Copa America Preview

Mano Menezes’ men will be competing in their last competitive football until the 2014 World Cup, which they host. Therefore the resonance is particularly key; being held in the country of their greatest rivals, Argentina, the Brazilians are under pressure to use the competition to good effect as their best form of practise until the 2014 showpiece.

It will be a test of Menezes’ skill as manager too, his first competitive action as coach of the national side. He has made changes to the side, adopting a slightly more European formation, 4-2-3-1, and a more Brazilian style of passing and movement. With Santos duo Paulo Henrique Ganso and Neymar looking to make a name for themselves, it is the perfect stage for the Brazilians.
Their biggest rivals will be the hosts, who kick off the tournament in La Plata against Bolivia. It will similarly be the first test of Sergio Batista as their national team coach. The Argentines are probably the most talented team on paper, Leo Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Ever Banega and Javier Pastore form the basis of what could be international football’s best attack.

Batista is looking to make Argentina the Barcelona of international football, and to do so he is utilising Leo Messi as a false number 9. With Angel di Maria and Sergio Aguero alongside him, they have a fluid, interchangeable forward line.

What of the dark horses? Uruguay went further than both traditional South American giants at last summer’s World Cup, and must be taken seriously. Edinson Cavani has been in blistering form for Napoli this season, and forms a formidable frontline with Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan. With the young talents of Nicolas Lodeiro and goalkeeper Fernando Muslera combined with the sturdy Diego Godin, they have the blend of youth and experience, as well as the defensive solidity and attacking flair to make a real impact.

Paraguay always seem a team with the potential to surprise, and they too have a potent front line in theory; Nelson Valdez, Oscar Cardozo and Sebastien Riveros are talented and tricky. But often Paraguay struggle to play expansively enough to compete.

Chile too will be an interesting side to watch in their first tournament after Alfie Basile’s departure as coach. But perhaps the most intriguing side to watch will be Mexico, fresh from a Gold Cup triumph. With Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Gio dos Santos and Andres Guardado, the Mexicans are a talented side who do more than pass in triangles now. Always technically capable, they now have more and more players playing in Europe, playing at a fast pace, what Mexico usually struggle with. With the poaching instinct of Hernandez and Vela up front and the pace and delivery of the likes of Guardado, Mexico could be the most intriguing of dark horses this summer in Argentina.