2016 Copa América Centenario
It’s 100 years since the founding of the South American football federation CONMEBOL and so to celebrate this centenary the Copa América Centenario is taking place in the United States. Of course, the USA is not a member of CONMEBOL nor indeed are five other participating countries in this one-off tournament; as Jamaica, Panama, Haiti, Costa Rica and Mexico all belong to the North and Central American confederation: CONCACAF. Controversially for some, this is the first time that the Copa América has been played outside of South America and it’s the first time it will have 16 teams taking part – four more than the usual 12 participants. The awarding of the tournament to the USA was also mired in controversy after last year’s revelations of corrupt TV deals but despite all of this, the competition will kick off in California today with hosts the United States facing Colombia in San Francisco.
Argentina have been runners-up in three of the last four Copa América tournaments, as well as finishing second behind Germany at the last World Cup so surely it is time for Lionel Messi and co. to pick up their first major trophy since 1993. They should easily progress from a group D that includes Chile, Bolivia and Panama but whether they can go on from there depends as much on their mental strength as on their undoubted talented pool of players.
The USA, under coach Jürgen Klinsmann, are tipped to do well as they have home field advantage but this team is inconsistent and as the coach is under pressure this may transfer to his young squad. They also have a tough group so they may end up falling short. Mexico travel to the USA in fine form and with huge support following el Tri in the competition, as well as a fairly comfortable group that includes Uruguay (without Luis Suarez), Venezuela (in crisis on and off the pitch) and Jamaica who are ranked the 46th best team in FIFA, the Mexicans could progress to the semi-finals without too many problems. Ecuador are another team in good form, indeed they are currently in second place in the South American World Cup qualifiers, and if they can start well against an inconsistent Brazil side then they may go far in the tournament.
Group B has two of the weaker sides in the tournament in Haiti and Peru with few giving them a chance against Brazil or Ecuador, while Venezuela have fallen away in recent years after promising to become a challenger in South America. Panama and Bolivia may also find it tough to come out of group D as they will face favourites Argentina and holders Chile but do not write off Jamaica as the 2015 Gold Cup runners-up eye a shock in group C.
It has to be Argentina on paper but if not them then Mexico could surprise everyone.
the founding: the start of the competition
centenary: 100 years
was also mired in controversy: Full of controversy
Lionel Messi and co.: Argentina
pool of players: Group of players
home field advantage: They are playing at home so will have large support
falling short: Not going as far as they can
el Tri: The nickname of the Mexican team
have fallen away: Not done as well as they were expected to do
do not write off: Do not play down the chances
eye a shock: Look for a surprise