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.

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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.

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

Zlatan, Blessing tally braces in cathartic ‘El Trafico’ draw (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  “El Trafico” lives up to all of its hype, whether it’d be in Carson or in the heart of Los Angeles. Loaded with goals, subplots, heated fan bases, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Vela, it’s tough to find another rivalry in MLS as fierce and as provocative as Los Angeles’. Because just when one thought spectators uncovered the climax of the story, a plot twist from nearby Hollywood’s archives is screened. Whether it’d be Ibrahimovic’s fastest goal in derby history, Latif Blessing’s unexpected brace, or Vela’s goal and subsequent benching, it’s evident that there was no shortage of storylines. Both side’s 3-3 draw, as well, had no shortage of goals. It was a spectacle on Sunday.

Three moments that mattered

2′ – 15′ — Zlatan records brace in 13 minutes — Zlatan’s record-setting goal, followed by a routine finish to record his second of the night.

45′ — Blessing’s vital, first-half goal for LAFC    — Along with Zlatan, Latif Blessing was the night’s other bright spot.

89′ — Vela scores his 27th goal — Vela to the rescue…

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Man of the match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Goalscorers: Ibrahimovic (2′), Blessing (12′) Ibrahimovic (15′), Pavon (16′),  Blessing (45′), Vela (53′)

Serie A: Milan stunned; Roma draw in six-goal thriller (video)

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight.

Roma 3-3 Genoa

There were plenty of promising talking points in Roma’s season opening six-goal thriller against Genoa, but their draw certainly overwrote almost everything with red ink.

Edin Dzeko was one of the few highlights that remained in the clear. The 33-year-old – five seasons into his Roma spell -scored and assisted for I Giallorossi. Recent arrival, Davide Zappacosta, made his debut in the 78th minute.

Genoa, not necessarily impressive throughout the match, figured out a way to crack Roma’s defense. When they conceded, they’d respond. Stadio Olimpico saw six lead changes, with Christian Kouame’s diving header in the 70th minute splitting the points.

For a Roma that missed out on qualifying for the Champions League last season, the result is a low-blow right off the bat. For Genoa, who remained in Serie A by a miraculous goal, a six-goal thriller in Roma is music to their ears.

Udinese 1-0 AC Milan

Another Italian giant had a slow, first day at the office.

AC Milan, boasting a plethora of firepower, were outclassed by a well-prepared and structured Udinese.

Rodrigo Becão’s debut goal was the only difference between both sides. Milan, who are already three points behind favorites such as Juventus and Napoli, have plenty of questions to answer. The reported possible arrival of Angel Correa may certainly help on the attacking side of things, but Marco Giampaolo still has plenty of work laid out in front of him.

Banned from Europa League for overspending by Financial Play Fair Rules, Milan are expected to fully focus on the Serie A campaign, which they have yet to win since the 2010/11 campaign.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sampdoria 0-3 Lazio 

Cagliari 0-1 Brescia

Verona 1-1 Bologna 

SPAL 2-3 Atalanta 

Torino 2-1 Sassuolo 

WATCH: Zlatan scores fastest-ever ‘El Trafico’ goal

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If someone was going to set a record in “El Trafico,” it was going to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic has become the scorer of the fastest goal in the rivalry’s history, after scoring the opener against LAFC two minutes into Sunday’s bout at Banc of California Stadium.

The 37-year-old’s strike inside the box came two minutes faster than Carlos Vela’s goal from the penalty spot earlier this season. The Swede has scored eight goals against LAFC in six matches, making him the leading goalscorer of the young rivalry.

Mexicans abroad: Weekend roundup

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Scoring goals left and right, Raul Jimenez continues to bring smiles to Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters. Against Burnley,  the forward played hero with his last-second goal, earning Wolves a third straight draw.

In Spain, Diego Lainez registered his first minutes of the season, while Hector Herrera has yet to make his debut.

Diego Reyes is no longer a Fenerbahçe, as a move to Tigres nears. Lozano, now with Italian giants Napoli, awaits for his highly-anticipated Serie A debut.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.

Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Late into stoppage time, Jimenez converted from the penalty spot, and earned Wolves a valuable point at home against Burnley. It’s the 28-year-old’s first Premier League goal this season.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, West Ham — Chicharito was inactive this weekend due to a reported knee injury. On Saturday, West Ham edged Watford 3-1.

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — For a second consecutive week, Herrera was an unused substitute for Diego Simeone’s side, who won 1-0 against Leganes.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis — Los Verdiblancos’ captain started and played 61 minutes in Betis’ 5-2 loss against Barcelona.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old recorded his first minutes of the season, playing the final 15 minutes in Betis’ loss to Barcelona.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo started and played all 90 minutes in Celta’s 1-0 victory over Valencia.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli — Recently integrated, Lozano didn’t suit up for Napoli’s entertaining 4-3 win against Fiorentina on Saturday.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — PSV are inactive this week.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Ajax are inactive this weekend.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Despite overlapping when attacking, Porto’s manager, Sergio Conceicao, continues to deploy Tecatito as a right back. The 26-year-old showed no problems throughout 90 minutes in Porto’s 2-0 statement victory over Benfica, though.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Logging in minutes won’t be a problem for Govea at the Belgium club, at least that’s been the case thus far. On Saturday, the midfielder started – for a fourth consecutive game – and registered 66 minutes.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   The Qatari league is underway, and Moreno has made his debut. The center back started and played all 90 minutes in Al Gharafa’s 3-0 win over Shahania on Thursday.

Diego Reyes, Free Agent  Fenerbahçe released Reyes on Sunday. He is set to make a Liga MX return with Tigres after leaving for Europe back in 2013.

Juan Gerardo Ramirez Alosno, Roda JC — On Friday, the 21-year-old fullback started and played 66 minutes in Roda’s 2-1 loss against NEC Nijmegen.

Carlos Fierro, San Jose Earthquakes – The 25-year-old is slowly but surely finding himself in San Jose. On Saturday, Fierro logged nine minutes in the Quakes’ impressive 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Carlos Vela, LAFC – LAFC take on rivals LA Galaxy on Sunday.

Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy – LA Galaxy take on rivals LAFC on Sunday.