By early June, what was once perceived as a welcome break from the world of mind games and relegation drama has turned into an agonizing test of patience for most fans of the English Premier League. But rather than turn to the Egyptian Premier League to satisfy your unhealthy EPL cravings, why not occupy yourself with some quality football while keeping tabs on EPL players for the upcoming season? Featuring a number of EPL stars, football’s longest running continental competition, the Copa America, will take place over the next 24 days to crown South America’s football champion.
Here, EPL Talk offers a brief overview of the competition’s format and a quick glance to each of the competition’s 3 groups, noting the EPL player’s taking part, and the storylines which should occupy your attention.
Editor’s note: The 2011 Copa America kicks off tonight at 8:45pm ET on television and the Internet. Read on to find out where you can watch it as well as to learn more about the Premier League footballers playing in the tournament.
Format: Expanded beyond the original 10 Conmebol nations, the tournament has featured 2 invitees since 1993. In the group stage, the 12 teams are divided into 3 groups. The top 2 teams from each group, as well as the 2 best third-place teams advance to the knockout stage. The knockout stage proceeds in a normal, single-elimination manner, although it is important to note that level scores after 90 minutes proceed directly to penalties.
Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
Hugo Rodallega (Wigan)
Storyline: Understandably, media coverage surrounding Group A has focused squarely on Argentina, host nation and favorites to win the tournament. Football fans, however, should be careful to pay attention to a resurgent Colombian side, powered by FC Porto pair Freddy Guarin and Falcao, as well as Wigan’s Hugo Rodallega. Expected to pair with Falcao in the front of attack, Rodallega seems likely to continue the quality he demonstrated at the close of the EPL season, and could prove vital to any Colombian successes. Should the talented Colombian side coalesce at the right moment under coach Hernan “Bolillo” Gomez, they could prove spoilers.
David Luiz (Chelsea), Sandro (Tottenham), Lucas Leiva (Liverpool), Ramires (Chelsea)
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
Antonio Alcaraz (Wigan), Cristian Riveros (Sunderland), Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City)
While Brazil should cruise through the majority of the competition with ease, the performances of a pair of players deemed surplus by Manchester City will have a large impact on how long their respective nations remain in the competition.
Felipe Caicedo of Ecuador was purchased for €7 million in January 2008 by Manchester City, and was tipped to have a long career at the Eastlands. As City moved in a different, high-transfer fee direction, Caicedo was shipped to Spain, with the move eventually made permanent, as he was sold to recently promoted Levante for the 2010-2011 season. Caicedo’s 13 goals were vital to Levante staying up, and the summer of 2011 sees the Ecuadorian ripe for a move to a more illustrious side. His ability to gel with Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia could turn the interest of a number of EPL teams into a finalized transfer, while guiding his team through the tournament.
Frozen out at Man City, unsuccessful at Blackburn, goalless in 15 months. The Copa American could be Roque Santa Cruz’ last opportunity to find a move to a more accommodating European side. Look for Roque Santa Cruz to have a surprisingly profitable tournament, both in terms of goals scored, and the resultant transfer.
Gonzalo Jara (West Brom), Jean Beausejour (Birmingham City)
Giovani Dos Santos (Tottenham)
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
The last time the Copa America was hosted in Argentina, in 1987, Uruguay walked away surprise victors. They could very well do the same with the amount of talent they bring to Argentina this time around. Diego Godin, Diego Lugano, Nicolas Lodiero, Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan squad is one which should challenge Argentina and Brazil for the championship. However, look for the performances of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez to dictate Uruguay’s success. Regrettably, age catches up to us all, and Suarez will be forced to compensate for a declining Diego Forlan. Should he struggle to carry his EPL form through the tournament, Uruguay could make a quick exit, regardless of the amount of quality players they bring.
Editor’s note: To view the TV schedule for Copa America as well as to find out where you can watch the games online, visit our sister site WorldCupBuzz.com which will be featuring news and analysis about Copa America throughout the tournament as well as covering the Women’s World Cup.