Centenary Copa América 2016: Preview

Claudio Bravo lifting the trophy last year in Chile / CA2015
FC Barcelona’s Leo Messi, Javier Mascherano, Claudio Bravo and Luis Suárez are amongst the star names that are in line to take part in the commemorative edition of the world’s oldest international football tournament

Just 12 months after Barça keeper Claudio Bravo lifted the trophy as Chile captain on home soil following the penalty shoot out victory over Argentina, the tournament returns for special centenary edition to celebrate 100 years of the Copa América.

For the very first time it will be contested outside South America, the 2016 commemorative tournament being held in the USA, something that will make it even more of a special event for both those taking part and the fans.

The competition has been expanded for this landmark edition with the 10 South American representatives (Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia and Paraguay) being complemented by six teams from the rest of the Americas (USA, Costa Rica Panama, Mexico, Jamaica and Haiti).

The action kicks off on 3 June with hosts USA taking on Colombia at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, one of ten different venues to be used in a country that is welcoming the tournament with open arms. Big crowds are expected for matches across the nation and the atmosphere is one of excitement as a major men’s footballing event returns to the US for the first team since the 1994 World Cup.

The final will take place on 26 June in the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Which teams will be contesting that game? Will one of Barça’s stars get the chance to lift the historic trophy in perhaps its most significant edition? Let’s have a look at how the teams match up in the initial group stages.

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Group A – USA, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay

No Barça representation in this group which includes hosts USA who begin the tournament with a vital clash against Colombia. Only the top two qualify for the quarter-finals so much will depend on the first game for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team. It is a tough draw for the US with Costa Rica quarter-finalist from the 2014 World Cup and a Paraguay side who eliminated Brazil at the same stage in last year’s Copa América.

Group B – Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru

The big name in this group is of course Brazil but they will be without Barça stars Neymar and Rafinha. The former is concentrating on the Olympic Games later in the summer and the latter suffered a hamstring injury in training with the national side that sees him ruled out of the tournament. The departing Barça legend Dani Alves, however, will be involved in a group that also contains a solid Ecuador side, an inexperienced Peru squad and a Haiti team who have a lot to do if they are to make it out of the group stage.

4 June
Brazil v Ecuador – Pasadena, Ca (10.00pm ET)

8 June
Brazil v Haiti – Orlando, Fl (7.30pm ET)

12 June
Brazil v Peru – Foxborough, Ma (8.30pm ET)

Group C – Uruguay, Mexico, Jamaica, Venezuela

La Liga top scorer last season and European Golden Shoe Luis Suárez is in Uruguay’s squad but is likely to miss the entire group stage due to a hamstring injury picked up in Barça’s Copa del Rey final victory over Sevilla. Nevertheless, the most successful country in Copa América history with 15 titles to their name should make it through to the quarter-finals even without Luisito. Mexico appear best placed to accompany them unless either Jamaica or Venezuela can upset the odds.

5 June
Uruguay v Mexico – Glendale, Az (8.00pm ET)

9 June
Uruguay v Venezuela – Philadelphia, Pa (7.30pm ET)

13 June
Uruguay v Jamaica – Santa Clara, Ca (10.00pm ET)

Group D – Argentina, Chile, Panama, Bolivia

Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano are both in the Argentina squad that is desperate to end a 23 year drought in international competition. The last victory for the albiceleste came in the Copa América back in 1993 and after defeats in the final of the same competition last year and in the final of the World Cup in 2014, the squad led by former Barça coach Gerardo Martino will not be short of motivation. Further Barça presence in Group D comes in the form of Chile captain Claudio Bravo. The blaugrana goalkeeper lifted the trophy last year in front of a home crowd to round off a dream season but the departure of coach Jorge Sampaoli and indifferent recent results mean it is not a foregone conclusion that Chile will accompany Argentina through to the last eight with Panama and Bolivia both capable of causing an upset.

6 June
Argentina v Chile – Santa Clara, Ca (10.00pm ET)

10 June
Chile v Bolivia – Foxborough, Ma (7.00pm ET)
Argentina v Panama – Chicago, Il (9.30pm ET)

14 June
Chile v Panama – Philadelphia, Pa (8.00pm ET)
Argentina v Bolivia – Seattle, Wa (10.00pm ET)

*All times US Eastern Time