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

Wenger: I’ll decide my future in September

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Arsene Wenger, former manager of Arsenal for more than 20 years, is famous for many things. One is either his indicative nature, or ability to show prudence when making decisions, depending on how you see it.

Wenger has been without a job for the first time in more than two decades, and he’s been taking his time deciding on what his future will be. There no doubt have been plenty of offers for him, whether to be a club coach, national team coach or a media pundit on any number of television networks across the globe.

[READ: Salah named to UEFA POY shortlist]

“I decided not to decide,” Wenger said in an interview with Corse Matin while on vacation in Corsica  “I was intoxicated (with soccer) so long that I made a promise to make no decision until September.”

In a follow-up question about whether he would go into another field, such as politics, Wenger rejected that, so it appears he still sees his future in soccer. But in the meantime, he’s been busy playing sports and relaxing by the ocean.

“Yes, (it’s been) very good,” Wenger said of his time off, “even better than I thought. When you have been as busy as I have been, you always fear a little emptiness.

“But I quickly organized myself in this new stage of my life, I do a lot of sport, here I eat with my friends, copiously, I talk a lot too, I can stay for hours watching the horizon, I read all day, at the moment a book by Philip Roth, I Married a Communist.”

In the question and answer, Wenger also backed former Arsenal star Thierry Henry to take over at Bordeaux, as has been rumored, though he warned he wasn’t sure if Henry was truly ready to sacrifice everything to be a manager.

“Yes, he wants to do it, he is intelligent and he has the qualities,” Wenger said. “The existential question that we always ask ourselves is whether we are ready to sacrifice our life for the coaching profession.”

Salah, Ronaldo and Modric on UEFA Player of Year shortlist

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Mohamed Salah‘s magical season for Liverpool could help him usurp what had been a hegemony at the top of UEFA’s yearly awards.

[READ: Morata admits to struggles in Conte’s system]

Salah, along with former teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric were all nominated for UEFA’s Player of the Year award. Salah led Liverpool to an improbable run to the Champions League final, scoring 10 goals and dishing out five assists in 13 Champions League matches.

Ronaldo of course won his third-straight Champions League title last season and fifth overall while leading all goalscorers in the competition for the sixth-straight season. And Modric, starring for Real Madrid along with Ronaldo before the latter left for Juventus, won his third-straight title and led Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia.

Here’s the rest of the top 10. The Men’s Player of the Year, along with Women’s Player of the Year and Champions League Best XI will be announced on August 30. Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have combined to win the last four awards.

4. Antoine Griezmann (Atlético & France) – 72 points
5. Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina) – 55 points
6. Kylian Mbappé (Paris & France) – 43 points
7. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City & Belgium) – 28 points
8. Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid & France) – 23 points
9. Eden Hazard (Chelsea & Belgium) – 15 points
10. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid & Spain) – 12 points

Morata admits difficult adapting to Conte’s system last season

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Alvaro Morata, coming off one of the worst 12 months of his career, is off to a fast start.

If you ask the Spanish striker, it’s thanks to the manager.

Speaking to Chelsea TV, Morata described how he struggled during the 2017-2018 season thanks to former manager Antonio Conte‘s more direct style of play, which forced Morata to play more with his back to goal and control long balls in the air.

[READ: Bale powers Real Madrid to win]

“I think for me the most important thing is the mode we play,” Morata said, praising the 4-3-3 formation the Blues play now under Maurizio Sarri. “Last year it was direct, I had to protect the ball in the air and that’s not my best quality. Now I can attack the spaces, play one-touch and go into the area for the crosses which is better for me.

“The last year was very hard for me, not just with confidence. The injury [last season] was very bad for me and my head, but when the ball goes into the net everything changes. Your mind isn’t blocked anymore and I hope now I can score a lot of goals.”

Morata provided a cool turn and finish for Chelsea in its 3-2 win over Arsenal on Saturday, a classic touch after a season in which Morata didn’t look like himself. It kept Morata home for the summer, having missed out on Spain’s World Cup campaign, which ended in defeat on penalties in the Round of 16 to Russia. Perhaps a Morata high on confidence could have helped them.

With Olivier Giroud more suited to play a game in the air or a hold-up game, it appears that Morata is in position to take advantage of the change of playing style, and we could see his best this season for Chelsea.

Tottenham to host first Champions League fixture at Wembley

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What seemed like a given was finally made official on Monday. Tottenham will host its first UEFA Champions League match at Wembley Stadium.

[READ: D.C. United wins fourth in a row]

The club announced that its first Champions League match, set to be held on either September 18/19 or October 2/3, will be held at England’s national stadium, as safety concerns have kept the new White Hart Lane from opening on time. The draw for the Champions League group stage will be held on August 30, following the conclusion of the Playoff Round, which is set to get underway this week.

Tottenham has already moved upcoming fixtures against Liverpool and Cardiff City to Wembley Stadium, but the venue for Tottenham’s highly-anticipated home match against Manchester City on October 28 has yet to be determined.

Due to the stadium delays, Tottenham can also apply to the FA to play their League Cup match in September on the road, regardless of the draw.