Sao Paulo – The Brazil international was reluctant to play on home soil in the Copa America. Now that they are committed, they are in favor of winning it.
Argentina are still a threat to Brazil’s title defense, but now as a visiting team.
Argentina and Colombia were dropped as co-hosts of the tournament, before Brazil made a late move to the continental championship stage.
Being away from home puts some pressure on Lionel Messi and his Argentina team.
The Copa America will take on defending champions Brazil against Venezuela at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia on Sunday. The final will take place on July 10 at the Maracan Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, one of the COVID-19 epicenters in Brazil, where more than 480,000 people have died from the coronavirus.
No spectators will be allowed to attend any of the Copa America matches because of restrictions for the pandemic, which has already delayed the tournament by a year.
Brazilian players put an end to speculation of a possible boycott by issuing a unified statement on Wednesday, saying they were “dissatisfied” with the decision to move the tournament to their home country, but that it would not stop them from representing their national team. .
And if the South American World Cup qualifiers are anything to go by, the Copa America title is to be lost to Brazil. Brazil have won all their six matches and are six points behind second-placed Argentina. With the likes of Neymar on board, coach Tite is expected to not only defend the title he lifted in 2019, but also use the next 30 days to prepare for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Multiple tests are expected. With Alisson no longer the team’s undisputed goalkeeper, Ederson gets more chances to start.
Captain Casemiro is yet to find out whether he will play as a defensive midfielder alongside Douglas Luiz, Fred or Lucas Paqueta. And there are four options for working with Neymar: Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Richardson and Gabriel Barbosa.
Argentina finished third in the 2019 Copa America, but the team has improved under coach Lionel Scaloni.
Defender Cristian Romero, and midfielders Leandro Paredes and Giovanni Lo Celso are now trusted to break the opponents’ line. Up front, Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero bring equal respect.
And that means Messi, who turns 34 at the end of this month, doesn’t need to be a part of every game for Argentina to win.
“Argentinas have always dominated, sometimes in a very vertical way. If you look at all our matches in the qualifiers we were eligible to win. But in football, qualifying doesn’t count,” Scoloni said.
Argentina has not won a major title since the 1993 Copa America.
Colombia has improved since the return of coach Reynaldo Rueda. It trampled Peru 3–0 in Lima and drew 2–2 after going down two goals against Argentina after a late draw. The Copa America could see the team go further, which will not have midfielder James Rodriguez due to fitness problems.
Uruguay have struggled despite relying on Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani, who will return to the side after two-match suspensions in the World Cup qualifiers. Uruguay have not won any of their three latest matches on the road to Qatar.
“We need to know how to improve as always and be ready for something that gives us a lot of aspirations,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said after a 0-0 draw with Venezuela on Tuesday.
Peru, the 2019 Copa América runners-up, are struggling in World Cup qualifying, but hopes of a 2-1 win in Ecuador earlier this week could change the pace. Coach Ricardo Garca decided not to bring in striker Paolo Guerrero, who is returning from injury. He will instead rely on Santiago Ormeno, who plays in León, Mexico.
Chile coach Martin Lasart has decided to use an inexperienced team in the Copa America, making qualifying for the next World Cup a priority.
“We will use it as a tool to strengthen the young players,” he said. Chile is currently in sixth place in qualifying
The tournament will be divided into two groups of five. Group A consists of Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay. Brazil is in Group B with Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru. The best four from each group advance to the knockout stage.
The quarterfinals will take place on 2 July at the Nilton Santos and Olimpico Stadium in Goiânia, and on 3 July at the Olimpico Stadium and Mane Garrincha in Brasília.
The semi-finals will take place on 5 July at the Nilton Santos Stadium in Rio and the next day in Brasilia.
——— Associated Press writer Deborah Ray contributed to this report from Buenos Aires
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