With the centennial edition of the Copa America set to kick off in under two weeks, sixteen teams divided into four divisions will compete for the most coveted football prize in the Americas. Here is what you need to know about each team along with my predictions.
The host of the tournament, Jurgen Klinsmann named a well blended young and old squad not nearly capable enough of winning the tournament. Jozy Altidore missing with yet another leg injury is a massive blow in the goal scoring department. Veteran midfielders Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman will be the anchors and rocks to this team. Young attackers Bobby Wood and Christian Pulisic will offer their speed and talent on the counter attack and look to create and score goals. I predict USA to finish third in Group A.
Coming off a good Copa America last year and a good World Cup, Colombia will definitely look for another good showing here. Lead by James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Carlos Bacca just to name a few, Colombia still look strong despite not having Falcao or Jackson Martinez. I predict Columbia to finish second in Group A.
Costa Rica recently sent the football world into shock with a string of good performances starting back at the 2014 World Cup. With players like Christian Bolanos, Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell, Costa Rica are gonna look to use their speed and flair to punish teams on the counter attack and make-up for their maybe not so stellar defence. I predict Costa Rica to finish first in Group A.
Having the potential to upset at this tournament, with players like Nelson Valdez and Oscar Romero going forward. What will let them down is their lack of defending and their insistence on attacking proven by calling up more forwards than midfielders. I just don’t think they have what it takes to get anywhere this summer. I predict Paraguay to finish last in Group A.
Always a strong team is Brazil who will enter the competition without Neymar who I believe is off to the Olympics. Despite missing a few big names, Brazil still look deadly with the likes of Hulk, Jonas, Douglas Costa, Coutinho and Dani Alves to name a few. With the lack of box to box centre midfielders in the team, expect Brazil to use the wings and pace to win games as well as involving the fullbacks in the overlaps which has been a trademark of them for years. I predict Brazil to finish first in Group B.
A team seriously lacking depth, reputation, and respect, Ecuador have something to prove this summer. Leading the charge will be Jefferson Montero and Enner Valencia, both proven Premier League attackers. Ecuador don’t have what it takes to do well in this tournament but due to the lack of quality in their group, I predict Ecuador to finish second in Group B.
When you’re team is mainly made up of young players in either the French academy not so much because of talent but because there is no language barrier, or the lower leagues of US Soccer, you know you don’t stand a chance at winning. I predict Haiti to finish fourth in Group B.
Another team that doesn’t look to good is Peru. With only six of their 23 players playing outside the poor Peru domestic league, there isn’t much diversity in playing style or stand out talent. The one player who jumped out to me is Luiz da Silva of PSV who will be the main man in the midfield. I predict Peru to finish third in Group B.
A team I don’t like to talk positively about but can’t dance around their success either. Based off the 2014 World Cup, Gold Cup 2015, and everything in between, Mexico have been a strong well disciplined and goal scoring team. On paper this team stands out, every single player but the key to their success will be Javier Hernandez, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado, and the defence as a whole. If Mexico tighten the gap between defence and offence and play out the back along with countering, they will do well this tournament. I predict Mexico to finish first in Group C.
With Luis Suarez questionable for the tournament and a lack of wide players from fullbacks to wingers, Uruguay may struggle this summer. Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez need to be lights out in defence and the anchors in the back as they’ve been all season for Atletico Madrid and Edison Cavani needs to pick up where he left off with PSG in order for them to succeed. I predict Uruguay to finish second in Group C.
Similar to how I reacted to Mexico, Jamaica have looked sensational and their squad looks capable of going places. Wes Morgan will pick up where he left off with Leicester, Andre Blake has been on the form of his career and gets better as the weeks past, Clayton Donaldson finished asBirmingham City top goalscorer, Gile Barnes and Simon Dawkins both putting up good numbers in the MLS, this team just lacks a stand out midfielder and a real playmaker away from being serious contenders. I predict Jamaica to finish third in Group C.
With nothing special to offer and lacking to call up striker Fernando Aristeguieta, Venezuela are going to struggle to put up a fight and succeed in the tournament. I predict Venezuela to finish fourth in Group C.
My early favorite to win the tournament after World Cup final and Copa America final appearances in the last two years, Lionel Messi and company are determined to win. When you have Messi in your team there is no need to speculate tactics and playing styles when you very well know Messi will be involved somehow along with Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, and Javier Pastore. I predict Argentina to finish first in Group D.
Last years winners, Chile will look to repeat their great form and with Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal in your team, it shouldn’t be hard. One thing last year was getting caught up in their own defensive third and being punished for it and with a not so strong defence compared to some of the other teams in the competition, is the reason I don’t see them repeating. I predict Chile to finish second in Group D.
A team that has the potential to surprise a few people is Panama. With players like Blas Perez and Alberto Quintero, Panama file into the trend of teams with great pacey and skillful attackers and will kill you on the counter attack but if caught out will get destroyed with a poor defence. I predict Panama to finish third in Group D.
Last but not least Bolivia, no one stands out for me on this roster and they will undoubtedly fail to succeed at this tournament. With most players failing to play outside the Bolivian domestic league, options are limited. I predict Bolivia to finish fourth in Group D.
So there is my little synopsis of each of the sixteen teams in the competition. With only looking at the squads I have to say Argentina and Mexico are my two favorites to win but if I had to chose one it would be Argentina. Regardless it should be a fantastic couple weeks of football celebrating a historic competition. Have any thoughts on my predictions, wanna offer your own, or follow along for more Copa America content? Follow me @JonathanMolik on Twitter and follow @FutbolNetwork on Twitter too.
By Jonathan Molik, TFN US Correspondent on 24/05/2016 at 23:25