Brazil kick off the 2019 Copa America on Friday night against Bolivia for what is promising to be an exciting tournament. Being on home soil, Brazil have the edge to lift the trophy but had to deal with a major blow. Unfortunately one of the worlds best, Neymar Jr will be watching from home as he suffered an ankle jersey in last weeks friendly that will not be healed in time. Chelsea’s Willian was called up to replace Neymar Jr. This tournament definitely does not have a clear winner and I believe there are four different teams that have a chance of winning.
Messi is back for redemption, every appearance he makes is one closer to the finish line. He has single handily brought Argentina to 3 consecutive finals including the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. After the embarrassment in Russia, Messi stepped away from the national team until March when he made his first appearance again. 15 of the 23 players have under 15 caps for Argentina, although they are inexperienced, their brains are not reminded of the last two Copa defeats to Chile. A new generation could be beneficial moving forward. Midfielders Giovani Lo Celso and Leandro Paredes look promising and can do some damage this summer. The new Copa format starting next summer has the tournament switched to be on even numbered years is joint hosted between Argentina and Columbia. Can Messi lead Argentina to back to back Copa Americas including one on home soil? Messi will be 32 years old next week, if he is going to win with Argentina, it must be now. The likes of Sergio Augero, Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala must step up and deliver. This is new head coach Lionel Scaloni's first tournament in charge, can he bring home the glory?
Brazil has hosted the Copa four times in the past and all four times have came out victorious. They have plenty of experience as well as leadership. With no Neymar Jr, it will be up to Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, and Gabriel Jesus to lead the front line. Will the pressure of playing on home soil get to them? In the 2014 World Cup semifinals they were put to shambles against eventual winners Germany 7 to 1. Locals were heartbroken and outraged throughout the streets. Head coach Tite confessed that there is some uncertainties with picking his starting XI and that they have yet to reach third gear. Their group contains Bolivia, Venezuela, and Peru. They should be able to pickup all 9 points but this is an opportunity to find their groove before the knockout stages.
Columbia always has a well rounded team with a crazy fanbase that follows them wherever they land. After last summers upsetting penalty shootout loss to England, Columbia is trying to leave their mark and write their name in the storybooks. James Rodriguez will be the key to their success as he is dying to return to the stage he made his name. After lighting up the 2014 World Cup in Brazil he sealed a move to Real Madrid. After several disappointing performances he was loaned out to Bayern where he never truly showed his full potential. This summer his future is in doubt with either Bayern nor Real Madrid interested in his services, a move else way is in the cards but his only focus is the Copa. Last summer at the 2018 World Cup we saw how Columbia struggled without their star man. It is vital to allow James a free role and let him wander across the attacking line causing chaos.
Uruguay was the best South American team in the World Cup last summer. They have an experienced youth side that is ready to make some noise as well as the veterans ready to shed their leadership and experience to get their hands on another piece of silverware. Club team mates Diego Godin and Jose Maria Jimenez lead the back line while Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are two deadly forwards ready to cause headaches for oppositions. As we saw at Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain this last season, Suarez may have lost little bit of his flair and Cavani may be injury prone but that does not change the players they are especially if the rest of the team is able to step up and do their part. Suarez is fresh off a knee surgery but banged in a beautiful free kick the other day so there is little question on if he is ready to play all 90 minutes. Can the deadly duo lead the pack to glory?
Dark horse team: Chile
Chile is not only the defending Copa America champions, but they are also back to back defending Copa champions as they won the following summer in New Jersey with the special edition Copa Centenario. Chile failed to qualify for the World Cup last summer and tied USA in March. Alexis Sanchez had a season to forget at Manchester United and is eager to find his top form again this summer. It will come down to his quality as well as the dominance of Auturo Vidal in the midfield. Vidal goes into every tackle like it is his last, a true warrior were fear is not in his blood. If Chile can solve these problems and start fresh, they have a quality team to do some damage.
If the rest of the Argentina squad is able to deliver and give Messi a helping hand I can see a successful tournament for them. It all comes down to the supporting cast because the world knows how hungry Messi is for some international silverware. Brazil should be to get through most of the tournament on home soil with solid wins until the knockout stages. If they find their groove and stay healthy they will be a tough task to get pasted. I see a Brazilian Argentina final that will be one for the ages. Last time Argentina was in Brazil they were inches away from World Cup glory while Brazil were huminalted. Will Argentina rewrite the script and change destiny or will Brazil defend their home soil and historic record? Or will the likes or Uruguay, Columbia, or Chile spoil the party and have different plans in mind?