The Continental football Competition that is La Copa America begins in only four days, so here is the comprehensive guide on who to look for in the race to crown the kings of South America. (*Warning: Long Post*)
Four days out, the banter has begun, the squad lists are in and the hype is ramping up ahead of one of the world’s biggest continental tournaments, so let’s have a look at who should make it big this time around.
Is there any better place to start other than with the host nation itself – La Roja Chilena! Having never ever won a La Copa America title, the proud (?) owners of four runners-up honours and 19 top-four placings, the Chilean National Squad has some work to do in front of its native people. Never wanting to disappoint with a hometown advantage, the Chilean squad looks strong and comprehensive, especially with some of its stars coming off big seasons in Europe.
The Chilean maestro himself, Alexis is the golden boy of Chilean football right now, which is especially evident after he was awarded the PFA Fan’s Player of the Year award following his spectacular season with Arsenal. Expect roars of support from the thousands of Chilean supporters bound to hit the stadiums come Friday in the opening match between La Roja and Ecuador.
Arturo Vidal & Mauricio Isla
The Juventus tag-team will be a sight to definitely keep an eye on in this tournament. After huge success in the UEFA Champion’s League (despite not grabbing the title) and also in the Serie A in Italy, these two will certainly be running on high and will be looking to add more honours to their long list of 2014/2015 achievements.
His face is everywhere in Chile at the moment and despite not making an appearance for FC Barcelona in the Champion’s League final, Bravo will be looking to feature in the upcoming tournament. Always a star keeper for any side, Bravo’s skill will definitely be something worth a trophy this time ’round for La Roja.
Not usually a name that sticks out in die-hard football supporters’ minds, but Marcelo Diaz will definitely be one to keep an eye out for when he’s on the pitch in midfield. News has come out in the last few days that suggests that main-man Alexis and Diaz had a bit of a scrap in the locker rooms following their 1-0 win over El Salvador last week, and so the team dynamic will surely be down to how these two work together once the first ball is kicked on Friday.
What else is there to say about the Argentinian squad other than wow. Always a machine in tournaments such as this (cue World Cup Final 2014), the Argentines are sure to fire up, even if their first match against Paraguay seems a little easy on paper. Their squad is so full of firepower that it’s hard to believe that Argentina are going anywhere else apart from the top in this competition.
In my mind, this man is the best player football has in the world right now. Coming off the back of an FC Barcelona Treble with the La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champion’s League titles under his belt, Messi is in prime form to take this tournament and turn it single-handedly into an Argentine success.
Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis & Sergio Agüero
Completing the Manchester City trio, these three had a pretty decent season in the EPL and always work together like a charm when it comes to International matches. Agüero is coming off a Golden Boot win in England, so prepare yourselves for some goals, especially when surrounded by Messi and di Maria.
Angel di Maria
Didn’t get much play time at Manchester United this season, and anything that he did get wasn’t too spectacular, but don’t be disheartened because di Maria explodes when it comes to matches for his home nation. Sprint speed, deadly striking skill and a group of 5-Star strikers around him should see di Maria soar in La Copa.
A former La Boca local and Juventus star this season, Tevez looks to have a pretty spectacular La Copa as well. He played great in the Champion’s League Final and set up some pretty impressive runs for his squad, which makes it seem like Argentina’s upcoming games won’t be too much of a challenge for this forward.
Lavezzi is also coming off the back of a domestic league victory – with Paris Saint-Germain who managed to snag the Ligue 1 trophy. Always a danger-player when surrounded by Messi, Lavezzi can sometimes be forgotten in the Argentine squad, but keep an eye out for what he comes up with.
Bolivia have only ever won one La Copa America (1963) and their squad is full of local domestic players, so their chances seem dim when placed against European marquees of other squads, but anything can happen and they shouldn’t be written off just yet.
Marcelo Martins Moreno
Without a doubt the star standout for the Bolivian side. With 49 caps and 12 goals to his name, Moreno will be the man to watch during Bolivian games, especially with his International experience from playing for Changchun Yatai in China, under his belt.
Pretty much on the same tier of football as Argentina right now, Brazil has an all-around comprehensive squad and with 8 past La Copa titles under their name, this team looks to be a favourite in most games.
David Luiz, Marquinhos & Thiago Silva
Those three names put together, all from Paris Saint-Germain, pretty much sum up an unstoppable defence. While each of these players have their moments of poor form, put together in a Brazilian squad they’ll shine like the stars they are.
Filipe Luis & Willian
Also coming off a spectacular domestic league victory, Luis and Willian are two strong Chelsea FC Players that will be looking to impress in their playing time for Brazil, considering they weren’t on the pitch too often in England. With regards to Willian, his ability to set up remarkable goals will surely help Brazil to some memorable moments in this Cup.
And who can forget, the young man himself. A star in FC Barcelona’s rise to the Champion’s League title, Neymar always brings something amazing to the table when he plays, even if there are some people who dislike his style.
Colombia have a seriously young squad for this Cup, which could work remarkably in their favour. The World Cup of last year proved the strength of this team, but year after year there are three names that define the Colombian national squad:
Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez & Juan Cuadrado
Each of these players, when they work together, make it severely difficult to stop goals from entering an opposition net. While Falcao had a pretty terrible year at Manchester United, he’s fits in fine with his Colombian team mates and will only rise up when surrounded by the likes of Rodriguez and Cuadrado to back him up.
A somewhat questionable squad, Ecuador sit in the same bracket as Bolivia in my mind, especially considering their original 23-man squad has been hit with injuries – the most notable of which being Antonio Valencia from Manchester United. And thus, there remains one star with a similar name that could help Ecuador to victory:
With the same namesake as Antonio, Enner has 17 caps and 11 goals for Ecuador and EPL experience through West Ham United. While his club finished mid-table this season, this gives him an edge over some other local players which could make the difference in some of Ecuador’s upcoming games.
An invitee nation into this year’s Cup, Jamaica seem to be favourites to get knocked out. Most of their players play in the USA’s Major League Soccer (MLS) League and considering they’re scheduled for a match against Argentina, fans shouldn’t expect too much.
Usually quite a strong squad and a force to be reckoned with, but a big question mark looms over the team list for this upcoming cup. While there are some notable local names included, the stand-out absence is Manchester United-turned-Real Madrid star Javier Hernández. Quite an odd decision, I must say from Head Coach Miguel Herrera.
Again, same situation as Bolivia and Ecuador in terms of local players, although there is a nice mix of overseas experience in some of their squad, which makes it seem that Paraguay could come up with a shocker in La Copa, especially considering their 2 previous La Copa victories and 6 runners-up honours.
Peru seem like the dark horse in this race, purely because they’ve had some serious La Copa America history (Two victories, Seven 3rd-places & Five 4th-places) and there’s some considerable strike force in their team.
Juan Manuel Vargas & Jefferson Farfán
Arguably the two notable standout players in this team, these two seem to have the most experience of the squad with Vargas at Fiorentina in Italy and Farfán at Schalke 04 in Germany. Fans and audiences should expect some serious tag-team work from this Midfield-Forward combination.
To round off the top-of-the-tournament squad list, Uruguay is the team to bet on in this Cup. With 15 previous titles and 6 previous runners-up honours, Uruguay are the marquee squad of this competition and will always be hunting for more trophies. The notable negative in their current team list, however, is the FC Barcelona Champion’s League winner Luis Suarez. Still suffering from his World Cup ban after munching onto Giorgio Chiellini, Suarez will be reserved to watching from the sidelines rather than taking to the field.
Perhaps one of the bigger stars of his local club in Spain, Atletico Madrid, and also of this squad Godin is always a draw-card when it comes to big matches and will surely be one to watch in upcoming games.
Coming off a Paris Saint-Germain league victory, Cavani is a dangerous player in his own-right. Weekly tag-teams with PSG team mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the headers that come from this player will surely be a highlight of the competition.
Last but not least, Venezuela. This nation has a considerably older squad listed for this tournament and with most of their players harking from local domestic clubs within Venezuela, it’s hard to see them progressing towards anything too great.
And so there you have it! The extensive list of every squad to play in this year’s La Copa America. Hopefully I’ve hit the nail on the head with my assessments of each of the teams, but if I haven’t feel free to comment below and let me know why.
Happy La Copa, everyone!