La Copa America will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year and the United States of America has been chosen as the host country for this special event. The format of the competition has changed since 2007 from an every two year event to a more “normal” four year.
Last year, Chile, the host country, won its first continental title, on penalty kicks, against the Argentina of Lionel Messi, which failed, for a second year in row (after the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Germany) to win a final. This time around and not having to wait another four years, the squad led by Gerardo “Tata” Martino will hope to finally bring a professional trophy home, a first since la Copa America triumph in 1993.
It will not be easy. Several other countries want a piece of this silverware and this time around, 16 teams will be involved in the competition (Argentina • Bolivia • Brazil • Chile • Colombia • Costa Rica • Ecuador • Haiti • Jamaica • Mexico • Panama • Paraguay • Peru • Uruguay • United States • Venezuela).
- Mexico, Costa Rica and Jamaica are in as CONCACAF Regional Cup Winners.
- Haiti and Panama have been invited to join the competition as the two playoff winner and highest finishers of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
- The United States of America is the host country, as mentioned above.
Brazil seeks revenge, redemption, return to glory. The past few years have very difficult for la Seleção. Despite winning the Confederations’ Cup the past three occasions (2005, 2009 and 2013), it has had difficulties winning bigger tournaments since the 2007 Copa America vs. Argentina.
- Defeats in Olympic tournaments, despite boasting names such as Ronaldinho in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (China) and Neymar Jr. in London 2012 have been a little surprising and very disappointing.
- FIFA World Cups have also been difficult experiences since its triumph in 2002 led by “El Fenomeno” Ronaldo. Defeats in quarter-finals vs. France in 2006 and the Netherlands in 2010 were difficult to swallow. This was nothing compared to the historical 7-1 annihilation at the hands of future champions Germany, at home, in 2014.
- In Copa Americas, elimination in 2011 and 2015 against the same team, Paraguay, and in the same fashion, penalty kicks, have been a disaster as well for the supporters. Neymar Jr., the current captain of the team, wants to play in both competition this summer (Copa America and Olympic Games, held in Rio de Janeiro). FC Barcelona will have to agree to it before he can try to win both titles, which will be highly unlikely.
Uruguay, which holds the record for the most title wins with 15 Copa America trophies, has seen the return of Luis Suarez pay dividends already with his game-tying goal against Brazil in a recent FIFA World Cup Qualification match. Edinson Cavani (Paris-SG) has also been in good form the past few games. Can La Celeste win a record 16th Copa America? We shall see.
Chile, the current title holder, Colombia, an always dangerous opponent and the United States, the tournament host, are teams not to be taken lightly this year.
Who will raise this year’s Copa America Centenario? My prediction goes with La Albiceleste of Lionel Messi, who will grab a rare trophy missing in his already extra large cabinet.