Starting on the 14th June 2019, the ten teams that comprise CONMEBOL, the South American region of FIFA along with two specially invited guests, Japan and World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar, will compete in the 2019 Copa America in Brazil.
Chile are the current holders of the trophy having won the tournament when it was last held in the United States back in 2015, just a year after the tournament had been held previously in Chile. It will be contested once again a year later in 2020 in Argentina and Colombia, before then being scheduled to take place in four years following that, in 2024 in Ecuador.
Teams have been warming up for the tournament with a number of friendly matches taking place across the world, but Brazil’s hopes have been hit with injury to their star man Neymar ruling him out of the tournament. Their star striker, who has 60 goals for his country from 97 caps, was expected to be one of the star attractions of the tournament this summer. And his withdrawal has hit Brazil’s chance of success, although this isn’t really reflected on the odds offered by bookmakers on the host nation of winning the tournament.
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Let’s now preview the group stage and focus on how we see each of the three groups playing out and who will make it through into the Knockout phase of the tournament, beginning on June 28th.
Group A Fixtures
- June 14th – Brazil v Bolivia
- June 15th – Venezuela v Peru
- June 18th – Bolivia v Peru
- June 18th – Brazil v Venezuela
- June 22nd – Peru v Brazil
- June 22nd – Bolivia v Venezuela
Brazil could not have hand-picked a better draw for them as they have landed three of the smaller and weaker teams in CONMEBOL in their group stage. I can’t see anything other than three wins for the host nation in this set of games and out of the other teams, I fancy Peru and Venezuela to be the stronger, but I think Peru just have that extra bit of quality. I can see Peru winning against Bolivia and Venezuela but losing to Brazil to finish second but by then I think Peru and Brazil will both be qualified anyway.
Group B Fixtures
- June 15th – Argentina v Colombia
- June 16th – Paraguay v Qatar
- June 19th – Colombia v Qatar
- June 19th – Argentina v Paraguay
- June 23rd – Qatar v Argentina
- June 23rd – Colombia v Paraguay
I think Argentina and Colombia are the strongest two teams in this group and I think the outcome of the first game in the group between the two will eventually decide the winner. Paraguay could be the team to spring a surprise here as they tend to be tough to beat and have produced some upset results in Copa America tournaments in recent times. However, I feel they will do just enough to earn third ahead of Qatar with Argentina finishing top of the group and Colombia a close second, perhaps with goal difference separating the two.
Group C Fixtures
- June 16th – Uruguay v Ecuador
- June 17th – Japan v Chile
- June 20th – Uruguay v Japan
- June 21st – Ecuador v Chile
- June 24th – Chile v Uruguay
- June 24th – Ecuador v Japan
Of all the groups in the tournament, this is the one where I can see anupset coming. Chile are not the side that they were in 2015 and 2016 and their top players are now almost four years older and that is showing in their performance. I can see them struggling here against a decent Ecuador side and a Japan side that showed their quality at the World Cup. I expect Uruguay and Japan to come through the group in the top two spots, but it could be Japan that finish top. I also have a sneaky feeling Ecuador could surprise Chile and steal third spot in the group
The Knockout Phase
If the predictions are correct then this would give us the following quarterfinal games:
- Brazil v Ecuador
- Peru v Colombia
- Argentina v Uruguay
- Japan v Paraguay
Should that prove to be the case then I’d feel Brazil, Colombia, Argentina (just) and Japan would be the teams to make it through from those games to set up a cracking semifinal between Brazil and Argentina with Japan and Colombia meeting in the other.
From there on it is likely to be a coin toss in both games as despite Brazil having home advantage, they will sorely miss Neymar while Argentina have an outstanding squad of attacking talent but have not yet found a way to succeed on the international scene with Leo Messi in their team.
Colombia and Japan will be very well matched to and it would not surprise me to see both matches in the semifinals going down to extra time or even penalties to decide the winner.
So who will win the Copa America 2019?
Having worked out the potential match ups through to the semifinals, my gut feeling is that this is a tournament where Argentina will get it right and I feel Lionel Messi will be the man to make the difference, not so much in the group stages, but when they face the bigger guns in the semifinals, especially with the game against Brazil looming large.
I’d back them to play Colombia in the final and it would be a good game, but it would be one that I expect Argentina would win relatively comfortably.