Copa America 2011 Preview

30 Jun

07/01 - 07/24

By Brandon Moore-Rhodes

Copa America 2011 Preview

July 1st marks the start of 2011’s edition of the Copa America, hosted by Argentina. The tournament is set to run through July 24th; being contested by the 10 CONMEBOL (South America) member associations plus 2 invitees.Argentina andUruguay are the most successful nations, in the competition, with 14 wins each. Brasil are the current champions, having won 8 CopaAmerica titles.Mexico andCosta Rica (Japan withdrew) are the 2 nations invited for this years tourney. Because of regulation proposed by UEFA regarding teams taking part in tournaments not organized by their confederation,Costa Rica andMexico are only allowed to field a (weakened) team of players from their U-23 Olympic squads, supplemented by 5 other players. The winner of this tournament will go on to represent their confederation at the Confederation’s Cup in 2013 in Brazil.

There are quite a few super-talents that will be on display during the Copa America. You can find a list of all squads here.

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Argentina

Supreme amongst these talents is the Argentinean forward Lionel Messi. He has been voted the world’s best player (twice…back to back). He scored 53 goals this year…in 52 games. This will be the tournement in which Messi finally stakes his claim to international success with the NT. Look for him to be the focal point of all the attacking play coming from Argentina and the tournements top scorer. Javier Pastore, 22, is another supremely talented Argentinean that should be heavily featured. Pastore is an attacking midfielder with suburb ball control and dribbling ability that can place cutting, pinpoint passes in and around the opponent’s 18-yard box. The 23 year-old Atletico Madrid forward Sergio Aguero is another one to watch for. Coming off the best season of his career, scoring 29 goals for club and country, he is an electric forward with a wicked shot that can easily skip passed 3 defenders and put the ball in the net. The combination play from these 3 will make or break Argentina’s tournament, as well as, the spectacle for the fans. Other players to watch: Carlos Tevez, 27, Forward, Manchester City; Gonzalo Higuain, 23, Striker, Real Madrid; Angel Di Maria, 23, Winger, Real Madrid.

Brazil

While Argentinaprobably has the most talented squad in the tournament, Brazil’s is extremely close. Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, or simply Neymar, is the next in a long line of “Next Pele’s”. The 19-year old Santos FC forward has been making the world take note of his performances in Brazil over the past few years. He has an amazing ability to run at and get passed defenders, and score goals with a flair and confidence that borders on the arrogant. Neymar is, without a doubt, Brazil’s shining jewel. Twenty-one year old midfield playmaker, Paulo Henrique Ganso, will also make a huge impact this summer. Both of these players have been linked with a move away from Santos to one of the European powerhouses this summer. Brazilian defender Dani Alves is the world’s best right-back, and probably the world’s best right sided attacker too. Since 2008 Dani has racked up 34 assists and is surpassed only by 4 other players (2 of them his teammates at Barcelona) that play positions further forward. Look for Dani Alves and Ganso to be the creative force in this Brazilian team. Other players to watch: Alexandre Pato, 21, Striker, AC Milan; Robinho, 27, Forward, AC Milan.

Chile

Chilehas a very solid team that made some rumblings in last year’s World Cup. Alexis Sanchez is the most dynamic player on this squad. The stocky, 5’6”, 22 year-old winger, who plies his trade in Italy at Udinese, can play anywhere on the front line and guarantees amazing skill, trickery, and pace on the ball. He is being chased by Europe’s best clubs with FC Barcelona leading the pack. Chile, also, boasts a very good midfield duo in Arturo Vidal (Bayer Leverkusen) and Gary Medel (Sevilla). This squad can be very surprising and are my dark horse for the tournament. Other players to watch: Matias Fernandez, 25, Midfielder, Sporting CP (Portugal); Luis Jimenez, 27, Forward,Cesena (Italy)

Uruguay

On display for Uruguaywill be 3 of the top forwards in world football in Edinson Cavani (Napoli), Luis Suarez (Liverpool), and Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid). All three of these players are very different  but very, very good. Suarez is the most skillful of them, preferring to take defenders on from a wide position to cut inside and pepper the goalkeeper with shots. Edinson Cavani is a pure striker that never stops running. He is extremely good in the air and only needs a small opening to place a lethal finish passed the keeper. Diego Forlan can do it all. He is a free-kick master that plays a bit deeper than a striker normally would. Forlan is a long shot specialist and looks to bring other players into the game with his passing and movement. Uruguay also has young talents in Nicolas Lodeiro, 22, (Ajax) and Abel Hernandez, 20, (Palermo) that are sure to get a chance to shine.

Other Stars to Look For

Radamel Falcao, 25, is just coming off his most successful season with FC Porto, winning the Europa League, Portuguese Liga and Cup, and will look to continue his superb form this summer for Columbia. He is extremely good in the air, despite his stature (being 5’9”), and is a relentless goal-scorer. Malaga CF (Spain) striker Jose Salomon Rondon, 22, is a fast, powerful young player that will be the main goal scoring threat for Venezuela. Expect former Barcelona starlet, and current Tottenham castaway, Giovanni dos Santos to be Mexico’s best player. He will be the lynchpin between Mexico’s midfield and attack. The Paraguayan attack will be led by Lucas Barrios, 26, and Nelson Haedo Valdez, 27. The Argentina-born Barrios, having just won the German League with Borussia Dortmund, will look to come up big for his team and continue his goal-scoring form.

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Predictions

According to bwin.com, Argentinaare the odds-on favorite, at 2.00, to win the Copa, just ahead of Brazil(2.85) and Chileand Uruguay(both at 12.00). I believe Argentina, having the best squad AND the world’s best player, will hold its serve and lift the Copa on July 24th. The final will, most likely, be contested by Agrentina andBrazil, with the third place match beingUruguay v.Chile. I look for Lionel Messi to be the top scorer in the tournament, also, providing the most assists. I fully expect Alexis Sanchez to further boost his name into the stratosphere by putting in some scintillating performances forChile and, possibly, taking them through to the final. Neymar will be the tournament’s most exciting player, as he will use his tricky dribbling skills to blow passed multiple defenders and score a few goals. Uruguayan Edinson Cavani will also be in the running for best player of the tournament.

Will the Argie Boys hold serve and raise the Copa? Will the Samba boys turn on the style and retain their crown? CanUruguaybuild off their WC2010 success and put up a fight for the Copa? Will one of the lesser nations raise their game and take it to the big boys?  Played out on the stage of history, all of these questions will be answered in the coming weeks when the opening match kicks off at 8:45PM EST betweenArgentinaandBoliviafromLa Plata,Argentina.

YouTube will be providing coverage for every Copa America match here (so we all can stream them at work).
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You can contact Brandon at bmoore.rjp@gmail.com.

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