After a strictly South American version of Copa America ended with Chile lifting the trophy in 2015, the 2016 edition is a special edition featuring North, South, and Central America. The Copa America Centenario is a great measuring stick for the national teams in the western hemisphere heading into the latter stages of 2018 World Cup qualifying, with a major trophy on the line as well. These are the major storylines to look out for during the tournament.
What Will Brazil Do?
With the scars of the 2014 World Cup still fresh on the Brazilian squad’s mind, their squad will have major questions to answer heading into this tournament, which Brazil should do well in but may not be reliable to do so. In order to make a deep run in this tournament, Brazil will need to replace one of the most dynamic playmakers in the entire world while repairing a defense that has not looked convincing since the World Cup quarterfinals.
The dynamic player Brazil will need to replace is Neymar, who is vital to the team’s success in a forward role. Without him, Brazil need to rely on less agile strikers who serve more as target men than playmakers, players like Hulk who will be relied upon in this tournament heavily if Brazil want any shot at taking steps toward erasing the horror that was the 2014 World Cup semifinal loss to Germany.
Argentina’s Tournament To Lose
With Brazil’s tournament in question, Argentina stand as the favorites to win this year’s Copa America Centenario. With a largely healthy squad and the best player in the tournament, there’s no reason to believe that the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa America runners up can’t break their streak of falling just short in major tournaments.
For Argentina, their success always hinges on the play of Lionel Messi, whose ability to both score and set up his teammates makes him the most dangerous player in the tournament. But Messi’s superior passing doesn’t always mean something good, as he needs his forwards to finish the job and score goals. Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain did a terrible job of this in the World Cup, and can’t afford to falter again in a tournament that really does have their name written all over it.
USA Will Struggle
It has been a ghastly 2016 for the United States, with questions swirling over the job security of current manager Jurgen Klinsmann. But things could get even worse for the USA in Copa America, which the Americans are hosting. They have a tough group that includes Colombia and Paraguay, both of whom have appeared in one of the last two World Cups. Without anything close to a legitimate option at striker, it’s entirely possible the the United States fails to advance out of its group, and even if they do, they won’t be a threat to go much farther. This tournament could be the end of the Klinsmann era in America, and could be another harsh reality check for the sport in the United States.
By: Jason Sanin