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