The Copa America which holds on South American soil is no doubt a mouth-watering football tournament. As South America is known as the home of soccer, the competition is characterized by big names, big games, forgotten faces and tomorrow’s heroes. This year’s edition kicked off on Thursday in Chile.
|Copa America 2015|
|Group A||Group B||Group C|
We will take a look at ten reasons to follow this year’s Copa action.
- This is where the stars come out to play
Copa America is typically characterized by array of soccer stars. Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Brazilian Neymar, James Rodriguez, Edinson Cavani, Alexis Sanchez, Vidal are part of the galaxy of international stars on show at the Copa America
Luis Suarez, still serving his suspension, will not be seen at the Copa. But his partners in the Barcelona forward line certainly will.
The cast list is dazzling.
The Copa is the world’s oldest continental competition. It began in 1916, and was often held annually in the early years.
It promoted a rapid rise in playing standards, and can clearly be seen as a key event in the build-up to the first World Cup in 1930. The tournament, then, is a huge part of football’s heritage.
- Strength in depth
In the Copa’s 99-year history, this could well be the tournament with the strongest field. National team football in South America is remains very strong and has thorough depth.
Colombia have just enjoyed their best World Cup, as Paraguay did in 2010 and Ecuador in 2006 – and Chile have just had their best two bar 1962, when they were the hosts.
Indeed, in the last two World Cups only one South American side (Ecuador last year, and by a narrow margin) have failed to make it out of their group.
There are two explanations for the fact this competition can be difficult to forecast. One is the format of the competition; eight of the 12 teams qualify for the knockout phase. This year, extra time will not be played in the quarter or semi-finals.
Paraguay reached the final four years ago without winning a single game.
Also, there are plenty of new coaches, who so far have had very little time with their players. This is not like the World Cup or the Euros, where teams have qualified and built towards the tournament. In contrast, the Copa has plenty of half-cooked sides, going into the competition with little preparation behind them.
- Manageable size
The World Cup has 32 teams. The Euros keep growing.
There is something to be said for the shorter, smaller tournament. With 12 teams and lasting just over three weeks, the Copa can be followed without it taking over your entire life.
- Pressure on the big three
Teams in the Copa are divided into three groups, and there is an obvious hierarchy of favourites – Argentina and Brazil plus the home side. In this case there is special pressure on all three.
It falls on Chile because they have never won the trophy – unlike Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Paraguay. This is seen as the best team in Chile’s history and, unlike most, they have specifically prepared for the Copa. How will they cope with the burden of expectation?
It falls on Argentina because they are having to endure a wait of their own for a senior title. The last one was the Copa of 1993. There is not a lot of experimentation in coach Gerardo Martino’s squad – 14 went to the World Cup, and another two were in the 2010 party. This generation is running out of chances to lift some silverware.
And it falls on Brazil because the World Cup left a huge stain on their them. Nothing that happens in Chile will wash the stain out. Under Dunga they have won their first eight friendly matches – but all that will be forgotten if they have a poor Copa. A good performance would be the first step towards regaining some of their prestige.
- Attacking balance
Tournaments often find a tone, which can have a tendency to hang over all the matches. In the last Copa, played in Argentina four years ago, defences came out on top. This Copa has the potential to produce something much more of attacking prowess.
In 2011 Argentina had yet to find a way to harness the talents of Lionel Messi. Neymar was a callow youth, still in the early stages of development. James Rodriguez was with Colombia’s Under-20 side – and as soon as he was promoted the senior side started to get full value for their generation of strikers. The attacking talents abound.
Uruguay are the current champions and are also the most successful team in the tournament’s history, having won it 15 times
Only a few years ago there were Copa America games where there were more police than spectators in the stadium. Matches involving the hosts would sell out. Others attracted very little interest.
That has changed. The continent has become richer. More people can travel. Last year’s World Cup was a South American party. The Colombians travelled in huge numbers while Argentines and Chileans took advantage of the proximity to drive over the border.
The Copa does not have the same pulling power. But it can still move people. The 2011 Copa gave the first signs of what was to happen in the World Cup.
There were travelling fans in Argentina and there will be travelling fans in Chile. Almost all the matches are sold out, and so the atmosphere in the stadiums should be something to relish.
- English-based players
This Copa has the biggest English-based contingent in history. Amongst those who played in England last year are six of the Argentina squad, four Brazilians and Colombians, three each from Chile and Ecuador, two from Uruguay and one from Venezuela.
There are also plenty of names (five alone in the Chile squad) of players who have left the Premier League.
The Copa, then, is a chance for English fans to follow their heroes – and perhaps reacquaint themselves with long-forgotten faces.
Burnley fans can catch up on their one time goalkeeper Diego Penny of Peru, while Manchester City supporters need ask no more what became of Argentine-born striker Mathias Vuoso – he is representing Mexico.
Input from: BBCSports