Messi vs Neymar, Maradona vs Pele & 10 reasons why you should watch the 2011 Copa America looks at the top 10 excuses to tune into the festival of South American football, kicking off this evening with Argentina's clash against Bolivia
By Daniel Edwards

Showcasing the very best of South American football, the Copa America is a true festival of what has been dubbed 'The Beautiful Game'. This July, 12 teams will fight for the right to be crowned continental champions, over 28 hard-fought games finishing with the final in River Plate's legendary Estadio Monumental.

Despite the presence of some of the world's best teams, however, audiences outside of the Americas have often held a rather blasé approach to the Copa America. Of course, time differences play a big part in this; for example, Friday's opening match kicks off in La Plata at 01:50 BST, discouraging all but the most fervent fans of South American fútbol.

There have also been issues in the past with finding the games on television, and requiring cable or satellite packages to access the exciting matches on show. For those willing to burn the midnight oil and tune in though, the rewards and excitement could make the late nights more than worth it. presents the top 10 reasons to watch this year's Copa America...

10. Catching Monumental action... while you can

The Monumental will host the final in Argentina, and the home of River Plate will be filled to the brim with passionate fans cheering on their nation in a bid to lift the Copa. After that game, however, the stadium will then be locked down and out of action. Violence from River fans after their relegation to the B has resulted in a projected 20-match ban on the ground, meaning that if you have never witnessed the atmosphere at the site of the 1978 World Cup final, now is the time to do it.

9. Brag to your friends about newly-discovered wonderkids

The Copa America has traditionally been a proving ground for young talent across South America, although since the decision was taken to change it to every four years teams have tended to take more senior sides to the party. Still, there will be plenty of fresh-faced potential superstars on show, and avid viewers will be able to say, "I saw them first". Look out for Venezuela's Yohandry Orozco, Uruguay's Sebastian Coates (right) and Edson Montano of Ecuador for starters.

8. It is the only oasis in a summer football desert

If football is the new opium of the people, then a lack of big competitive tournaments over the next few months could well induce some serious withdrawal symptoms. The Copa America will ensure that helpless football addicts keep getting their fix in the absence of the World Cup and European Championships, and have something to talk about other than the latest interminable transfer saga.

7. Find out what misfortune will next befall the Mexican team

For the last two years, scandal and salacious headlines have followed the Tricolor around the globe. Several players were suspended in 2010 following a post-match party attended by 14 prostitutes and a transvestite, and just before the Gold Cup a host of squad members tested positive for a controlled substance. Now Jonathan dos Santos is among eight U22s thrown out for inviting sex workers to a Quito hotel, and the Mexicans are worth keeping an eye on just to see what they will do next.


The passion of South American commentators is legendary, as are their breathless screams, which vary in length depending on the importance and quality of the goal in question. Witness this for yourself if you have access to a Spanish-language broadcaster, and start exercising those throat muscles if you want to join in.

5. A multi-national fiesta

As one of the most cosmopolitan countries in South America, Argentina will play host to thousands of fans from across the continent; not counting those already living in Buenos Aires and elsewhere. The organisers have scheduled the tournament and host cities to help visitors from neighbouring nations see their heroes, and the noise and spectacle that will be made by away fans is worth tuning into on its own.

4. A Barcelona scouting report

So far in the summer Barcelona have been linked with an infinite number of South American talent. Pastore, Sanchez, Thiago Silva; these three and more are supposedly all in the sights of the Catalan giants and Champions League holders. If you are a Blaugrana fan, why not take a look at what to expect first-hand when these stars pull on their country's colours.

3. The Diego and Pele factor

As sure as night follows day, it is almost certain that these two football titans will take the opportunity to at some point reignite their hilarious war of words. The only way to keep up with the latest outrageous accusations, disastrous predictions and statements that range from the libellous to the plain bizarre, will be to pay close attention to the Copa America.

2. Attacking talent to spare

This year's tournament brings together a dazzling group of attackers and creative geniuses, who want to bring glory to their nations after excelling across the world in club football. Whether it is Falcao striking fear into the hearts of defenders for Colombia, Ganso bamboozling his marker in the middle of the field or a wild goal celebration from 'man of the people' Carlos Tevez, connoisseurs of quality forward play will be spoilt for choice. Not to mention two very special talents so far overlooked...

1. Messi and Neymar, let the battle begin!

It is the best player in the world, against the young pretender who at first glance, appears to have all the necessary potential to one day unseat him from his throne. Argentina and Brazil are scheduled to meet in the final if they can battle past their rivals successfully - and it is a significant if - which would mean a mouthwatering clash in the decider between two of the most breathtaking footballers on the planet.

The pair have never faced each other in a competitive match, but both Messi and Neymar played vital roles in winning their respective continental competitions in 2011. If the Brazilian decides to stay put in Santos then a club encounter in December beckons; but until then, a meeting in the final is an unmissable experience for any supporter.

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