group C – Brazil v Colombia, 7 p.m. ET

Thursday 18 June

Group C – Peru v Venezuela, 7:30 p.m. ET

Friday 19 June

Group A – Mexico v Ecuador, 5 p.m. ET

Group A – Chile v Bolivia, 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday 20 June

Group B – Uruguay v Paraguay, 3 p.m. ET

Group B – Argentina v Jamaica, 5:30 p.m. ET

Sunday 21 June

Group C – Colombia v Peru, 3 p.m. ET

Group C – Brazil v Venezuela, 5:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday 24 June

Quarterfinal – A1 v B3/C3, 7:30 p.m. ET

Thursday 25 June

Quarterfinal – A2 v C2, 7:30 p.m. ET

Friday 26 June

Quarterfinal – B1 v A3/C3, 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday 27 June

Quarterfinal – C1 v B2, 5:30 p.m. ET

Monday 29 June

Semifinal – Winner QF1 v Winner QF2, 7:30 p.m. ET

Tuesday 30 June

Semifinal – Winner QF3 v Winner QF4, 7:30 p.m. ET

Friday 3 July

Third-place playoff – 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday 4 July

Final – 4 p.m. ET

Predictions

At PST a handful of us have put our necks on the line to predict the final group standings and the path through the knockout stages.

Here’s how we think the tournament will pan out…

Joe Prince-Wright

Group A

  1. Chile
  2. Ecuador
  3. Mexico
  4. Bolivia

Group B

  1. Argentina
  2. Uruguay
  3. Jamaica
  4. Paraguay

Group C

  1. Brazil
  2. Colombia
  3. Peru
  4. Venezuela

Quarterfinals

Chile over Jamaica
Colombia over Ecuador
Argentina over Mexico
Brazil over Uruguay

Semifinals

Chile over Colombia
Argentina over Brazil

Third-Place

Brazil over Colombia

Final

Chile over Argentina

Kyle Bonn

Group A

  1. Chile
  2. Mexico
  3. Ecuador
  4. Bolivia

Group B

  1. Argentina
  2. Uruguay
  3. Jamaica
  4. Paraguay

Group C

  1. Colombia
  2. Brazil
  3. Peru
  4. Venezuela

Quarterfinals

Chile over Peru
Brazil over Mexico
Argentina over Ecuador
Uruguay over Colombia

Semifinals

Brazil over Chile
Argentina over Uruguay

Third-Place

Uruguay over Chile

Final

Argentina over Brazil

Kyle Lynch

Group A

  1. Chile
  2. Ecuador
  3. Mexico
  4. Bolivia

Group B

  1. Argentina
  2. Uruguay
  3. Paraguay
  4. Jamaica

Group C

  1. Colombia
  2. Brazil
  3. Peru
  4. Venezuela

Quarterfinals

Chile over Paraguay
Brazil over Ecuador
Argentina over Mexico
Colombia over Uruguay

Semifinals

Chile over Brazil
Argentina over Colombia

Third-Place

Brazil over Colombia

Final

Argentina over Chile

Nicholas Mendola

Group A

  1. Chile
  2. Mexico
  3. Ecuador
  4. Bolivia

Group B

  1. Argentina
  2. Uruguay
  3. Paraguay
  4. Jamaica

Group C

  1. Brazil
  2. Colombia
  3. Peru
  4. Venezuela

Quarterfinals

Chile over Paraguay
Colombia over Mexico
Argentina over Ecuador
Brazil over Uruguay

Semifinals

Colombia over Chile
Brazil over Argentina

Third-Place

Chile over Argentina

Final

Colombia over Brazil

Toronto FC beats Crew 5-0 to extend unbeaten streak to 8

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TORONTO (AP) Victor Vazquez scored twice and Toronto FC routed the Columbus Crew 5-0 on Friday night to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise record-matching eight games.

[ MORE: Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape ]

Toronto (8-1-5) is 7-0-1 since its lone league loss of the season, a 2-1 decision in Columbus on April 15. Columbus (6-7-1) has lost five of seven since topping Toronto.

Justin Morrow and substitutes Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton also scored for MLS-leading Toronto. The Canadian team also was unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) from May 8 to July 10, 2010.

Toronto was reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute when midfielder Marky Delgado was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Columbus captain Wil Trapp. Osorio and Hamilton then scored to pad the lead for Toronto in its sixth shutout of the season.

Toronto played without the starting forward tandem of Sebastian Giovinco (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended for yellow card accumulation). Defender Nick Hagglund also is injured.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.