COPA AMERICA 2019: FIVE GAMES TO WATCH IN THE GROUP STAGES INCLUDING BRAZIL, URUGUAY AND ARGENTINA
The 2019 edition of the Copa America gets underway on Friday in Brazil, when the hosts take on Bolivia.
A difficult tournament to predict at the best of times, forecasting how this year’s Copa America will go is nigh-on impossible. The only certainty is that with the abundance of talent on display, there should be some great entertainment on offer.
Newsweek has picked five games to watch in the group stage.
Argentina vs. Colombia, June 15
The opening game of Group B is a mouth-watering clash. As has been the case for over a decade, Argentina’s hopes rest on Lionel Messi’s shoulders. The Barcelona maestro put together another stellar season for the Blaugrana, scoring 51 goals in 50 games in all competitions on his way to another La Liga title.
Messi, however, has never been able to replicate his brilliance on the international level, which goes a long way in explaining why Argentina are still waiting for a first international title since 1993.
Argentina reached the final in four of the last five editions of the tournament, losing each time—three of which on penalties, including the last two against Chile—but there’s optimism a young squad will not be burdened by past failure.
Colombia, as ever, enters the tournament as the dark horse but that role could be severely tested if it pulls off a win on Saturday. Ever since Los Cafeteros beat Argentina 5-0 in Buenos Aires 26 years ago encounters between the two have rarely been boring affairs. Expect more entertainment this weekend.
Paraguay vs. Qatar, June 16
Perhaps not the most obvious choice from a purely technical point of view, the game is worthy of mention for historical purposes.
Qatar will be making history against Paraguay on Sunday, becoming the first Arab country to play in a Copa America. There are worse places to make history than the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
The controversial hosts of the 2022 World Cup won the Asian Cup for the first time earlier this year and could pose a problem for a Paraguay.
The latter arrives in Brazil in a transitional state, appointing Eduardo Berizzo in February as Juan Carlos Osorio’s tenure ended after just five months.
Bolivia vs. Peru, June 18
With the notable exception of Brazil, Group A is arguably the most even in the competition.
That means Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela have little margin for error if they want to qualify for the quarter-finals, even considering the fact that two of three third-placed teams will make it through to the knock-out stage.
Still looking to replace the crop of players who led the team to the 1994 World Cup and to the Copa America final three years later, Bolivia’s expectations are the low end of the scale.
However, its defensive solidity can frustrate opponents. Peru, on the other hand, is not quite a dark horse but can cause a few of the more established sides problems as it showed at last year’s World Cup.
The occasion marked the country’s first appearance at the World Cup in 36 years and Ricardo Gareca’s side arrives in Brazil hoping to build on that feel-good factor.
Brazil vs. Venezuela, June 18
Brazil’s opener against Bolivia has obviously drawn the lion’s share of attention in the lead up to the tournament but its match against Venezuela is even more intriguing. La Vinotinto has gone from strength to strength in recent years, beating Brazil and Argentina in friendlies.
However, Venezuela has never defeated the Selecao in an official competition and will be hoping to make history when it takes on the hosts in Salvador.
While Brazil is undoubtedly the favorite, the fans’ expectations can be suffocating for a team expected to win each time it takes the field. History, however, is on the five-time World Cup winners’ side, as they have won the Copa America in each of the four occasions they have hosted the tournament.
Chile vs. Uruguay, June 24
The final game of Group C could go a long way towards deciding who will top the group between these two.
Two-time defending champions Chile have gone through a major transition period and the tournament could be the swansong for a number of its stars, such as Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Gary Medel.
While rebuilding is well underway, it would take a minor sporting miracle for La Roja to get its hands on the Copa America for a third consecutive time.