With just a few days to go until the 2015 Copa America kicks off in Chile, we will be looking at all three groups as 12 teams do battle on the west coast of South America to be crowned Champions of CONMEBOL.
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Will defending champs Uruguay defend their trophy, or can Argentina, Brazil or Colombia wrestle the crown away from Edinson Cavani and Co.?
First up, here’s a look at Group A as host nation Chile meet Ecuador and Bolivia plus guest from CONCACAF, Mexico, for a place in the knockout stages.
The six previous times Chile have hosted the Copa America they have finished third four times, runners up in 1955 and came fourth in 1920. So, seventh time luck… Seriously though, Chile has a real chance of at least making the semifinals on home soil as Alexis Sanchez will lead the charge and Arturo Vidal, Matias Fernandez and Jorge Valdivia will run the midfield. With experience throughout and a great run to the quarterfinal of the World Cup last summer, Chile is on the verge of breaking into the world’s elite. Has the time to win their first-ever Copa America arrived? They should waltz through Group A and then… anything is possible.
Best Copa America finish: Runners up – 1955, 1956, 1979, 1987
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli – In charge since 2012 and a lover of high-pressing. A real players coach who loves to spend the game on the edge of his technical box.
Star man: Alexis Sanchez – The fourth-highest scorer in Chile’s history is coming off the back of a wondrous first season in the PL for Arsenal. After scoring 28 goals and relentlessly battering opposition defenses all season, the hosts will hope he’s not burned out.
Despite qualifying for three of the last four World Cups, La Tricolor have struggled to compete in recent Copa America’s. They have failed to make the knockout rounds since 1997 and only have one win in their last four tournaments. Surely that terrible run has to turn around this year as they possess a squad packed with experience in Europe’s top leagues?
Best Copa America finish: Fourth place – 1959, 1993
Manager: Gustavo Quinteros – Appointed as boss earlier this year, Quinteros left Emelec after guiding them to two Ecuadorian championships in the past three seasons. Let’s see how he does.
Star man: Enner Valencia – West Ham’s striker burst onto the scene for the Hammers when he arrived last summer but has struggled to perform consistently in the PL. After scoring 11 goals in 19 games for Ecudaor, the pacey forward will look to make a name for himself this summer just like he did in Brazil in 2014.
One of two CONCACAF nations competing in this tournament, Mexico have a decent recent history in the Copa America as they finished runners up in 1993 and 2001. Winning the cup won’t be a realistic aim this time around as Miguel Herrera has picked a youthful squad with one eye on the 2015 Gold Cup in July in the U.S. Expect El Tri to battle Ecuador for second spot in Group A.
Best Copa America finish: Runners up – 1993, 2001
Manager: Miguel Herrera – Expect plenty of passionate antics from Piojo in South America. He won the hearts of the soccer world last summer in Brazil. Can he win some silverware this summer against all the odds?
Star man: Rafael Marquez – At the age of 36 the Hellas Verona center back will skipper this young Mexican side and they will need all his experience to make the knockout stages,
The lowest-ranked team in the competition, not much is expected from El Verde. They last qualified for a World Cup in 1994 and although they’ve failed to make it out of the group stage of the last five Copa America tournaments they did stun everyone and finish as runners up in 1997 when they hosted the tournament. Using players mostly from their domestic league, Marcelo Moreno is their best hope of unlocking opposition defenses as the striker who plays his club soccer in China has 12 goals in 50 outings.
Best Copa America finish: Runners up – 1997
Manager: Mauricio Soria – A former goalkeeper for the Bolivian national team, Soria was in temporary charge in 2014 and has now taken the reins permanently.
Star man: Marcelo Moreno – Currently playing in China for Changchun Yata, Moreno has played for Shakhtar Donetsk, Wigan Athletic, Gremio and Werder Bremen among others during his nomadic career. The only man in Bolivia’s squad to boast more than three goals for his country, Moreno being in top form is key if they have any chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.
June 11: Chile vs. Ecuador – Estadio Nacional, Santiago
June 12: Mexico vs. Bolivia – Estadio Sausalito, Vina del Mar
June 15: Ecuador vs. Bolivia – Estadio Elias Figueroa – Valparaiso
June 15: Chile vs. Mexico – Estadio Nacional, Santiago
June 19: Mexico vs. Ecuador – Estadio El Tienente, Rancagua
June 19: Chile vs. Bolivia – Estadio Nacional, Santiago
1st – Chile
2nd – Ecuador
3rd – Mexico
4th – Bolivia