The most famous footballing nation in the world, Brazil, is playing host to the Copa America 2019. Unfortunately for the home fans, their star player Neymar has been ruled out through injury. An ankle ligament problem has kept the PSG star out of the Selecao squad which is a huge let down for not only the Brazilian team and coaching staff, but for the home fans.
Neymar is their talisman, the carrier of all of their hopes and dreams. But Brazil have to plough on without him regardless and that hasn’t stopped them kicking off as the +125 money line favourites to win the tournament.
There are 12 nations taking part in the Copa America 2019 and that participating nations come from two confederations. Joining the ten South American CONMEBOL teams are 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar and AFC Asian Cup runners up Japan. The tournament this year was actually going to be pushed out to sixteen teams as it was in 2016, but it was dialled back. The biggest omission has been CONCACAF nation Mexico who had played in the previous ten editions through invitation.
Tournament Front Runners
Even sans-Neymar then, it is Brazil who are the front runners for the 2019 Copa America. Home advantage may be a factor here. The last time that Brazil were hosts of the Copa America was back in 1989 and the Selecao duly walked off with the title. The tournament then was decided in a round-robin format between four teams.
There is also the recent successes that they have at the event. Brazil have won four of the last eight editions of the Copa America. However, their last title came in 2007 and they have failed to make it back to the final four since then. So their dominance has waned a little bit, but back on home soil, head coach Tite has to have them fired up to make an assault on the trophy.
Who are likely to be their main contenders? Argentina of course who have finished as runners up in the last two editions. Argentina lost on penalties to Chile in 2015 and then suffered the exact same outcome, a penalty shootout defeat in the final to Chile, in the next edition. Since the Copa America era started in 1975 (previously it was the South American Championships), Argentina have only won the title twice, which was in consecutive editions in 1991 and 1993.
The asset that Argentina have, is that while Brazil are missing Neymar, the Albiceleste have Lionel Messi. Will the genius of the little magician help inspire them to success, to go one step further than they have done in the last two editions? Argentina are at +335 in the money line to lift the title. On paper they have a star-studded powerful attacking line up with Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero in their ranks.
Uruguay and Colombia
Uruguay should be among the contenders as well. They are settled with such a powerful identity having had Oscar Tabarez in charge for well over a decade now. They are tough in the midfield and defensive area and arguably have one of the best defensive centre half pairings in Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin. Will their ageing front line of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani have enough to guide them to their first success since 2011?
Colombia at +897 won’t be a pushover at the tournament and they have a fairly well settled, capable squad. They reached the World Cup last year and proceeded to win their group. They were also knocking on the door of success in the last edition of the Copa America, but fell just short, taking the bronze medal spot having beating the USA in the third-place play off.
Chile are looking for their third straight Copa America title. They have defied the odds in the last two editions superbly, but will they be too big of a risk for punters at +1215? After their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup there has to be big question marks over them and their Golden Generation is all but done. But then they have caused enough shocks in the last two editions perhaps to come back as a dark horse with a title defence in mind.
Peru are another team who defied expectations in recent editions of the Copa America. They took third place finishes in 2011 and 2015 and bettered Chile in reaching the World Cup last summer. Venezuela are a side who look to be heading in the right direction in terms of development and may be able to pull off a surprise or two.
There is going to be tremendous pressure on Brazil to deliver the goods on home soil. After a World Cup quarter-final exit and no top-four finish in any of the last three editions of the Copa America, that pressure will be even greater on them. Will they be able to use Neymar’s injury as a tool to pull together and deliver?
Argentina are looking to end a long dry spell in the competition and have their main man Lionel Messi fit and ready to go in a powerful attacking line-up. They have revamped their ageing squad a bit, but will it pay off in their favour? Or will the ‘Big Two’ stay out of the winner’s circle?
If they are then that could well bring the likes of Uruguay and Colombia firmly into the picture. The country of Brazil is going to be celebrating a huge three weeks or so of top international football. It’s a great treat of tough, brilliant South American football that is not going to be short on drama.