Head Coach: Mauricio Soria
Captain: Ronald Raldes
Bolivia Big Underdogs in Competitive Group A
The big outsiders to progress from Group A will be Bolivia, a side who will be hoping to progress into the knockout rounds for the first time since 1997.
In the tournament 18 years ago, they finished runners-up on home soil and in many respects, their progress in that competition was emblematic of their status as a football national: brilliant at home, not up to much elsewhere. Indeed, El Verde have not won a game away from home since 2007.
A 2-2 draw against Chile in late 2014 will serve as some sort of encouragement, but the truth is that this squad is way short of the quality required to challenge. Adding to their problems, star striker Gustavo Pinedo has decided to stay with his club side San Martin de San Juan to assist in their Primera Division cause instead of heading to chile.
As far as star players go, there aren’t many. Skipper Ronald Raldes is a solid and uncompromising defender, while former Shakhtar Donetsk striker Marcelo Martins Moreno is the team’s post potent attacking force.
But it’s going to take a staggering and extremely unlikely turnaround in fortunes for Mauricio Soria’s team to pick up a victory at this championship.
Key Player: Marcelo Martins Moreno
After unsuccessful spells in European football, where he turned out for Shakhtar, Wigan Athletic and Werder Bremen, and more fruitless spells with Gremio, Flamengo and Cruzeiro, Moreno is now at Chinese club Changchun Yatai in an attempt to kickstart his career.
While Bolivia are going to have to defend extremely well to pick up any positive results in the group, Moreno must take any chances that do emerge. At this juncture, if El Verde are going to find a hero, the forward—who has scored 19 goals for Bolivia—looks like the most probable candidate.
Goalkeepers Romel Quinonez (Bolivar), Hugo Suarez (Blooming), Jose Penarrieta (Oriente Petrolero)
Defenders: Miguel Hurtado, Leonel Morales, Cristian Coimbra (all Blooming), Marvin Bejarano, Ronald Raldes (both Oriente Petrolero), Edemir Rodriguez, Ronald Eguino (Bolivar), Edward Zenteno (Wilstermann)
Midfielders: Danny Bejarano (Oriente Petrolero), Walter Veizaga, Alejandro Chumacero (The Strongest), Damir Miranda (Bolivar), Sebastian Gamarra (AC Milan), Damian Lizio (O’Higgins), Martin Smedberg (IFK Gothenburg)
Forwards: Alcides Pena (Oriente Petrolero), Pablo Escobar (The Strongest), Jhasmani Campos (Bolivar), Marcelo Martins (Chanchung Yatai), Ricardo Pedriel (Mersin)
Head Coach: Tata Martino
Captain: Lionel Messi
Argentina Looking to End 22-year Trophy Drought
On paper, this is a formidable Argentina squad. Not only are the attacking options available to Martino probably most desirable in international football, but the talent in both midfield and defensive positions seem to have been enriched when compared to last summer’s World Cup.
For the Albiceleste, it’s always been about putting these fascinating facets of the side together. This is a squad of players that should deliver the Copa America for their country and they have a manager who seems to have stumbled upon a formula in the build-up to the tournament. But there’s an unshakeable sense that Argentina may just conspire to mess things up again.
But does Messi’s own sensational form offset those perennial mental problems? The captain has been in astonishing form in 2015 for Barcelona, winning a clutch of trophies and conjuring critical contributions at vital moments in massive matches. He’s the kind of player who could take a merciless grip of this tournament and propel the Albiceleste into the final.
So too could Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain, making Argentina a major force offensively. In midfield, Javier Mascherano will anchor, while both Javier Pastore and Roberto Pereyra are creative talents capable of adding more ingenuity further forward.
At the back, the starting back-four is likely to see Pablo Zabaleta and Marcos Rojo flanking Ezequiel Garay and the excellent Nicolas Otamendi. It gives Martino’s side what look a hugely compact base, even though there are lingering concerns surrounding the calibre of starting goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
It’s been 22 years since this obsessed footballing nation sampled silverware in a major tournament; after coming so close in the World Cup last summer, expect this Argentina group to be hungry to make amends and led by the majesty of Messi, make a major push towards some long overdue glory.
Key Man: Lionel Messi
After a trophy laden end to the club season, Messi will be hoping to preserve the astonishing levels he showcased for Barcelona when he does don the blue and white of his national team. After seeing the World Cup slip from his grasp last summer, the Argentina star will surely be insatiable in his will to fire the Albiceleste all the way.
Martino has been able to find a way of getting the best out of Messi in recent matches for the Albiceleste, with previous bosses struggling with the quandary this complex player poses. The Barcelona man is likely to be floating inside from the right-flank to supplement the likes of Aguero and dazzling defenders in his patented style.
Adding the Copa America to the treble won by Barcelona would be the coupe de grace on an astonishing few months for a man many are hailing as the greatest ever.
Goalkeepers: Nahuel Guzman (UANL Tigres), Sergio Romero (Sampdoria), Geronimo Rulli (Real Sociedad)
Defenders: Ezequiel Garay (Zenit St Petersburg), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Facundo Roncaglia (Genoa), Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal), Lucas Orban, Nicolas Otamendi (both Valencia)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Javier Pastore (Paris St-Germain), Angel Di Maria (Manchester United), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Roberto Pereyra (Juventus), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Enzo Perez (Valencia)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris St-Germain), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Carlos Tevez (Juventus)
Head Coach: Oscar Tabarez
Captain: Diego Godin
Uruguay Hoping to Make it Two in a Row
A triumph for Uruguay in 2011 came as a major surprise to many. Tabarez’s team were diligent, determined and had a little bit of star quality four years ago, but perhaps most importantly, this squad thrived in the big moments, no more so than beating Argentina in the quarter-finals before toppling Paraguay 3-0 in the final.
With that victory has come added expectations for this team. Reaching the second round at the World Cup was about par, especially with a unfit and then banned Luis Suarez; the Celeste will have to do without the Barcelona firebrand this summer as part of his ban for sinking his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.
Nonetheless, this is a team that’ll battle hard to keep hold of their title. Tabarez is now nine years into his tenure as manager and his principles have rarely deviated from being cohesive, hard-working and tenacious. Uruguay, in short, are a team full of footballing warriors reeking of the gnarly trait of garra charrua
With that in mind, it’d be mawkish to completely rule out their chances. Edinson Cavani is a world-class striker and will relish leading the line; in Godin and his Atletico Madrid teammate Jose Gimenez, Tabarez can call upon two of the tournament’s very best centre-backs too.
However, winning the cup for a second successive competition seems beyond them. Suarez is an irreplaceable influence at the point of the attack and while the Uruguay midfield is unrelentingly industrious, they don’t have the intricacy to incisively probe at the meanest defenses.
They should have enough to emerge from what will be an entertaining Group B and maybe even beyond. But without Suarez, the semi-finals is as far as they will go in defense of their title.
Key Player: Diego Godin
The Atletico Madrid center-back has established himself as one of the finest defenders in world football under the tutelage of Diego Simeone and his influence is going to be so important in this tournament.
Godin is indomitable in the air, fearsome in the tackle and a magnificent reader of the game. With Suarez gone, the key to this Uruguay team is going to be building a team on solid foundations and Atletico talisman is a quality organizer. In addition to his array of defensive qualities, Godin also has a penchant for popping up with big goals from set-pieces too.
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama), Rodrigo Munoz (Libertad)
Defenders: Maxi Pereira (Benfica), Jose Maria Gimenez, Diego Godin (both Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Coates (Liverpool), Gaston Silva (Torino)
Midfielders: Alvaro Pereira (Estudiantes), Mathias Corujo, Guzman Pereira (both Universidad de Chile), Jorge Fucile (Nacional), Alvaro Gonzalez (Torino), Carlos Sanchez (River Plate), Egidio Arevalo Rios (UANL Tigres), Nicolas Lodeiro (Boca Juniors), Cristian Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid)
Forwards: Giorgian de Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Cristhian Stuani (Espanyol), Abel Hernandez (Hull City), Edinson Cavani (Paris St Germain), Diego Rolan (Girondins Bordeaux), Jonathan Rodriguez (Benfica)
Head Coach: Ramon Diaz
Captain: Roque Santa Cruz
Tournament of Transition Likely for 2011 Runners-Up
Paraguay enjoyed a fantastic run in this competition four years ago. They eliminated Brazil in the quarter-finals of the competition, edged past Venezuela in the semi-finals, but fell short in the final, losing 3-0 to Uruguay.
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