Copa America Group B preview: Holders Uruguay to face Argentina, Paraguay, Jamaica

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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.

[ RELATED: Latest Copa America news ]

Will defending champs Uruguay defend their trophy, or can Argentina, Brazil or Colombia wrestle the crown away from Luis Suarez and Co.?

Next up, here’s a look at Group B as the defending champions are set to face Argentina, Paraguay and Jamaica for a place in the knockout stages.

Argentina

Anytime you’ve got the best player in the world, you’ve got a chance. Anytime you supplement said best player in the world with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta, you might just be favorites to win the whole thing. 11 months removed from their appearance in the 2014 World Cup final, Argentina are still in search of their first major trophy in 22 years (1993 Copa America). It’s been a mixed bag of results for La Albiceleste since last summer’s disappointment in Brazil, as the 14-time South American champions have gone 6-0-2 since their loss to Germany last summer.

Best Copa America finish: Champions – 1921, 1925, 1927, 1929, 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1991, 1993
Manager: Gerardo Martino
Star man: Lionel Messi — Perhaps you’ve heard of the man who will one day go down as the best of all time, and member of the recently-crowned champions of Europe (again) and treble-winning (again) Barcelona side.

Uruguay

The big story surrounding Uruguay isn’t so much about who’s on the roster, as it is who’s not on the roster — Barcelona’s Luis Suarez. As for who will represent La Celeste in Chile, the experience can almost exclusively be found at the back for the reigning Copa America champions. Captain Diego Godin (88 caps), Maxi Pereira (101) and Alvaro Pereira (67) lead what is perhaps the most experienced, major competition-tested defenses in the tournament. Should the only side to lift the Copa more times than Argentina add to their total of 15 continental triumphs, it’s likely to come on the back of lots of 1-0 victories, with the majority of the goals coming from a certain Paris Saint-Germain striker (more on him in a moment)

Best Copa America finish: Champions – 1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1935, 1942, 1956, 1959, 1967, 1983, 1987, 1995, 2011
Manager: Oscar Tabarez
Star man: Edinson Cavani — Without Suarez, who was voted Most Valuable Player at the 2011 Copa America, the pressure to deliver the goals falls squarely onto the shoulders of PSG’s second-highest goalscorer this season (18, one behind Ibrahimovic). Without Suarez, Cavani is “the man,” a title he’s long desired and never been granted.

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Darren Mattocks, Jamaica — One of MLS’s brightest, most enigmatic young stars

Jamaica

Five Major League Soccer players —  Jermaine Taylor, Je-Vaugh Watson, Darren Mattocks, Kemar Lawrence and Giles Barnes — enter the 2015 Copa America as regular contributors for Jamaica. Elsewhere on the 23-man roster, dual nationals — most of the English-Jamaican variety — litter the roster with plenty of veteran talent from England’s top two divisions. Along with Taylor,  Wes Morgan (Leicester City) and Adrian Mariappa (Crystal Palace) gives the Reggae Boyz ample strength and depth at the back for what should be a slobber-knocker of a group stage.

Best Copa America finish: First appearance
Manager: Winfried Schafer
Star man: Darren Mattocks — The Vancouver Whitecaps forward has a pretty good goalscoring record for a youngster (8 goals in 22 caps for the 24-year-old) and should be the one leading the line in game No. 1. If Mattocks wants a move to Europe — and he might just, given his somewhat stalled MLS career — a strong performance this month would be a great way to start some phones ringing.

Paraguay

33-year-old striker Roque Santa Cruz (32 goals in 105 caps) and 35-year-old center back Paulo da Silva (121 caps) are set for one last major tournament and quest for their nation’s first semifinals appearance since 1983. With two of the three third-place finishers in the group stage advancing to the knockout stage, Paraguay stand a good chance of getting out of the group for the fourth Copa America tournament in a row (runners-up in 2011).

Best Copa America finish: Champions – 1953, 1979
Manager: Ramon Diaz
Star man: Paulo da Silva — With little to no international experience around him (Miguel Samudio’s 23 caps are next highest among defenders), Da Silva will have his hands full defending against the likes of Aguero and Cavani. The task is tall.

Schedule

June 13: Uruguay vs. Jamaica – Estadio Regional de Antofagasta, Antofagasta
June 13: Argentina vs. Paraguay – Estadio La Portada, La Serena
June 16: Paraguay vs. Jamaica – Estadio Regional de Antofagasta, Antofagasta
June 16: Argentina vs. Uruguay – Estadio La Portada, La Serena
June 20: Uruguay vs. Paraguay – Estadio La Portada, La Serena
June 20: Argentina vs. Jamaica – Estadio Sausalito, Viña del Mar

Prediction

1st – Argentina
2nd – Uruguay
3rd – Paraguay
4th – Jamaica

Picking the Copa America knockout stage

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The Copa America has eliminated four nations, including the two Asian visitors, and now the stage is set for the final eight teams to battle for the title.

The field is wide open as the traditional powers Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and even perfect Colombia and Uruguay have all struggled at times in the competition. With that in mind, here are the picks for our PST writers, and as you can imagine, it’s all over the place in what promises to be an entertaining and exciting final eight. A potential Brazil v. Argentina semifinal matchup would be mouth-watering, while Colombia and Chile meet in the quarters in a matchup that tells you just how brutal this competition can be.

Who do you have going all the way in the South American tournament? Will Lionel Messi carry Argentina to his first major international title? Will James Rodriguez or Alexis Sanchez reignite their career? Can Luis Suarez best his Barcelona teammate and help Edinson Cavani to the crown?


Kyle Bonn

Quarterfinals:
Brazil def. Paraguay
Venezuela def. Argentina

Chile def. Colombia
Uruguay def. Peru

Semifinals:
Brazil def. Venezuela
Chile def. Uruguay

Final:
Brazil def. Chile


Joe Prince-Wright

Quarterfinals:
Brazil def. Paraguay
Argentina def. Venezuela

Chile def. Colombia
Uruguay def. Peru

Semifinals:
Brazil def. Argentina
Chile def. Uruguay

Final:
Brazil def. Chile


Daniel Karell

Quarterfinals:
Brazil def. Paraguay
Venezuela def. Argentina

Colombia def. Chile
Uruguay def. Peru

Semifinals:
Venezuela def. Brazil
Uruguay def. Colombia

Final:
Uruguay def. Venezuela


Nick Mendola

Quarterfinals:
Brazil def. Paraguay
Argentina def. Venezuela

Colombia def. Chile
Uruguay def. Peru

Semifinals:
Argentina def. Brazil
Uruguay def. Colombia

Final:
Argentina def. Uruguay

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Spurs snag Clarke, Arsenal eyeing French youngster

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According to a number of reports across England, Tottenham may have secured its first new player signing in 511 days, rumored to have completed a deal for Leeds United winger Jack Clarke.

The BBC reports that Clarke has flown south to London for a medical and that the $12.7 million deal is finalized. The report states there are further, unspecified add-ons to that base payment should they trigger.

The 18-year-old made 25 appearances for the Leeds first-team last season, scoring two goals assisting two more as they reached the playoff semifinal. Clarke’s arrival will mark the first Tottenham signing since Lucas Moura joined in January of 2018, famously failing to sign a player last summer to much criticism, before making a run to the Champions League final during the season.


Arsenal is reportedly after a pair of transfer targets, one on either end of the pitch.

First, more concretely, reports indicate that the Gunners are set to bat the signature of young French defender William Saliba. The 18-year-old currently plays for St. Etienne and saw significant playing time last season, bagging 16 league appearances good for over 1,200 minutes as he helped the club secure a Champions League place with a fourth-place finish, aided by the third-best defensive record in the league.

According to an ESPNFC report by Julien Laurens, the two clubs have reached an agreement for Saliba in the range of $28 million, with the Gunners beating Tottenham and PSG to the punch. Saliba will stay at St. Etienne on loan next season as he looks to continue developing at his boyhood club.

The Gunners are reportedly also following Monaco winger Keita Balde, with the Senegal international currently on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. The 24-year-old spent last season on loan at Inter, where he racked up 24 Serie A appearances – mostly off the bench – scoring five goals and assisting three more.

Reports in Italy indicate that while Inter had the option to buy at the end of the loan spell, they declined as they believed the $38 million price to be too expensive. With Monaco struggling mightily this past season and in serious flux, it’s likely that Balde could move on and help the French club gain funds to reinvest.

Balde found the back of the net in Senegal’s opening AFCON match, a 2-0 win over Tanzania, marking his fourth international goal in 24 caps.


Another African on international duty is Kalidou Koulibaly, whose future is still under serious speculation.

Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti said Wednesday – completely joking, mind you – that he won’t even return from his vacation in Canada if the club sells Koulibaly. That won’t stop the two Manchester clubs from having a go, and to this point Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis has held firm that only a bid that reaches his $154 million release clause will pry him from the Italian side.

Koulibaly wouldn’t be drawn into speculation about his future when approached at the tournament in Africa, saying, “I don’t know [if I’ll still be at Napoli next year], I think so, but I have to play the AFCON and then after that I’ll go back to Napoli.”

Manchester United has been much closely linked with Koulibaly than Manchester City, but it may be difficult to convince him to switch with the Red Devils not participating in the Champions League next season.


Everton is reportedly in the hunt for Juventus striker Moise Kean according to the Liverpool Echo, with the 19-year-old breaking out last season with The Old Lady. He scored six goals in 13 appearances down the stretch of the season, coming into the squad after the club had all but secured the league title.

While he is a big strike prospect for Juventus, the club is somewhat crowded at the position with Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Mario Mandzukic at the position. The club surely could take its time bringing him along, but apparently a disciplinary issue while with the Italy U-21 team at the Euros this summer has added to the club’s concern, along with his hesitation at signing a new contract. Kean’s current deal expires next summer, so this would be the time to cash in on his high-rising stock.

The report states it would cost around $34 million to land the youngster and Ajax is also in the mix.

Women’s World Cup mascot costume stolen from Parc des Prince

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According to reports in France, first by news outlet LCI, the World Cup mascot Ettie had its mascot stolen from Parc des Princes in the early morning hours of last Friday, June 21.

L’Equipe reports the mascot costume has subsequently been recovered and police are investigating.

The reports state that a group of five somehow entered the Paris stadium between 4 and 5 a.m. local time, proceeding to walk around and even play a game on the Parc des Princes pitch before leaving the stadium carrying two large bags that contained the mascot costume. After missing for the weekend, the costume was reportedly returned to a lawyer’s office in Paris on Tuesday in anonymous fashion.

Thankfully, since the costume has been returned, Ettie will be able to make an appearance while the United States takes on host nation France at Parc des Princes in a highly anticipated quarterfinal match on Friday.

The L’Equipe report says that very little was been discernible on the Parc des Princes security camera footage, and police have appealed to the public for assistance. FIFA describes Ettie as “a young chicken with a passion for life and football.” Ettie is the daughter of Footix, the rooster mascot of the 1998 World Cup also held in France.

Toni Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid

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After signing a contract extension in May that runs through 2023, which he said at the time is “probably my last big contract,” Toni Kroos doubled down on that statement, saying he’d like to retire at Real Madrid and will not move to another club as his career winds down.

Speaking to German publication Bild about a new film that documents his life, Kroos said that the end of his current contract is hopefully going to be the end of his career, on his own terms.

“When I am aged 33, that would be a good age to retire,” Kroos told Bild’s subscription service Bild+, as quoted by Marca. “My contract duration was chosen consciously. At 33, that would be a good age to hang up the boots. I will have the opportunity at that moment to choose if I want to do something after that.”

Obviously, it’s possible that something out of his control will take place forcing him to finish his career elsewhere, but he expresses his admiration for Los Blancos and says that he hopes his career will last long enough to ride out his contract and hang up his boots at the club he loves. “Signing for Real Madrid is the best thing I could have done, I will never play in the United States, China or Qatar.”

Kroos also emitted a typical athlete mentality, saying he hoped to make Bayern regret selling him in 2014, something he believes he’s been successful doing. “For me, it was already clear at the time of the transfer that Bayern made a mistake with my sale,” he said. “It’s true that [Bayern president] Uli Hoeness has made it public of late – and it’s a testament to his greatness that he addresses it that way.”

Kroos has won three Champions League titles with Real Madrid as well as a La Liga title since moving to the Bernabeu.