With only a few months to go before the Copa América Centenario begins we now have some idea about what to expect in the tournament this summer as the finest nations of the Americas battle it out in the United States to lift the trophy. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Chile will be among the favourites for a tournament that will showcase some of the most exciting players in World football.
I am joined today by Andrew Doulton as we give our early predictions for the tournament, the groups, the winners, the star players and how the host nation will fare.
GROUP A (UNITED STATES, COLOMBIA, COSTA RICA, PARAGUAY)
TL: This has been labelled the group of death and the host nation will go into the tournament full of nerves. The opening fixture sees them take on the might of Colombia, who themselves go into the tournament with question marks as to their potential, a number of high profile names are out of form and they may call on some of the lesser names to make an impact.
Both Paraguay and Costa Rica are more than capable of winning matches and every game in Group A looks set to be a fierce battle. I feel like all four sides will take points from each other but the quality in the Colombia squad should see them top the group, with the home advantage just taking the United States through as runners up. Costa Rica are my tip for third with Paraguay propping up the lot in an unlucky fourth.
AD: Although this group is labelled up the group of death, I believe this group will be dominated by the USA and Colombia. As home nation I believe the USA will be able to beat Colombia in the first game of the tournament, in front of a passionate home crowd. I believe the USA will then go on to then beat both Costa Rica and Paraguay, to go through unbeaten.
As for Second place I believe that Colombia will beat both Costa Rica and Paraguay so they should be able to get six points. As for Third, I think Paraguay will just edge it over Costa Rica who will finish bottom of the group.
GROUP B (BRAZIL, ECUADOR, HAITI, PERU)
TL: This looks a case of which team will claim second place in the group as Brazil are clear favourites to top Group B. Haiti will be seen as the minnows of the tournament and may look to just try and keep results respectable. Ecuador and Peru both have exciting attacking options but not enough to trouble the Brazilians, the meeting on the 8th June between Ecuador and Peru will probably decide the group. I’m picking Ecuador to have enough about them to make it through, with Brazil topping Group B.
AD: Even with the Brazil squad seemingly being spread between both the Olympics and the Copa America I believe they will still be to strong for their opponents, going through with maximum points.
So the second place will come down to either Peru or Ecuador advancing. I can see the final games between Ecuador and Haiti, and the other between Brazil and Peru being the decider based on goal difference. This is where I can see Ecuador just progressing and hopefully it will be entertaining for the neutral. Unfortunately for Haiti this could be a very painful experience when coming up against teams from South America.
GROUP C (MEXICO, URUGUAY, JAMAICA, VENEZUELA)
TL: I fancy Uruguay to have a really strong tournament and possibly make it to the final, but I don’t see them topping Group C. Instead I feel like Mexico will start the tournament strongly and breeze into the knock out stages, with Uruguay stuttering past Venezuela and Jamaica into second position. I feel like Venezuela and Jamaica are two of the weaker sides in the tournament and they will battle it out for the wooden spoon, Jamaica just having the edge to pip the Venezuelans to third position. Mexico to win Group C, Uruguay second.
AD: I am going to go for Uruguay to win this group although I think Mexico will give them a good run. I believe the form of Luis Suarez will be the real difference here. Although this Mexico side is not full of big names if they continue to grind out results they will have been unbeaten for a year (13 games) in the build up to this tournament. I think Venezuela will also put up a good fight but will just miss out to the other big two in this group. Unfortunately for Jamaica I believe this will be a very tough competition and any points will be extremely well earned.
GROUP D (ARGENTINA, CHILE, PANAMA, BOLIVIA)
TL: With Lionel Messi almost confirmed as appearing for Argentina in the competition, they look to be big favourites to win the competition. Although I fancy an upset in Group D with Chile taking top spot from Tata Martino’s side. Panama could be a surprise package in the tournament and cause a few scares but I can’t see them preventing the big two from qualification, instead they will take third spot from a Bolivian side that I foresee struggling in the tournament. So Chile for top spot, Argentina in second position.
AD: I have to feel for both Bolivia and Panama in this group as they are up against to of the best teams in the tournament. I have been really impressed with Chile and Tata Martino’s style of football and I am going to have them to win the group with three wins. Obviously this will be closely followed by Argentina who will pick up the other two victory leaving Panama and Bolivia fighting for 3rd place. Out of the two I am going to go for Panama who I believe will beat Bolivia but struggle against Chile and Argentina.
WHO WILL WIN
TL: All the talk pre-tournament is about Messi and Neymar, who will play in the Copa? Who will play in the Olympics? The suggestions are that Messi will only play in this tournament, whereas Neymar will go to Rio and may miss out in the United States. For that reason, I make Argentina strong favourites for the Championships and they are my pick to win it. I fancy Uruguay to put in a strong if unspectacular performance and they are my pick for runners up. Brazil, Chile and Colombia are other strong contenders but I don’t think they have the quality to match the Argentinians.
AD: With Brazil, Argentina and Mexico also having to play at this years Olympics this is bound to affect this tournament. There are a few teams that could win this year but I have gone for Uruguay as they do not have the distraction of multiple competitions and they also have a very inform Luis Suarez upfront. Originally I was going to go for Mexico in the final against Uruguay but I believe they will suffer because of both tournaments. Because of this and the way I see the draw happening, I believe it will be the home nation joining them in the final.
THE TOP 3 PLAYERS
TL: Lionel Messi is the stand out player in World football and could be a dominant force in competition, he was unable to win the World Cup for Argentina but the Copa América may be the next best thing. For Brazil Willian could have a big tournament, he has been one of the few bright points in Chelsea’s terrible season and I fancy he can carry that club form into the finals. Lastly I will predict a big tournament for Carlos Bacca, as the likes of Jackson and Falcao have had indifferent form over the last year or two, Bacca has been in fine goal scoring form and Colombia will need him to fire if they are to go far.
AD: I think the main man to watch at this years tournament will be Uruguay's Luis Suarez. This season in La Liga he has been unstoppable in front of goal and if there was one way of standing a chance of wrestling a Ballon D'or away from Messi or Ronaldo, being the hero and lifting the trophy may just be enough. Obviously with Messi appearing to be heading to the tournament he has to be included in a top 3, as even if Argentina are playing badly he will be able to pull Argentina through. The final player I will call out will be Diego Godin who I believe will be as equally as important in defence as Suarez is going forward.
3 YOUNG STARS TO WATCH
TL: Uruguayan centre back José Giménez has been learning his craft from Diego Godín both at club and Country and the Atlético Madrid has the look of a superstar about him. He has shown great composure and commitment and could be one of the stars of the tournament if Uruguay are to go far. Another Uruguayan youngster who could star is playmaker Giorgian De Arrascaeta, although not always a starter for the side he has the class and creativity to make an offensive impact and excite the fans. As for my third selection I’m slightly torn, there has been much talk about young Colombian forward Marlos Moreno who looks set to make his senior national debut shortly, but I will have to favour Argentine forward Ángel Correa who has recovered well from an operation to not only impress for Atlético Madrid but also his nation too. So my three young stars to watch are José Giménez, Ángel Correa and Giorgian De Arrascaeta.
AD: As previously mentioned José Giménez is my first call out as a young player to watch. If as I predict Uruguay go on to win the competition he will play a big part along side Godin.
HOW WILL THE HOSTS GET ON?
TL: Being the host nation is not always a benefit, with the added pressure often weighing heavy on the shoulders of the team. However, I feel that the United States will utilise the fans as the ‘twelfth man’ and push them on to qualify from what is a very difficult group. I can’t see them progressing past the quarter finals stage though, unless they have luck on their side. Although a solid team, they aren’t blessed with outstanding individuals which is something that their competitors have on their side. So a quarter final place for the hosts, considering the draw, this is an achievement in itself.
AD: Well I believe the USA will make it all the way to the final of the tournament. Firstly there is the advantage of having the home support and secondly I see the draw working very well for the USA. The trouble is when they do reach the final they are likely to face a very good side who I believe will just be to strong for them.
These are of course early predictions, we still don’t know the final squads and a lot can happen in the upcoming months that could change our thinking. We will revisit our predictions before the tournament begins and see if we still feel that our predictions stand. The competition itself kicks off with the opening fixture 3rd June 2016, and the final taking place on June 26th.
What are your thoughts on the Copa América Centenario draw, who do you think will be victorious, let us know in the comments section below.