Brazil’s international players were reluctant to play in the Copa America at home. Now that they are engaged, they prefer to win it.
Argentina still emerges as a threat to defend the Brazilian title, but now as a visiting team.
Argentina and Colombia were eliminated as co-hosts of the tournament before Brazil controversially came to the end to host the continental championship.
The absence from home takes some pressure from Lionel Messi and his team from Argentina.
The Copa America will start on Sunday with defending champions Brazil against Venezuela at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brazil. The final will be on July 10 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, one of the epicenters of COVID-19 in Brazil, where more than 480,000 have died from coronavirus.
Spectators will not be allowed to attend Copa America matches due to restrictions on the pandemic, which has already delayed the tournament by a year.
The Brazilian players put an end to speculation about a potential boycott by issuing a joint statement Wednesday saying they were “dissatisfied” with the decision to move the tournament to their country, but that would not stop them from representing their national team.
And if qualifying for the South American World Cup is something to go by, the Copa America title is a loss to Brazil. Brazil has won all six matches and is six points behind second-placed Argentina.
With Neymar on board, coach Tite expects not only to defend the title lifted in 2019, but also to use the next 30 days to prepare for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Many tests are expected. Alison is no longer the undisputed goalkeeper of the team, and Ederson gets more chances to start.
Captain Casemiro has yet to find out whether he will play as a defensive midfielder next to Douglas Lewis, Fred or Lucas Packetta. And there are four opportunities to work with Neymar: Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Richardson and Gabriel Barbosa.
Argentina finished third in the Copa America in 2019, but the team improved under coach Lionel Scaloni. Defender Christian Romero and midfielders Leandro Paredes and Giovanni Lo Celso already trust to break through the opponent’s lines. In front, Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero have the same respect.
And that means Messi, who turns 34 later this month, doesn’t have to play every game to beat Argentina. “Argentina always dominates, sometimes in a very vertical way,” Scaloni said.
“If you look at all our matches in the qualifiers, we deserve to win. But in football, merit doesn’t count. “
Argentina did not win a major Copa America title in 1993. Colombia has improved since the return of coach Reynaldo Rueda. He rocked Peru 3-0 in Lima and got a late draw to draw 2-2 after scoring two goals down against Argentina. The Copa America can further improve the team, which will not have midfielder James Rodriguez due to fitness problems.
Uruguay is struggling, although it relied on Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani, who will return to the team after stopping two matches in the World Cup qualifiers. Uruguay have not won any of their last three matches on the road to Qatar.
“We need to be aware that there are things to improve as always and prepare for something that gives us a lot of ambition,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabares said after a 0-0 draw in Venezuela on Tuesday.
Peru, the 2019 Copa America runner-up, is battling for the World Cup qualifiers, but hopes a 2-1 victory in Ecuador earlier this week will bring about a change in momentum. Coach Ricardo Garza has decided not to lead striker Paolo Guerrero, who is returning from injury. Instead, he will rely on Santiago Ormenio, who plays for Leon, Mexico.
Chile’s coach Martin Lasarte has decided to use an inexperienced team in the Copa America, which makes it a priority to qualify for the next World Cup.
“We will use it as a tool to strengthen younger players,” he said. Chile is currently in sixth place in qualifying. The tournament will be divided into two groups of five. Group A includes Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay. Brazil is in Group B with Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru.
The top four from each group advance to the knockout stage. The quarterfinals will take place on July 2nd at the Olimpico Stadium in Nilton Santos and Goiania and on the 3rd of July at the Olimpico Stadium and Mane Garincha of Brazil.
The semifinals will be at Nilton Santos Stadium in Rio on July 5th and in Brazil the next day.