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Copa America

From Argentina and Uruguay to Japan and Qatar - Meet Brazil's Copa America rivals

10:17 AM SGT 25/1/19
Lionel Messi Argentina 2018
Neymar, Alexis and some of the world's biggest stars will be in action for South America's festival of football - but will Messi make the party?

Three years after celebrating its centenary in the United States, the Copa America is back in 2019. South America's proud footballing nations go head to head in what is the world's oldest international football tournament, which will this year be held in Brazil.

Brazil had originally been slated for hosting duties in 2015, but swapped that tournament with Chile due to the overlap with the World Cup and the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. The last time the Copa came to the nation was back in 1989, an edition won by the hosts thanks to the lethal combination of Bebeto and Romario up front for the Selecao.

Unlike the Centenary edition, which expanded to 16 teams, the 2019 Copa returns to the 12-side format that has been used since 1993, organised into three groups of four. As well as CONMEBOL's 10 member nations the Asian AFC contributed two participants, with Japan and Qatar entering the fray as guests.

With Thursday's draw we now know who will face whom in the group stage, which will kick off in Sao Paulo's Estadio Morumbi on June 14 with Brazil's clash against Bolivia. With some of the world's greatest players in action and a huge prize on offer, the Copa will doubtlessly be one of the highlights of the summer football calendar.


Ricardo Gareca's Peru were one of everybody's favourite plucky losers in the World Cup, playing some great football on their way to elimination in the group stage following narrow defeats to France and Denmark.

Now, buoyed by Gareca's decision to stick it out on the bench post-Russia, the Inca are in good shape and will be hopeful of matching the third-place finishes managed in both the 2011 and 2015 editions of the Copa America.

Tireless veteran winger Jefferson Farfan will be back for another run at glory, but Peru's real strength lies in youth. Renato Tapia, Edison Flores, Andy Polo and Miguel Araujo are all 24 and under and some of the brightest stars in the team's line-up.


1So long the butt of South America's football jokes, in the last decade the baseball-mad nation has taken up the game with a passion. And while they may not yet be on the level of Argentina or Brazil, Venezuela are by no means far behind their more illustrious rivals.

Youth is the key for Rafael Dudamel, with a strong continengent from Venezuela's 2017 Under-20 World Cup runners-up expected to make the cut for Brazil.

Wuilker Farinez is one of the continent's finest young goalkeepers and Santos trickster Yeferson Soteldo can cause even the best of defences problems with his talents. Older hands like Salomon Rondon and Robert Rosales are there to lend experience, and, if Josef Martinez can take his Atlanta form over to the Vinotinto, they will be a fearsome prospect.


Formidable on home turf thanks to the dizzying altitude of La Paz, Bolivia are famously weak when they come down to sea level. The Verde last qualified for a World Cup in 1994, while since hosting the Copa America and finishing second in 1997 they have progressed past the group stages on just one solitary occasion.

Their prospects in 2019 do not look much more optimistic. Bolivia won just once last year, against minnows Myanmar, and anything better than a first-round exit would represent a huge feat for the side, particularly after being drawn alongside hosts Brazil, whom they will meet in the tournament's curtain-raiser.


Runners-up in the last two Copa America editions, Argentina will go into the 2019 competition in a process of rebuilding following their World Cup failure.

Unproven new coach Lionel Scaloni earned the post after impressing in an interim role, and has overseen the introduction of new blood into the Albiceleste built around stars like Paulo Dybala and Gio Lo Celso.

Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and other established stars have been overlooked by Scaloni since his arrival. It remains to be seen whether their experience will be called on in Brazil, or if the coach will remain true to his youth-first policy and continue building a team geared towards 2022.

The big question, of course, is over Lionel Messi. The captain has been on sabbatical since Russia, but there are positive noises around a possible return for the Copa. His inspirational talents will be needed should Argentina hope to go one better and take the prize.


They may have failed by some distance to make the World Cup in Russia, but there is nevertheless a buzz around this Paraguay team under new coach, former Mexico man Juan Carlos Osorio.

The Colombian was a shock choice for the Guarani, having been linked with other jobs following his Mexico exit. And while he has had only one match in charge, a 1-1 friendly draw with South Africa, he seems determined to inject new life into a team that is big on young talent but failed to follow through on its promise during its last qualifying campaign.

Atlanta United talisman Miguel Almiron, the Romero twins, Oscar and Angel, and Santos forward Derlis Gonzalez are just a few of the brilliant attacking talents Paraguay can field. Osorio will be hoping for a quarter-final finish as a minimum before the long road to Qatar begins after the Copa.


Jose Pekerman may now be gone, but the team and systems put in place by the veteran Argentine coach are still intact. After taking the Cafeteros to back-to-back World Cups, Pekerman has ensured his legacy should not fall apart even if his replacement still remains a mystery.

Europe-based stars like James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao (possibly gearing up for his last major tournament) and Juan Cuadrado will of course be key to Colombia, who in 2016 finished the Centenary edition in third place.

Keep an eye out too for Juan Quintero, River Plate's hero of the Copa Libertadores and a man who can turn a game in an instant. Argentina will certainly be wary of his talents when the two sides clash in Group B.


The middle-eastern nation are the Copa America's sole debutants in 2019, having been invited to join Japan as the second Asian participant in Brazil.

With just over three years to go until they host the World Cup, Qatar are keen to gain international experience at the top level, with a fantastic start to their Asian Cup campaign proving that the nation has come on a long way in recent years.

The Copa, however, may prove a daunting prospect for Feliz Sanchez Bas' charges, who have been drawn alongside heavyweights Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay in Group B.


South America's Grand Old Man is gearing up for yet another Copa America. This will be Oscar Tabarez's sixth competition at the Celeste helm, although the 71-year-old coach has received more than a few respectful calls to step aside following the World Cup as he continues to struggle with health problems.

On the pitch, at least, Uruguay cut a far more youthful figure. Midfield duo Rodrigo Bentancur and Lucas Torreira enjoyed excellent campaigns in Russia, and aged 21 and 22 respectively will only get better with more international experience. At the back the Celeste will call on Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, arguably the strongest defensive duo in world football at Atletico Madrid, while Real youngster Fede Valverde is also crying out for more game time.

Their Copa chances, however, hang on two seasoned stars. Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani have been in red-hot form this year and if they can stay in form and injury-free up to June, Uruguay will be serious candidates to take the title they last lifted in 2011.


The winners of the last two Copas America hold another, unwanted distinction. Not since Colombia 2002 had the Copa holders failed to qualify for the subsequent World Cup; but the Roja crashed and burned during qualification, failing to make the cut after losing three of their last four matches.

There is still call for optimism, however. Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, the stars of 2015 and 2016, remain at their peak and playing in two of Europe's top sides. Reinaldo Rueda's squad is admittedly on the older side, with precious little youth talent coming through, but they have the ability and experience to reach at least the last eight in Brazil.


The Samurai are set to make their second appearance at the Copa America, having become the first team ever from outside the Americas to play the competition in 1999. They were also slated to participate in the 2011, but were forced to withdraw following that year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

A flawless campaign so far in the Asian Cup shows that South America's top sides should be wary of Japan, with strike duo Yuya Osako and Yoshinori Muto and veteran defensive rock Yuto Nagatomo among their top stars. They will have to work hard to make the quarter finals, however, after being drawn against Uruguay and Chile, winners of the last three editions between them.


An early candidate for qualification to Russia 2018, Ecuador saw their World Cup chances go up in smoke thanks to a disastrous end to their campaign. Four straight defeats in the last four matches, including that famous Messi-assisted 3-1 reverse against Argentina, saw the Tricolor squander a golden chance to make their second consecutive finals after featuring in Brazil in 2014.

Recent results, however, seem to signal that their horrific late run was a blip. In 2018 Ecuador won four of their six friendlies, introducing in the process several new names. Minnesota United's Romeo Ibarra stood out in midfield, while they can still count on widemen Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero who have proved a daunting prospect for many a South American defence working in tandem over the years.

A group also including Uruguay, Japan and Chile, however, will not be easy for the Tricolor, who will have to be at their best in all three matches if they are to have a chance of progressing out of Group C.