x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A look into Copa America groups

A brief overview of the teams divided in three groups for the popular Latin American tournament.

GROUP A

Argentina (Fifa ranking: 10)

The hosts are in the easiest group and have the most talented squad on paper. Deserved favourites but they will not forget the last two tournaments when they steamrollered their way to the final, only to be beaten by Brazil on both occasions.

Player to watch

Lionel Messi aside, the man who could be the next big thing is Palermo's Javier Pastore. Though he may start on the bench, he is the nearest thing Argentina have to a traditional playmaker.

 

Bolivia (93)

Capable of an upset, especially in the altitude of La Paz, as shown by the 6-1 win over Argentina in 2010 World Cup qualifying. Their main focus will be a victory over Costa Rica and trying to take something from the group's big two.

Player to watch

Marcelo Martins is on the books of Shakhtar Donetsk but has spent time on loan at Werder Bremen and Wigan Athletic. The striker starred in the famous 6-1 win.

 

Colombia (54)

Have spent the last 10 years or more failing to live up to the great team of Carlos Valderamma and Faustino Asprilla. Strong defence and the weakest group should see them make the quarter-finals with plenty to spare.

Player to watch

Falcao, the Porto striker, is rumoured to be following coach Andre Villas-Boas to Chelsea. Scored 39 goals in 42 games this season and is especially strong in the air.

 

Costa Rica (55)

Recipients of an invite to this year's competition, the Central Americans are reeling from the recent death of key defender Dennis Marshall in a car crash. Reached the quarter-finals in their last two Copas, but this squad is essentially an Under 23 side.

Player to watch

Joel Campbell. The lanky striker is just 19 and will carry his teams hopes.

GROUP B

Brazil (5)

Lacking the household names of the past, this is a Brazil team in transition. However, with attacking full-backs like Dani Alves and Maicon, a plethora of defensive midfielders and flair players like Neymar and Robinho, they are still a strong proposition.

Player to watch

Ganso has just helped Santos win the Copa Libertadores. A playmaker, but not in the Kaka mould. Ganso plays more like Argentina’s Juan Roman Riquelme. A move to Milan has been mooted.

Ecuador (68)

Reached consecutive World Cups in 2002 and 2006, but have not made the Copa America quarter-finals since 1997. Much of their hopes will rely on the former England Premier League strike pair of Felipe Caciedo and Christian Benitez.

Player to watch.

Antonio Valencia will aim to put a torrid Champions League final for Manchester United behind him. The winger might be fresher than most, having returned from a lay-off in February.

Paraguay (32)

Fresh off the back off their best World Cup, topping a group including Italy and reaching the quarter-finals. They will be solid at the back, hard to beat, but not so pretty on the eyes.

Player to watch

Lucas Barrios comes into the tournament after winning the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund. Was born in Argentina, and will be keen to impress there.

Venezuela (69)

The baseball-loving nation used to be the whipping boys of South America. Not any more. Almost qualified for the 2010 World Cup and made the quarter-finals in 2007, when they hosted the Copa America. Play an attacking style which means they let in their fair share of goals too.

Player to watch

Juan Arango. Easily the greatest Venezuelan player in history, the left-footed midfielder is captain and nearing 100 caps. Has a penchant for spectacular goals.

GROUP C

Chile (27)

Showed what they are all about at the World Cup. Pretty attacking play, technique and wasted opportunities. They should have won their group in South Africa, but came second on goal difference and thus met Brazil in the second round, who thrashed them.

Player to watch.

The king of this summer’s transfer rumour mill has been Alexis Sanchez, the Udinese striker. Can he live up to the hype?

Mexico (9)

If this were Mexico’s senior team, who had been invited to the Copa, they would be fancied to go far. However, the nations best players are taking a break after winning the Concacaf Gold Cup so the Under 23 squad get their chance to impress.

Player to watch

Giovani dos Santos. The former Barcelona man, still on Tottenham Hotspur’s books, used to be called the “new Ronaldinho”. Now he is seen as all style no product.

Peru (49)

Peru’s ageing forward pair of Paolo Guerrero, Claudio Pizarro, plus Jefferson Farfan, are still their strong point. They can no longer call on the talents of their playmaker Nolberto Solano and will not expect to make the knockout stages.

Player to watch.

Farfan helped Schalke make it to the Champions League semi-finals. His pace can trouble defenders and show why the German side paid €10 million (Dh53 m) for him in 2008.

Uruguay (18)

World Cup semi-finalists, albeit with some help from a Luis Suarez handball, Uruguay are dark horses to win this tournament. They are even stronger than a year ago, evidenced by the rise to prominence of Edinson Cavania, who netted 33 goals for Napoli this season.

Player to watch

Forget the front three of Cavani, Suarez and Diego Forlan – Diego Lugano is as classic defender who loves a tackle and could easily play for a team better than Fenerbahce.