The 44th edition of CONMEBOL’s Copa America is set to kick off on Thursday, June 11 in the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile and culminate three weeks later on July 4 in the same location. The long and narrow South American country will play as hosts for the seventh time in tournament history, tied for second all time. The tournament will be played in eight cities, Santiago having two of the tournament’s nine stadiums. The stadiums are old stadiums that mostly opened in the first half of the 20th century, but have been refurbished and renovated for this summer’s Copa America.
The tournament consists of all ten CONMEBOL member nations and two invitees, Mexico and Jamaica. The twelve teams have been divided into three groups of four. Below is a look at Group A:
Group A consists of the hosts Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Mexico. Out of the previous 43 editions of this tournament, the only one of the four teams to have won it before is Bolivia, in 1963. To say that this group is wide open would be an understatement.
Copa America Group A Outlook
This is perhaps the most innocuous squad in the tournament since 17 of the 23 players play in the Bolivian national league, and with only four players plying their trade in Europe. Their star player, striker Marcelo Martins Moreno, will be relied upon to handle the scoring burden for the team who play their home games 11,000 feet above sea level. There will be a few bright spots to keep an eye on such as the growth of Sebastian Gamarra and the emergence of a future midfield general in Alejandro Chumacero. New coach Mauricio Solia has only been at the reigns since March but is promising big changes and hoping to start showing the world in this tournament. Bolivia failed to make it out of the group stage in 2011, however, did manage to tie hosts, Argentina 1-1 in the opening game of the tournament.
Goalkeepers: Jose Peñarrieta (Petrolero de Yacuiba/BOL), Romel Quiñonez (Bolivar/BOL), Hugo Suarez (Blooming/BOL)
Defenders: Marvin Bejarano (Oriente Petrolero/BOL), Cristian Coimbra (Blooming/BOL), Ronald Eguino (Bolivar/BOL), Miguel Hurtado (Blooming/BOL), Leonel Morales (Blooming/BOL), Ronald Raldes (Oriente Petrolero/BOL), Edemir Rodriguez (Bolivar/BOL), Edward Zenteno (Jorge Wilstermann/BOL)
Midfielders: Danny Bejarano (Panetolikos/GRE), Jhasmani Campos (Bolivar/BOL), Alejandro Chumacero (The Strongest/BOL), Pablo Escobar (The Strongest/BOL), Sebastian Gamarra (Milan Primavera/ITA), Damian Lizio (O’Higgins/CHI), Damir Miranda (Bolivar/BOL), Martin Smedberg-Dalence (IFK Goteborg/SWE), Walter Veizaga (The Strongest/BOL)
Forwards: Marcelo Martins Moreno (Changchun Yatai/CHN), Ricardo Pedriel (Mersin Idmanyurdu/TUR), Alcides Peña (Oriente Petrolero)
Prediction: The team has not won a game outside of Bolivia since 1993 and will find it hard to do so in Chile. While there may be a few bright spots and they are in the most wide open group of this tournament, this team simply will struggle in their group games and will not make it out of the group stage for a sixth tournament in a row.
The hosts have never won the tournament despite hosting it six previous times. In 2011, Chile won their group but was upset in the quarterfinals, 2-1 by Venezuela. Last year in the World Cup, they made it to the Round of 16 and lost a heartbreaker in penalties to Brazil. Chile has been a team with talent the past few years but have nothing to show for it. The squad is led by two of the best players in Europe today in striker Alexis Sanchez and midfielder Arturo Vidal while boasting a roster full of players with plenty of experience in Europe and more specifically in Italy’s Serie A. 18 of the 23 players were on Chile’s World Cup team last summer, therefore, it is a veteran squad with big game experience. Chile will boast the most experienced goalkeeper in the group, Claudio Bravo, who is coming off a season in which he helped lead Barcelona to the Spanish League championship.
Goalkeepers: Claudio Bravo (Barcelona/ESP), Paulo Garces (Colo-Colo/CHI), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile/CHI)
Defenders: Miko Albornoz (Hannover 96/GER), Mauricio Isla (Juventus/ITA), Gonzalo Jara (Mainz 05/GER), Gary Medel (Inter Milan/ITA), Eugenio Mena (Cruzeiro/BRA), Jose Rojas (Universidad de Chile/CHI)
Midfielders: Charles Aranguiz (Internacional/BRA), Jean Beausejour (Colo-Colo/CHI), Carlos Carmona (Atalanta/ITA), Marcelo Diaz (Hamburg/GER), Matias Fernandez (Fiorentina/ITA), Felipe Gutierrez (Twente/NED), David Pizarro (Fiorentina/ITA), Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras/BRA), Arturo Vidal (Juventus/ITA)
Forwards: Angelo Henriquez (Dinamo Zagreb/CRO), Mauricio Pinilla (Atalanta/ITA), Edson Puch (Huracan/ARG), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal/ENG), Eduardo Vargas (Napoli/ITA)
Prediction: The high octane Chilean squad will be entertaining to watch, especially in front of the home crowd. They should win the group and ride the home fan wave all the way to the final.
Ecuador has never won a Copa America, and their best finish was coming in fourth place two times, both times as hosts, 1959 and 1993. However, many may forget that Ecuador played in last summer’s World Cup. They failed to make it out of the group stage, however, the combination of Walter Ayovi and Enner Valencia certainly gave France, Switzerland and Honduras fits. They will be back to try and rekindle that chemistry in Chile. They open up against the tournament hosts in Santiago and have the capability of quieting the crowd with an Ayovi run up the left side providing a cross to the box for Valencia to head in. Ecuador will be without Antonio Valencia who had to undergo ankle surgery after the Premier League season in England ended, creating a big hole in the right midfield. New coach Gustavo Quinteros is bringing along seven players from his former club, Emelec to help re-launch the national team. The 2011 team failed to get out of the group stage, while the three teams in their group continued on to the quarterfinals.
Goalkeepers: Librado Azcona (Independiente/ECU), Alexander Dominguez (LDU Quito/ECU), Esteban Dreer (Emelec/ECU)
Defenders: Gabriel Achillier (Emelec/ECU), Walter Ayovi (Pachuca/MEX), Oscar Bagui (Emelec/ECU), Frickson Erazo (Gremio/BRA), Arturo Mina (Independiente/ECU), John Narvaez (Emelec/ECU), Juan Carlos Paredes (Watford, ENG), Mario Pineida (Independiente/ECU)
Midfielders: Juan Cazares (Banfield/ARG), Jonathan Gonzalez (Universidad de Guadalajara/MEX), Renato Ibarra (Vitesse/NED), Pedro Larrea (LDU Loja/ECU), Osbaldo Lastra (Emelec/ECU), Jefferson Montero (Swansea City/ENG), Christian Noboa (PAOK/GRE), Pedro Quiñónez (Emelec/ECU)
Forwards: Jaime Ayovi (Godoy Cruz/ARG), Miller Bolaños (Emelec/ECU), Fidel Martinez (UNAM/MEX), Enner Valencia (West Ham United/ENG)
Prediction: Ecuador is only bringing 12 of the 23 World Cup players to Chile, new coach Quinteros is changing their playing style while introducing Jaime Ayovi and Jefferson Montero in more attacking roles. While they have the ability of becoming the tournament underachievers, this team should sneak into the quarterfinals.
The non-CONMEBOL country with the most Copa America competitions returns for their ninth trip to the South American tournament. They are also the highest placing non-CONMEBOL country in the tournament with two runner up finishes, 1993 and 2001. The Mexican squad coach Miguel Herrera takes to Chile is considered a B squad roster, however, Herrera feels that there isn’t an A or B squad in Mexico, there is just one large team and whichever players are on the field are the country’s A squad at the time. The matter of fact is that the team has looked a bit uninspired in their friendlies leading up to the tournament. Captain Rafael Marquez, who has 125 caps for the national team, leads the team. The next closest in terms of caps is goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona who has 36 caps. The majority of the team plays in Mexico’s domestic league, Liga MX, with players such as Marco Fabian, Luis Montes, Eduardo Herrera and Hugo Ayala being on again, off again, national team players. Striker Raul Jimenez from Atletico Madrid gets a chance at being the top striker on a team without Javier Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos or Carlos Vela. While young defender Carlos Salcedo may get a chance to impress and become a staple of the national team. In 2011, Mexico sent their Olympic squad to the tournament and failed to make it out of the group stage.
Goalkeepers: Jose de Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul/MEX), Meliton Hernandez (Veracruz/MEX), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca/MEX)
Defenders: Adrian Aldrete (Santos/MEX), Hugo Ayala (UANL/MEX), George Corral (Queretaro/MEX), Julio Dominguez (Cruz Azul/MEX), Gerardo Flores (Cruz Azul/MEX), Rafael Marquez (Verona/ITA), Carlos Salcedo (Guadalajara/MEX), Juan Carlos Valenzuela (Atlas/MEX), Efrain Velarde (Monterrey/MEX)
Midfielders: Javier Aquino (Rayo Vallecano/ESP), Jesus Manuel Corona (Twente/NED), Marco Fabian (Guadalajara/MEX), Javier Guemez (Tijuana/MEX), Juan Carlos Medina (Atlas/MEX), Luis Montes (Leon/MEX), Mario Osuna (Queretaro/MEX)
Forwards: Enrique Esqueda (UANL/MEX), Eduardo Herrera (UNAM/MEX), Raul Jimenez (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Vicente Matias Vuoso (Chiapas/MEX)
Prediction: 2011 was the only time in their eight trips to Copa America that Mexico failed to reach at least the quarter finals. Herrera has injected the national team with energy and raised the expectations of not only the fans but also the players. Mexico will make it to the quarterfinals, but fall short of Herrera’s goal of the semi finals.
Group Player Statistics:
Most Caps by a national team player: Mexico’s Rafa Marquez – 125
Most National Team Goals: Chile’s Alexis Sanchez – 26
Oldest Player: Mexico’s Rafa Marquez – 36 years old (118 days)
Youngest Player: Bolivia’s Sebastian Gamarra – 18 years old (147 days)
Club Most Represented in the Group: Ecuador’s Emelec (7 players)