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

The defense is made up of talented young players and this tournament will be a big test for  the likes of Jeison Murillo and Pedro Franco at the back. An injury to midfield enforcer Fredy Guarin also leaves Los Cafeteros a little short of options in central areas.

They have the quality to cause big problems for Brazil in Group B and it’d be no surprise to see this enthralling side top the standings. But they don’t quite possess the shrewdness or enough resolve at the back to go all the way.

Key Player: James Rodriguez

James

Colombia’s magnificent playmaker was the standout player at the World Cup last summer and undaunted by a move to Real Madrid, Rodriguez’s stock has continued to soar following a magnificent debut season at the Santiago Bernabeu.

James is a critical fulcrum in this Colombia side. Whether drifting in from a wide position or operating as an orthodox No. 10, the playmaker is vital to players like Falcao and Martinez flourishing in front of goal. Expect another set of mesmeric performances from the Cafeteros star in Chile as he continues to cement his reputation as one of the game’s very best.

Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Cristian Bonilla (Equidad), David Ospina (Arsenal), Camilo Vargas (Atletico Nacional)

Defenders: Darwin Andrade (Standard Liege), Santiago Arias (PSV), Pablo Armero (Flamengo), Pedro Franco (Besiktas), Jeison Murillo (Granada), Carlos Valdes (Nacional), Cristian Zapata (Milan), Camilo Zuniga (Napoli)

Midfielders: Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Edwin Cardona (Monterrey), Juan Cuadrado (Chelsea), Alexander Mejia (Monterrey), James Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Carlos Sanchez (Aston Villa), Edwin Valencia (Santos)

Forwards: Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Radamel Falcao (Manchester United), Teofilo Gutierrez (River Plate), Victor Ibarbo (Roma), Jackson Martinez (Porto), Luis Muriel (Sampdoria)

 

Peru

Peru

Head Coach: Ricardo Gareca

Captain: Claudio Pizarro

Peru Facing Uphill Struggle to Progress

Having only been named as manager in February 2015, Gareca has had minimal time to get Peru ready for this Copa. If that wasn’t a hindrance in itself, facing Brazil in their opener and Colombia in the final game of Group C, getting into the knockout stage is an almighty ask.

This a team notorious for their frailties away from their home stadium in Lima too. In games on the road, they’ve not picked up three points in a match for 11 years, but they do have happy memories of this tournament; in a 2011 competition punctured by so many shocks, they were able to scrap their way to third place.

Looking at the squad, there’s plenty of quality with their ranks too. Carlos Zambrano is a capable centre-back, Juan Manuel Vargas is adaptable midfielder and in advanced areas, the dynamic Jefferson Farfan is not only a major threat, but a vital supply line to veteran striker Claudio Pizzaro, who still possesses razor-sharp goalscoring instincts.

There’s still a lot of uncertainty as to what shape this team is going to take in addition the the style in which they are set to play in. Against quality opponents like the two aforementioned South American juggernauts, sitting deep, closing off spaces and counter-attacking through Farfan seems their best chance of sneaking into the quarter-finals.

In an unforgiving group, that’d be a remarkable achievement, but there’s next to no chance of the Incans replicating their heroics of four years ago.

Key Player: Jefferson Farfan

Peru Venezuela Wcup soccer

Peru have a vibrant side and the influence of Farfan on the wings has been critical to their success. But the Schalke star has so often been injured for his nation’s critical contests and he’ll be desperate to make an overdue mark in this competition.

Blisteringly quick, supremely skillful and possessing a thunderous right foot, Farfan is a major offensive weapon for Peru. The link up play between him and Pizarro will be the team’s most likely source of goals; as the most high-profile player in the squad, Peruvian supporters will look to Farfan to turn in some talismanic performances.

Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Pedro Gallese (Juan Aurich), Diego Penny (Sporting Cristal), Salomon Libman (Universidad Cesar Vallejo)

Defenders: Luis Advincula (Vitoria Setubal), Carlos Zambrano (Eintracht Frankfurt), Pedro Requena (Universidad Cesar Vallejo), Hansell Riojas (Universidad Cesar Vallejo), Christian Ramos (Juan Aurich), Yoshimar Yotun (Malmo FF), Jair Cespedes (Juan Aurich)

Midfielders: Josephmir Ballon (Sporting Cristal), Edwin Retamoso (Real Garcilaso), Carlos Lobaton (Sporting Cristal), Carlos Ascues (Melgar), Joel Sanchez (Universidad San Martin), Paolo Hurtado (Pacos de Ferreira), Juan Manuel Vargas (Fiorentina), Christian Cueva (Alianza Lima)

Forwards: Andre Carrillo (Sporting CP), Jefferson Farfan (Schalke 04), Yordy Reyna (Red Bull Leipzig), Paulo Guerrero (Corinthians), Claudio Pizarro (Bayern Munich)

 

Venezuela

Ven

Head Coach: Noel Sanvicente

Captain: Juan Arango

La Vinotinto Desperate to Continue Recent Progress

The strides made by the nation of Venezuela in soccer have been remarkable over the last two decades.

For so long they were perceived as minnows of South American football, but some improvements in the set-up manifested themselves as an exceptional fourth place finish four years ago. That performance was compounded when they beat Argentina in World Cup qualifying not long after.

Can they continue their recent renaissance? As is the case for Peru, it’s going to be difficult up against Brazil and Colombia. The team that performed so well four years ago hasn’t quite pushed on as many expected and Sanvicente has struggled to strike a desirable balance in terms of style and system during his recent tutelage.

While there are players with exciting potential in the squad, there are also some gaping holes. Aside from flashes via veteran skipper Juan Arango, the lack of creativity is a big concern and this team has been very reliant on grabbing goals from set pieces in recent matches. Another area which needs to supplemented is the lack of dynamism in a pedestrian defense.

Middlesbrough’s aging Fernando Amorebieta is still a lynchpin at the back, but his lack of pace has been badly exposed by the better sides Venezuela have encountered. Ensuring he’s not targeted poses a conundrum for Sanvicente, especially given his struggles to find a prosperous blend in the build-up to the Copa.

They’ll have a major challenge getting anything from the matches against Brazil and Colombia, but may fancy their chances against an unprepared Peru. But if they are to make it into the last-eight, Venezuela are the side the top sides will be desperate to face.

Key Player: Salomon Rondon

Rondon

The Zenit St Petersburg striker is La Vinotinto’s most high profile performer and he’ll spearhead their charge in Chile after a prosperous campaign with the Russian champions.

Rondon is a forward who will need to provide a reliable outlet for his country. In the games against more illustrious opposition they’re likely to come under major pressure, so when the ball is launched forward to him, the forward must use his burly somatotype to keep possession and set his side on the attack. A requirement to be ruthless in front of goal goes without saying.

Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Alain Baroja, Wuilker Farinez (both Caracas FC), Daniel Hernandez (Tenerife)

Defenders: Gabriel Cichero (Mineros de Guayana), Grenddy Perozo (AC Ajaccio), Andres Tunez (Buriram United), Wilker Angel (Deportivo Tachira), Roberto Rosales (Malaga), Fernando Amorebieta (Middlesbrough), Oswaldo Vizcarrondo (Nantes)

Midfielders: Rafael Acosta (Mineros de Guayana), Alejandro Guerra (Atletico Nacional), Ronald Vargas (Balikesirspor), Franklin Lucena (Deportivo La Guaira), Cesar Gonzalez (Deportivo Tachira), Tomas Rincon (Genoa), Luis Manuel Seijas (Independiente Santa Fe), Juan Arango (Tijuana)

Forwards: Jhon Murillo (Benfica), Gelmin Rivas (Deportivo Tachira), Nicolas Fedor (Rayo Vallecano), Josef Martinez (Torino), Salomon Rondon (Zenit St Petersburg)

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball

 

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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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