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Copa America 2015 preview: Key players, squads and TV schedules

copa-america

The Copa America’s propensity for springing surprises was thrillingly prevalent in 2011 when Uruguay beat Paraguay in the final. Four years on, soccer supporters from across the globe will be hoping for comparable drama as the 2015 edition of competition gets underway in Chile.

Brazil and Argentina are the big favorites for glory, but teams like Chile, Colombia and Uruguay will all fancy their chances of going all the way too.

Here’s a closer look at all 12 teams involved in the summer showpiece and the players poised to shine in this unique tournament.

SEE MORE —

• Copa America TV schedule (for viewers in US)

• Copa America and Women’s World Cup TV schedule combined.

Programming note: Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORTS, you can watch all of the Copa America games live on fuboTV for just $6.99 per month. The service streams the beIN broadcast in HD to your computer, tablet, smartphone, Roku, Chromecast or Amazon Fire.

 

Group A

Chile

Chile

Head Coach: Jorge Sampaoli

Captain: Claudio Bravo

La Roja Looking to Capitalize on Home Advantage

Chile will go in search of their maiden Copa America title, as La Roja look to thrill their home supporters in the 2015 edition of this prestigious competition.

La Roja have come close to winning their continental tournament, finishing runners-up four times, the most recent being in 1987. But given the quality at Sampaoli’s disposal, the fervent backing they are likely to receive from their supporters and the familiarity these players have with the bespoke Chilean conditions, this may be the best opportunity this fanatical football nation have ever had.

There are standout names in this group, with Barcelona’s Bravo, Juventus’ Arturo Vidal and Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez all heading back home this summer on the back of prosperous campaigns. But this Chile side have always been about the collective and as was on show at the 2014 World Cup, they play a ferocious brand of football.

The strides made last summer have been built upon. La Roja showed their quality in a dominant performance against Brazil at the Emirates earlier this year and although they eventually lost that friendly 1-0, Sampaoli will have taken plenty of encouragement from the multifaceted nature of the display.

If the high-octane style functions and men like Sanchez and Vidal can sprinkle their stardust on clashes, then Chile will go far in this competition. This is a team with a strong spine, a festering winning mentality and a hunger to lift their first ever Copa.

Key Player: Arturo Vidal

Vidal

After summer transfer rumors and fitness problems hampered Vidal in the early parts of this season, the Chilean midfielder has been back to his phenomenal best in Bianconeri colors during the run-in.

Vidal inspired Juventus to another Serie A title, the Coppa Italia and to the Champions League final. La Roja supporters will now be hoping the firebrand midfield man can add similar impetus to the heart of their midfield; at his best, Vidal can not only drive a team forward, but add the kind of defensive steel which Chile will need if they’re to go all the way to the final.

Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Claudio Bravo (Barcelona), Paulo Garces (Colo-Colo), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile).

Defenders: Miiko Albornoz (Hannover), Mauricio Isla (QPR), Gonzalo Jara (Mainz), Gary Medel (Inter), Eugenio Mena (Cruzeiro), Jose Rojas (Universidad de Chile).

Midfielders: Charles Aranguiz (Internacional), Jean Beausejour (Colo-Colo), Carlos Carmona (Atalanta), Marcelo Diaz (Hamburg), Matias Fernandez (Fiorentina), Felipe Gutierrez (Twente), Arturo Vidal (Juventus), David Pizarro (Fiorentina), Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras).

Forwards: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Eduardo Vargas (QPR), Angelo Henriquez (Dinamo Zagreb), Mauricio Pinilla (Atalanta), Edson Puch (Huracan).

 

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Mexico

Mexico

Head Coach: Miguel Herrera

Captain: Rafael Marquez

Gold Cup a Clear Priority for Mexico

It’s going to be a busy summer for Mexico, as this team gets set to negotiate a tilt at the Copa America and the Gold Cup which will follow soon after. It’s clear that while they’ll be taking the Chile competition very seriously, the Gold Cup is Herrera’s priority.

Any doubts about that have been dispelled by the squad named by El Tri’s manager. The bulk of this squad is made up of Liga MX players, with just a smattering of European-based men included. It means there’s no place for Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Moreno, Andres Guardado, Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos or Carlos Vela.

There’s a clutch of players who will be keen to make an impression here. Jesus Corona has been pushing Ochoa for a starting spot in goal, 36-year-old Marquez could be playing in his final Copa America and Atletico Madrid’s Raul Jimenez will be hoping to show his potential after a season on the fringes of the first team at the Vicente Calderon.

Jimenez will be joined up top by Pumas’ Eduardo Herrera, who looked in excellent form in El Tri’s recent friendly encounter against Guatemala. But it’s going to interesting to see how a second string squad fare when Mexico come up against some battle hardened opponents.

El Tri may still have enough to get out of the group stages, but without the star quality provided by some of the aforementioned absentees, it’s unlikely Mexico will progress beyond the quarter-finals given the calibre of teams hoping to challenge for this title.

Key Player: Rafa Marquez

Marquez

In a squad which will be unfamiliar to many, the experience and leadership of the veteran defender is going to be so important to Mexico’s chances in Chile.

Marquez may not have been at his very best this season for Hellas Verona, but typically, when donning the green jersey of his national side he produces his very best. Still a fine reader of the game, the former Barcelona man has long been a lynchpin at the heart of either a four or five-man defense, but he’ll have to roll back the years if he’s to keep out some of attacking talent in this tournament.

Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Meliton Hernandez (Veracruz)

Defenders: George Corral (Queretaro), Gerry Flores (Cruz Azul), Rafa Marquez (Verona), Hugo Ayala (Tigres), Julio Dominguez (Cruz Azul), Carlos Salcedo (Chivas), Miguel Herrera (Pachuca), Adrian Aldrete (Santos), Efrain Velarde (Monterrey)

Midfielders: Mario Osuna (Queretaro), Juan Carlos Medina (Atlas), Javier Guemez (Tijuana), Jesus “Tecatito” Corona (FC Twente), Javier Aquino (Rayo Vallecano), Luis Montes (Leon), Marco Fabian (Chivas)

Forwards: Raul Jimenez (Atletico Madrid), Eduardo Herrera (Pumas), Enrique Esqueda (Tigres), Matias Vuoso (Chiapas)

 

Ecuador

Ecuador

Head Coach: Gustavo Quinteros

Captain: Walter Ayovi

La Tri Hoping to Overcome Injury Problems

The team most likely capitalize from Mexico’s decision to take a shadow squad to this tournament is Ecuador, but Quinteros’ own group has been blighted by fitness concerns surrounding key players in the build-up to the Chile showpiece.

It means Manchester United midfielder Antonio Valencia will not be involved in the competition—he is recovering from ankle surgery—while the wing-play of Angel Mena and the rumbustious attacking influence of powerhouse forward Felipe Caicedo will also be missed, with those two also omitted because of fitness problems.

Ecuador still have some exciting players, though. Enner Valencia will be the man tasked with shouldering the attacking burden in the absence of his namesake and Caicedo; he’s shown in bursts what he is capable of this season in the Premier League with West Ham United, but seems to up the ante when playing for the national team.

They have a brilliant chance of finishing in the top two in this group. Ecuador will play Chile in the tournament opener and will fancy their chances of catching the hosts off guard; Quinteros will also feel as though his team is more than capable of beating the Group A’s other two teams, Mexico and Bolivia.

The weakness in this squad are at the back and while La Tri’s attacking quality should cover up those deficiencies in the early stages, as soon as they come up against an incisive attacking opponent, they’ll find things very difficult.

Key Player: Jefferson Montero

Montero

With Valencia and Mena both missing, Jefferson Montero is the player who will be hoping to give La Tri some vibrancy in the wide areas.

The Swansea City star seemed set to be one of the captures of the season as he hit the ground running at the Liberty Stadium early on. His form dipped in the middle stages of the season, but the Ecuadorian turned in some dazzling displays in the final matches of the campaign; he’ll be hoping to fill the void left by injured key individuals.

Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Alexander Dominguez (LDU Quito), Esteban Dreer (Emelec), Librado Azcona (Independiente del Valle)

Defenders: Oscar Bagui (Emelec), Frickson Erazo (Gremio), Gabriel Achilier (Emelec), Juan Carlos Paredes (Watford), Mario Pineida (Indipendiente del Valle), Arturo Mina (Independiente del Valle), Walter Ayovi (Pachuca)

Midfielders: Cristhian Noboa (PAOK Athens), Renato Ibarra (Vitesse Arnhem), Osbaldo Lastra (Emelec), Fidel Martinez (UDG), Jonathan Gonzales (UDG), Michael Arroyo (Club America), Juan Cazares (Banfield)

Forwards: Miler Bolanos (Emelec), Enner Valencia (West Ham United), Jefferson Montero (Swansea City), Jaime Ayovi (Godoy Cruz)

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. CTBlues

    June 10, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    My question is why isn’t French Guiana and Guyana part of CONMEBOL? Was it because they weren’t independent nations when CONMEBOL formed?

    • David

      June 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      French Guiana is not actually a country. They are still part of France. French Guiana is not a FIFA member so they aren’t eligible to play in a World Cup. They can play in the Gold Cup though. As for both Guyana and French Guiana, it all goes back to colonial rule and how they were actually considered part of the Caribbean during French and British rule. Both places were members of the Caribbean Football Union before CONCACAF was formed. So to answer part of it is because they gained independence after CONEMBOL was formed and because they have always historically been considered part of the Caribbean.

  2. StellaWasAlwaysDown

    June 10, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Oh, and how do invites work for like Jamaica? Are they rotated, or is it based on other criteria?

    • Christopher Harris

      June 10, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      I believe it’s by invitation only from CONMEBOL. US was invited in the past but declined, which is a shame because their 1995 Copa America was a shining moment for USMNT where they made it all the way to the semi-finals only to lose 1-0 to Brazil.

    • CTBlues

      June 10, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      I believe they just invite teams because Japan was supposed to be in the last one but had to back out because of the earth quake and tsunami.

    • yespage

      June 10, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      I think it is based on the amount of money Blazer is to receive from said “invited” nation.

  3. StellaWasAlwaysDown

    June 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Nice write-up Matt!

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