Copa America Group D by DamirJ
The tournament will be 45th edition of Copa America since it's inception in 1916. This time, it will be held as part of an agreement between CONMEBOL and CONCACAF as a special edition between the usual four-year cycle and will feature an expanded field of sixteen teams, with all ten teams from CONMEBOL and six teams from CONCACAF. Group D will see both last year's finalists, Argentina and Chile, together with underdogs from Panama and Bolivia.
Argentina has won the tournament of Copa America for fourteen times, once less than Uruguay that leads the table with fifteen trophies. However, the team didn't show all of their potential for years, winning the previous tournament back in 1993 only. They have participated in three finals recently, back in 2004, 2007 and 20015, but lost the title in first two tries to Brazil, while they got defeated to Chile in previous tournaments, counting a total of thirteen finals without being able to lift the title.
Goalkeepers: Romero (Man. Utd), Guzman (Tigres), Andujar (Estudiantes)
Defenders: Cuesta (Independiente), Maidana (River Plate), Otamendi (Man. City), Roncaglia (Fiorentina), Funes Mori (Everton), Mercado (River Plate), Rojo (Man. Utd)
Midfielders: Banega (Sevilla), Di Maria (PSG), Gaitan (Benfica), Lamela (Tottenham), Pastore (PSG), G. Pizarro (Tigres), A. Fernandez (Atletico), Kranevitter (Atletico), Mascherano (Barcelona)
Forwards: Aguero (Man City), Lavezzi (Hebei), Higuain (Napoli), Messi (Barcelona).
Argentina will have won of better rosters in this edition of Copa America, if not the best one available. Their biggest stars are surely the superstars of World football as well, leading with Leo Messi who is surrounded with the players who are playing important role in European football. Most of their players have had more than decent seasons in their clubs, which leaves good promises for the upcoming tournament.
It's obvious that the team's driving force will be between strikers and offensive midfielders, overall making offensive part of the team, while the second part of the team are their defenders and goalkeepers who are still more than reputable players. Messi, Aguero and Higuain and Di Maria are world class players and make offensive line that every coach would have wanted to have. A number of solutions in the midfield is what makes the team even stronger, with most of them starring in the most important European clubs, so the team can easily respond to various formations.
Their biggest problem could be making solutions in the defense and a position of goalkeeper. With the exception of Otamendi from Manchester City who had a relatively good championship in Premier League with Manchester City, other players might have lack experience in biggest events. Funes Mori, Maidana and Mercado probably can't already lift the weight of the jersey they will be wearing, but Roncaglia from Fiorentina and Rojo from Manchester United aren't naive players at all. Position of goalkeeper will probably get quite unstable Sergio Romero, who wasn't in the starting lineup of his team Manchester United this season.
Their national team coach Martino is usually using 4-3-3 formation and he will mostly try to start with Messi, Aguero and Di Maria, while it seems that Higuain might be getting his chances from the bench, at least at the start. It will be interesting to see his selection in the midfield and whether he will opt for a bit more cautious approach with Mascherano and Benega, or whether he will prefer to give it a bit more offensive tone with Lamela and maybe even pulling Di Maria back to midfield and giving a chance to Higuain from the off in attack.
Manager Gerardo Martino:
Tata Martino is now for two years national coach of Argentina and it seems that now it would be the time for the team to step up and do something more. After his dismissal as a Barcelona coach, he is now close to end up in a losing situation with Argentinian national team as well, as the second place in previous Copa America last years wasn't considered as a positive outcome. Winning this year's trophy would be the only way to keep his position safe.
Conclusion: As the most complete team i the tournament, Argentina is seem by many bookmakers as the first favorite to win the trophy. Even though we can't expect their national team to be fired up as for the World Cup, there's no doubt that the team wants to get a title here, especially Messi who is still to celebrate his first title with the national team. Based on their roster, Argentina has plenty of quality to score few goals in every game, but also can easily have big problems at the back when stronger opponents arrive.
Odds of around 1.55 for winning the group D have no value at all in my eyes, since it's a huge question whether they will have better goal difference than Chile in case they finish that game as a draw. Messi might easily win the trophy of MVP of the tournament and you can find these options with odds around 5.50, but overall odds for Argentina to lift the title of around 2.80 doesn't seem to be that worthy. In case Argentina reaches the top, or the finals, bigger the chances are that Messi might become the tournament's best player.
Chile hosted previous Copa America competition last year and managed to take the title for the first time in their history. Until last year, they only managed to get through to five finals, most recently back in 1987, but without lifting the title.
Goalkeepers: Bravo (Barcelona), Toselli (Catolica), Herrera (U. de Chile)
Defenders: Jara (U. de Chile), Mena (Sao Paulo), Roco (Un. Espaniola), Isla (Marseille), Medel (Inter), Silva (Chiapas), Fuenzalida (Catolica),
Midfielders: Aranguiz (Leverkusen), Pulgar (Bologna), M. Fernandez (Fiorentina), P. Hernandez (Celta), Puch (LDU Quito), Beausejour (Colo Colo), M. Diaz (Celta), A. Vidal (Bayern )
Forwards: Pinilla (Atalanta), A. Sanchez (Arsenal), Orellana (Celta), Castillo (Catolica), Vargas (Hoffenheim).
Chileans didn't change much in their roster in relation to the previous roster that won the trophy. Biggest change, of course, would be at the position of national manager, since Jorge Sampaoli left the post after four years and Juan Antonio Pizzi was set as his replacement. It was also an end of Bielsa/Sampaoli coaching school for the national team.
Most important players for the last year's success are still here, while superstars Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal once again stand out. Other players such as Bravo, Isla, Medel, Aranguiz or Orellana are close to their quality as well. Attack seems to be the strongest part of the team, however similar to Argentina, the team might have some issues in the defensive lineup. Gary Medel (171cm) will probably once again be set as a central defender, so the team will probably continue with traditional problems facing with set-play, because there are not many tall players in the roster.
Juan Antonio Pizzi prefers 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation, so we can say that the formation with three defenders only are thing of a past now. The coach is expected to slow down the game play a bit, in comparison to his predecessors who were trying with a bit more active game. It remains to be seen whether the players will respond to this change in the tactics. Vidal will probably be their main organizer of the game, with Vargas, Sanchez and Orellana being options in attack, even though the coach might want to have real number nine in his lineup.
Manager Juan Antonio Pizzi:
There is no doubt that the national team of Chile will get a bit more of European approach in Juan Antonio Pizzi, as he seems willing to follow a bit more conservative/cautious way of playing than the managers who were before him. His first game as a national coach weren't that encouraging, however Chileans are always very unpredictable so it won't be a surprise if the team shows it's best when it is needed the most. There are already some rumors of disbelief in him, after he decided not to invite midfielder Jorge Valdivia.
Chile is coming into this competition with an idea to defend the title and there's no doubt that the expectations are now increased. Despite a good quality, it's more likely that the last year's success will bring their players to be a bit psychologically empty for this tournament. Trio of Vargas-Sanchez-Orellana will surely being many threatening situation in front of opponents goal, but there will surely be many issues with the defensive lineup as well, especially from the "air". Despite that disadvantage, there's no doubt that the team can easily have another good run here, surely reaching the knock-out stage without much problems.
Bolivia have won the title only once, back in distant 1963 and with the addition to the finals played back in 1997, it was all the Bolivia side managed to do for now. Generally they are showing poor presence lately and nothing indicates that this year's course will be different. Greatest success from 1997 till now was last presence when the team got excluded from the knock-out stage to Peru.
Goalkeepers: Lampe (Sport Boys), Vizcarra (Or. Petrolero), Quinonez (Bolivar)
Defenders: M. Bejarano (Or. Petrolero), Eguino (Bolivar), Saavedra (Bolivar), Cabrera (Bolivar), Gutierez (Ironi Kiryat), D. Bejarano (The Strongest), Zenteno (Wilstermann)
Midfielders: Azogue (Or. Petrolero), Campos (Bolivar), Machado (Wilstermann), Saucedo (Wilstermann), Veizaga (The Strongest), R. Castro (The Strongest), Galindo (Petrolero), Melean (Or. Petrolero), Smedberg-Dalence (Goteborg)
Forwards: Duk (N.Y Cosmos), Ramallo (The Strongest), Arce (Bolivar), Miranda (U. de Chile).
Bolivian side will see many changes in comparison to the squad that played previous year, starting from coach to players. Manager Mauricio Soria is not anymore in charge and the position was given to Julio Baldivieso. New technician seems to have tried with a radical renewal as he invited only eight players who were competing in previous Copa America. Only five out of all invited players are playing abroad, so the national team of Bolivia remains as one of the most question marked sides this time.
It's not even clear which formation will coach Baldivieso use, since he usually uses defensive formation against big teams, like Argentina and Chile, probably starting in 5-4-1 system, while towards Panama he may opt for a more flexible shape with 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1 formation, most likely based on what we've seen in his previous official matches.
Manager Julio Cesar Baldivieso:
Julio Cesar is in charge of Bolivian national team since the Summer of last year, as he was their last resort after the departure of Soria. Ex-offensive midfielder of Bolivia mostly worked in his country, having a title in 2008 with Aurora.
This is obviously a transitional period for Bolivia. The team undergoes radical renewal of the roster and surely that no one expects miracles in such conditions. Things are looking even more difficult for them with such a draw, as obstacles of Argentina and Chile look unbeatable for them now. Hopes to qualify further are only in theory. Most realistic target for them remains getting something out of the game against Panama and that would be it.
This will be first appearance for Panama at Copa America, while their previous biggest success were second positions at the Gold Cup tournaments, back in 2005 and 2013, but the team also took the third position in last year's event.
Goalkeepers: Calderon (Platense), Rodriguez (San Fransisco), Penedo (Saprissa)
Defenders: Baloy (Atlas), Escobar (Sporting San Miguelito), Henriquez (Tauro), Miller (San Fransisco), Cummings (Alajuelense), M. Gomez (San Fransisco), E. Davis (Dunajska Streda), Machado (Saprissa)
Midfielders: Buitrago (Juan Aurich), Cooper (Arabe Unido), G. Gomez (Cartagines), A. Quintero (San Jose Earthquakes), Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Pimentel (La Equidad), A. Henriquez (America de Cali)
Forwards: Arroyo (Split), B. Perez (Vancouver), Tejada (Juan Aurich), Nurse (Mineros de Zacatecas), G. Torres (Zamora).
Quite a number of players are playing in the domestic league and you can easily understand that the level of quality of their squad is not very high. However, they do have many experienced players, who have recorded many appearances with the national team and can at least guarantee stability in their performances. One name that stands out would probably be their experienced striker Luis Tejada who scored 42 goals for the national team and is quite known in Latin America.
Atmosphere inside the national team might not be at the best possible level, as coach Hernan Homez remains under pressure, especially after defeat against Nicaragua in March in the friendly game, but also due to lack of effectivity in their games. The team however didn't show that poor face against Brazil few days back when they suffered 2:0 defeat.
Manager Hernan Gomez:
Is an experienced Colombian technician, who already was head coach of national teams such as Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala, having led both Colombia and Ecuador to their World Cup competitions, back in 1998 and 2002. It was first time for Ecuadorians to reach the World Cup back in 2002.
There's not much space for Panama to show their quality at this edition's of Copa America, especially since their group looks very strong. Overall, the team will probably be quite satisfied with a point taken in the game against Bolivia, even though they won't be underdogs in that game.