Copa America 2021 is set to kick off on Sunday, but no one is still 100% sure whether the tournament will be held or not, and if the full complement of ten CONMEBOL teams will all show at the last minute hosts Brazil or not. The continent and Brazil especially have been wracked by the COVID pandemic, but despite this the competition is going on and a number of prominent players and coaches have voiced their concern about this.
The continent only has ten teams and they are split into two groups of five, with the top four in each group all going through to the knockout rounds. Basically the group stage only exists for teams to jockey for position and to eliminate the two worst teams in the tournament. Two AFC representatives Australia and Qatar were due to play as the guest nations but withdrew with the change in tournament dates.
In the knockout rounds, games that are still tied after ninety minutes will go to extra time and then penalties if needed. CONMEBOL has also allowed each team to name a squad of 23 players.
Group A - Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay
Despite having won every single honour at club level, Lionel Messi is yet to win a major trophy with Argentina, and this might be his last chance to do so. The Albiceleste are loaded with talent as usual, will this be the time they can come together as a cohesive unit though?
Shorn of much talent and pretty much here to make up the numbers, it’s hard to expect anything from Bolivia but to sit back and defend in numbers, and try to snatch a point or two off the other sides.
For years Uruguay had an excellent defence and an excellent attack with a porous midfield. Now there’s lots of young prospects in the middle who are ready for the big stage, but both defence and attack are now aging and Oscar Tabarez will be hoping they can rekindle the magic one last time.
Chile surprised everyone winning the competition twice in a row a few years ago, but unfortunately are struggling with the Uruguay problem, where it’s still the same cast of players but now with a lot more miles on them.
Paraguay have always been a strong defensive side and their squad for this tournament will be no different. They should overcome Bolivia but will struggle to beat anyone else.
Group B - Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru
Colombia manager Reinaldo Rueda has brought in a much more attacking and expansive 4-2-3-1 formation that has seen his side utilizing the attacking talent at their disposal to good effect. They are easily the second best side in their group.
The overwhelming favourites once again, Brazil will look to add to an overflowing trophy cabinet. Tite’s side have not lost since their 2018 World Cup disappointment against Belgium, and will likely keep that undefeated streak going here.
Venezuela would like to let the world know that they are no longer the continent’s punching bags. Playing an ultra-defensive five-man backline with a young squad, they will be difficult to beat.
Another side with a number of good, young players coming through, Ecuador are a fast and disciplined side that will certainly provide a challenge for the other teams, and are expected to make it through to the quarterfinals at least.
Peru have done well in big competitions in recent years, doing well at the 2018 World Cup and then beating Uruguay, Chile and Bolivia on the way to the final of the Copa America 2019. They are struggling in World Cup qualification right now, but look a side that can pull it together in tournaments.
James Rodriguez did not pass his Colombia physical following the injury that saw him miss the last few games of Everton’s season, and this means there will only be two Evertonians at the tournament this time around.
Richarlison has become an integral part of a loaded Brazilian side and is on very good terms with manager Tite, which has helped him as he has continued to get minutes even when struggling at club level. He plays for his country with an unmatched passion and should have a good tournament.
Yerry Mina is another player who seems to hit goalscoring form when playing for his national team - both Richy and he have already scored in World Cup qualifiers leading up to this tournament. Mina is also a key member of the Colombia squad that is slowly rebuilding with younger players and can make some noise in the knockout rounds.
There will likely be another few players that the Blues could be watching keenly in this continental showcase, with the addendum that every goal or positive performance guaranteed to add another couple of million to their price tags. Beware the flash in the pan players though, many a club has shelled out the big bucks after a tournament when a footballer has caught fire only to return to mediocre levels during league play.
Heads-up, you will be hearing ‘Everton’ a lot this tournament. Brazil’s third-choice goalie is called Weverton, they have an older midfielder called Everton Ribeiro and also the forward Everton who has been linked with the Toffees in the past.
Full Copa America 2021 Fixtures List
Monday, June 28
Group A: Bolivia vs. Argentina (Cuiaba; 8 p.m. ET, midnight GMT)
Group A: Uruguay vs. Paraguay (Rio de Janeiro; 8 p.m. ET, midnight GMT)
Monday, July 5
25 - Winners Match 22 vs. Winners Match 21 (Rio de Janeiro; 7 p.m. ET, 11 p.m. GMT)
Tuesday, July 6
26 - Winners Match 24 vs. Winners Match 23 (Brasilia; 7 p.m. ET, 11 p.m. GMT)
Third Place Playoff
Friday, July 9
Losers Match 25 vs. Losers Match 26 (Brasilia; 8 p.m. ET, midnight GMT)
Saturday, July 10
Winners Match 25 vs. Winners Match 26 (Rio de Janeiro; 8 p.m. ET, midnight GMT)