Continuing our Copa America Outlook, we next take a closer look at Group B.
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 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 B:
Group B consists of the defending 2011 champions Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Jamaica. The four teams have combined for 31 of the 43 Copa America championships, Uruguay with 15, Argentina with 14 and Paraguay with 2. Jamaica is participating in their first Copa America.
The favorites of the tournament boast an all star roster made up of the Premier League’s top goal scorer in Sergio Aguero (26 goals), Serie A’s second and third leading goal scorers in Carlos Tevez (20) and Gonzalo Higuain (18). They also have some guy named Lionel Messi, who was La Liga’s second-leading goalscorer this season with 43 goals. Ligue 1 player of the year candidate Javier Pastore will be joined in the midfield by Europa League Champion Ever Banega, Juventus super sub Roberto Pereyra and Manchester United’s Angel Di Maria. While this team only boasts 14 of the 23 players that made it to the World Cup Final last summer, this is still a dangerous squad that is capable of steam rolling their way through the tournament. Argentina are the second most winningest team in the tournament, however, these players have never won any trophies at the senior level. Argentina’s last Copa America championship came in 1993 when Gabriel Bautistuta was leading the Albiceleste (white and sky blue). Argentina hosted the 2011 tournament and were upset in the quarterfinals by eventual champions Uruguay in a penalty shootout.
Goalkeepers: Mariano Andujar (Napoli/ITA), Nahuel Guzman (UANL/MEX), Sergio Romero (Sampdoria/ITA)
Defenders: Milton Casco (Newell’s Old Boys/ARG), Martin Demichelis (Manchester City/ENG), Ezequiel Garay (Zenit St. Petersburg/RUS), Nicolas Otamendi (Valencia/ESP), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United/ENG), Facundo Roncaglia (Genoa/ITA), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City/ENG)
Midfielders: Ever Banega (Sevilla/ESP), Lucas Biglia (Lazio/ITA), Angel Di Maria (Manchester United/ENG), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors/ARG), Erik Lamela (Tottenham/ENG), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona/ESP), Javier Pastore (PSG/FRA), Roberto Pereyra (Juventus/ITA)
Forwards: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City/ENG), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli/ITA), Ezequiel Lavezzi (PSG/FRA), Lionel Messi (Barcelona/ESP), Carlos Tevez (Juventus/ITA)
Prediction: The taste of losing the World Cup final is still fresh on this team’s minds. The eyes of the world will be on Messi and his teammates to see if they can finally deliver on all that talent. Argentina should pull it off and take home their 15th Copa America title.
Participating in their first Copa America competition, the Jamaican national team will go in to the tournament as the underdogs. The CONCACAF invitees go in to the tournament on a bit of a roll as they won the 2014 Caribbean Cup in November and winning their two friendly games since then as well over Venezuela and Cuba. Coach Winfried Schafer selected a squad with a good mix of veterans and younger players. Captain Rodolph Austin, may best be remembered for scoring the game winning goal against the U.S. National team in a World Cup qualifier in 2012, will provide a calming presence in the middle of the field. English premier league defenders Adrian Mariappa and Wes Morgan and MLS striker duo of Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes, who have three and six goals respectively on the current season, will join Rodolph. Outside of the Caribbean Cup, Jamaica’s last international tournament was the 2011 Gold Cup in which they reached the Quarterfinals before losing to the U.S. 2-0.
Goalkeepers: Duwayne Kerr (Sarpsborg 08/Norway), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska/Sweden), Ryan Thompson (Pittsburgh Riverhounds/USA)
Defenders: Daniel Gordon (Karlsruher/GER), Hughan Gray (Waterhouse/JAM), Michael Hector (Reading/ENG), Kemar Lawrence (NY Red Bulls/USA), Adrian Mariappa (Crystal Palace/ENG), Wes Morgan (Leicester City/ENG), Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo/USA)
Midfielders: Rodolph Austin (Leeds United/ENG), Joel Grant (Yeovil Town/ENG), Lance Laing (FC Edmonton/CAN), Jobi McAnuff (Leyton Orient/ENG), Garath McCleary (Reading/ENG), Je-Vaughn Watson (FC Dallas/USA)
Strikers: Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo/USA), Deshorn Brown (Valerenga/Norway), Simon Dawkins (Derby County/ENG), Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps/CAN), Allan Ottey (Montego Bay United/JAM), Romeo Parkes (Isidro Metapan/El Salvador), Dino Williams (Montego Bay United/JAM)
Prediction: The Reggae Boyz will be happy to participate in the Copa America, and are fielding their “A” squad despite having the Gold Cup immediately after this tournament. Unfortunately, the South American teams will prove too strong for Jamaica and they won’t make it out of the group stage.
The 2011 Copa America runners up come into this tournament with the lowest expectations in 20 years. Paraguay is currently ranked 85th in the FIFA Rankings after enjoying a run of top 40 rankings from 1996-2012, making it as high as 8th place in 2001. Coach Ramon Diaz has elected to bring 10 players from the 2011 run to the finals, while leaving off some surprising names such as Christian Riveros, Hernan Perez and Oscar Cardozo. Paraguay has a solid attacking trio in Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Haedo Valdez and Derlis Gonzalez, while having a good group ready to step in should either be ineffective or go down with injury. Players like goalkeeper Justo Villar, defenders Paulo da Silva and Marcos Caceres and midfielders Victor Caceres and Nestor Ortigoza provide experience meaning that Diaz could be looking to lead another unlikely run for Paraguay.
Goalkeepers: Alfredo Aguilar (Guarani/PAR), Antony Silva (Independiente Medellin/COL), Justo Villar (Colo-Colo/CHI)
Defenders: Pablo Aguilar (America/MEX), Fabian Balbuena (Libertad/PAR), Marcos Caceres (Newell’s Old Boys/ARG), Paulo da Silva (Toluca/MEX), Ivan Piris (Udinese/ITA), Miguel Samudio (America/MEX), Bruno Valdez (Cerro Porteño/PAR)
Midfielders: Eduardo Aranda (Olimpia/PAR), Victor Caceres (Flamengo/BRA), Osvaldo Martinez (America/MEX), Osmar Molinas (Libertad/PAR), Nestor Ortigoza (San Lorenzo/ARG), Richard Ortiz (Toluca/MEX), Oscar Romero (Racing/ARG)
Forwards: Lucas Barrios (Montpellier/FRA), Edgar Benitez (Toluca/MEX), Raul Bobadilla (Augsburg/GER), Derlis Gonzalez (Basel/SWI), Nelson Haedo Valdez (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Roque Santa Cruz (Cruz Azul/MEX)
Prediction: In a group that includes the two most winningest countries in the competition, Paraguay’s roster of players has experienced success. That experience will keep them in games, unfortunately La Albirroja won’t be able to tie their way to the final this year and while they will give Argentina and Uruguay fits, this team won’t make it out of the group stage.
The defending champions will have a different look to them for this edition of the Copa America as their the best player Luis Suarez sits out serving his suspension as a result of last year’s World Cup biting incident, while their emotional and goal scoring leader Diego Forlan has retired from international duty. The team returns 12 players from their 2011 title including Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, Boca Juniors midfield tactician Nicolas Lodeiro, PSG striker Edinson Cavani and the best young player of the 2011 tournament, Sebastian Coates, is back on the squad as well. Coach Oscar Tabarez is introducing new names to the team out of necessity more than choice as players from Uruguay’s golden generation begin to get older and retire from international play. Players such as 22-year-old striker Diego Rolan and 20-year-old center back Jose Maria Gimenez will likely be big contributors on a team looking to repeat. There have been 10 repeat champions in the tournament’s history, with Uruguay doing it three times. The most recent time Uruguay won back to back Copa Americas was in 1983 and 1987.
Goalkeeper: Rodrigo Muñoz (Libertad/PAR), Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray/TUR), Martin Silva (Vasco de Gama/BRA)
Defenders: Sebastian Coates (Sunderland/ENG), Mathias Corujo (Universidad de Chile/CHI), Jorge Fucile (Nacional/URU), Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Alvaro Pereira (Estudiantes/ARG), Maxi Pereira (Benfica/POR), Gaston Silva (Torino/ITA)
Midfielders: Egidio Arevalo Rios (UANL/MEX), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro/BRA), Alvaro Gonzalez (Torino/ITA), Nicolas Lodeiro (Boca Juniors/ARG), Guzman Pereira (Universidad de Chile/CHI), Cristian Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Carlos Sanchez (River Plate/ARG)
Forwards: Edinson Cavani (PSG/FRA), Abel Hernandez (Hull City/ENG), Jonathan Rodriguez (Benfica/POR), Diego Rolan (Bordeaux/FRA), Christian Stuani (Espanyol/ESP)
Prediction: With Luis Suarez this team is capable of beating any team, without him, you get the results such as their 3-1 loss in their opening World Cup group stage game last summer or their eventual 2-0 loss to Colombia in the Round of 16 after Suarez was suspended. This team still has some pride and bite to them, shown by their 2-1 win in Chile in a November friendly. Uruguay will be in a dogfight to advance out of the group stage and should advance to the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, that is as far as this squad will go.
Group Player Statistics:
Most Caps by a national team player: Paraguay’s Paulo da Silva – 121
Most National Team Goals: Argentina’s Lionel Messi – 45
Oldest Player: Paraguay’s Justo Villar – 37 years old (346 days)
Youngest Player: Uruguay’s Jose Maria Gimenez – 20 years old (142 days)
Club Most Represented in the Group: Five teams with three players each (Club America, Atletico Madrid, Libertad, Manchester City and Toluca)
Keep up with Last Word on Sports’ Copa America Previews: