Due for a few changes, the Copa America begins this month

This month, Brazil will host the Copa America, but this one will be the last before we see some big changes to the tournament.

They are changing the tournament to take place on even years between World Cups, There is also some debate on whether to increase the number of teams from 12 to 16.

This means that there will be an increase in the number of teams invited from outside the confederation, as there are only 10 members of CONMEBOL.

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Who’s in Brazil?

For this version, the two invitees are Qatar and Japan.

Japan has some previous history in the Copa America – they were invited back in 1999 and finished 10th, earning a solitary draw in the group stage against Bolivia.

They were invited to participate in the 2011 and 2015 editions but withdrew from both due to scheduling issues.

Qatar will be making their first appearance in the Copa America. They will be hoping to continue their rich run of form this year.

After being surprise winners of the Asian Cup in January, they’ll continue to prepare for hosting the World Cup in three years.

Tournament format

This Copa will start with three groups with four teams each.

The two top teams from each group will automatically advance and the two third-place finishers with the most points will also reach the knockout phase.

The groups consist of the following teams:

Group A – Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela

The hosts got a plum draw, with the other teams all sitting in the bottom of half of the continent’s FIFA rankings.

Brazil should breeze through the group stages but challenges just appeared for manager Tite.

The federation announced that Neymar will not be in the tournament after sustaining an injury in the friendly against Qatar.

This tournament has become an opportunity for other players like Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison to step up and show that they can lead the side.

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Bolivia enters the tournament as the worst ranked side, and things aren’t likely to change anytime soon.

There are only three players who play outside of the national league; Luis Haquin and Alejandro Chumacero play in Mexico for Puebla, and striker Marcelo Martins plays in the second division of China.

Any points earned would signify progress and a win should be commended, La Verde has won just once in their last 10 matches.

Peru reached last year’s World Cup, but have slipped since last summer, as they work in a new generation of talent.

Jefferson Farfan and Paolo Guerrero are both in the squad, but Ricardo Gareca is clear to be taking the squad in a different direction.

Neither of those players started in the team’s last two friendlies and will likely be used as substitutes should la blanquirroja need a late goal in the tournament.

Venezuela will be relying heavily on the attacking duo Salomon Rondon and Josef Martinez to keep the side in games.

The pair were on target when they defeated Argentina 3-1 back in March.

Goalkeeper Wuliker Farinez could be a youngster to keep an eye on; he helped the Venezuelan U-20 side reach the 2017 World Cup semifinals, allowing just three goals in 720 minutes at that tournament.

Group B – Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Qatar

For Argentina, the conversation again focuses on Leo Messi. He retired from the national team but returned for the World Cup last summer.

Now there is speculation that this might be his last international competition once again.

If that is the case, then nothing but winning this Copa will be enough.

Colombia has been a South American dark horse for the last few tournaments, and that feels appropriate once again this summer.

The squad oozes talent in defense, midfield, and attack, but whether they can knock off the continental heavyweights remains to be seen.

The federation brought in Portuguese manager Carlos Queiroz to help the side reach that final hurdle.

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Paraguay is a team in transition, but also a bit of a mystery. Recent matches only show one pattern, they lose.

If they go on the attack and try to outscore the opposition, it has ended in a couple of 4-2 losses to both Mexico and Japan.

If they try to stay compact and make themselves difficult to breakdown, it has resulted in a pair of 1-0 defeats to Peru and the United States.

Qatar continues to be making preparations for its hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

As previously mentioned, the side won the Asian Cup back in January is incredible fashion.

They conceded just once in the entire tournament, beating Japan 3-1 in the final.

With only two squad members over the age of 30, this tournament is about getting the players top level international experience.

Group C – Chile, Ecuador, Japan, Uruguay

Chile is the two-time defending champions of this event and they bring back much of the same squad from three years ago.

Nine of the 11 starters in their 2016 final against Argentina are back for another attempt, making them one of the oldest squads in the tournament.

The one question mark is at the goalkeeper position

Claudio Bravo is not in the squad and there are three relatively untested players, with a combined seven international appearances between them trying to take his place.

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Ecuador doesn’t appear to be a contender to reach the late stages of this tournament, but the other three sides in the group should not take three points for granted in their match up.

The goals will have to come from Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia and former West Ham United striker Enner Valencia.

Together those two have scored a combined 39 goals for Ecuador, while the rest of the squad have 11 combined.

Japan is bringing a largely domestic squad to this tournament as they prepare for World Cup qualification later this year.

Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki are the only players older than 28 in the squad.

They will need to provide guidance to the others, 17 of whom have no national team appearances yet.

Uruguay will view themselves as legitimate contenders to lift the trophy in Rio.

There is talent throughout the squad; if you’re looking for fresh faces who could make an impact, watch Rodrigo Bentacur of Juventus and Arsenal’s Lucas Torreira.

Oscar Tabarez has been with the team for seemingly ever, so he knows the squad inside and out.

His only challenge in selecting his lineup might be at striker.

The side routinely plays with two strikers but could see any mixture of three to start.

Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani have a great partnership but don’t forget Cristhian Stuani, whose 19 goals in La Liga this season nearly saved Girona from relegation.

When?

The tournament begins on June 14. The final will be played on July 7 at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.

With the majority of these matches in the evening in Brazil, it provides an excellent follow up to the Women’s World Cup matches each day.

Author Details

Andrew Smith

An American who lives overseas. I am an Everton and Bayer Leverkusen supporter who enjoys watching and writing about football out of the spotlight. If given the chance I will root for the underdog.

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