Copa América 2015 kicks-off on June 11, with 10 teams from South America and two tournament invitees, Mexico and Jamaica, competing for the continent’s most prestigious international prize.
Not just the best teams but also South America’s best players will be on show in Chile, with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Alexis Sánchez and James Rodriguez all preparing to lead their sides to glory.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at who’s been drawn with whom:
So, who’s going to lift the trophy on July 4 in Santiago? Let’s find out:
Gerardo Martino’s men finished as runners-up at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and will be using their extra-time heartbreak as motivation this time around. La Albiceleste have not lifted a Copa title for 22 years, since Gabriel Batistuta’s inspired performance against Mexico in the final back in 1993.
This time out, Argentina have arguably the greatest footballer of all time playing at his peak. Lionel Messi has scored 58 goals already this season and will arrive at the tournament on the back of leading Barcelona to the brink of a famous treble.
Their options in attack are frightening and are comfortably the strongest in the tournament, with Martino reportedly opting for a Messi and Carlos Tevez front two, leaving Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín having to settle for a place on the bench. The ever-committed Javier Mascherano is also enjoying the form of his life and looks very settled whether in a back four or anchoring midfield.
The 14-time winners have been handed a tricky looking group but it’s worse on paper than in reality.
Defending champions Uruguay have been handed a real blow to their chances with the suspension of striker Luis Suárez, whilst Martín Cáceres’ injury means he will not feature. Elsewhere, 2011 runners-up Paraguay have won just one of their last eight fixtures (a 2-1 win over Peru) and have fallen to 89th in the FIFA world rankings. Their other group opponent Jamaica will have performed well if they take any points away from the competition.
As tournament hosts, four-time runners-up Chile will be hoping to finally end their Copa disappointment and lift the coveted trophy in front of their own supporters.
The last time the event was held in Chile, in 1991, La Roja finished third, with the final four positions being decided on a round-robin group stage.
This time, however, Jorge Sampaoli has the luxury of two star players within his squad; and be looking towards Alexis Sánchez and Arturo Vidal to lead the team deep into the tournament.
Feisty forward Sánchez thrived in his debut campaign in England scoring 25 times for Arsenal and winning the FA Cup as he ended the season with the PFA Players’ of the Year award. International teammate Vidal has helped Italian giants Juventus to a Serie A and Coppa Italia double, whilst also reaching the Champions League final.
Chile’s interchanging formation, strong spine (captain Claudio Bravo will be between the sticks) and counter-attacking threat should cause teams huge problems, as shown at last summer’s World Cup as they stunned holders Spain.
It’s difficult to look beyond one man for the Golden Boot award. Well over a century of goals for his club side this year, Lionel Messi enters the tournament high on confidence and looking fully fit.
The Argentina captain may have scored just three goals in his last 10 appearances for his country but has still netted 45 times in 97 caps, and more importantly, proved his doubters wrong on the international scene by leading Argentina to the World Cup final with some fine individual performances in Brazil.
The second-place finish still harangues Messi and he will be looking to surpress last year’s ultimate failure this time out. If Argentina are to go far in the tournament, he will have to learn to play alongside Juve’s explosive forward Carlos Tevez, but Martino says that is a possibility.
Argentina’s group game against Jamaica could prove pivotal in the battle for the Top Scorer award.
I’ve been impressed with Carlos Bacca’s performances this season, and is likely to be handed the chance to lead Colombia’s front-line in Chile this summer alongside the misfiring Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martínez. The Seville striker scored 20 goals this year and helped lift the UEFA Europa League with a brace in the final.
He’s been the subject of transfer speculation in recent weeks with elite sides all across Europe interested in signing him. Despite playing wide of the front-three, the 28-year-old will be aiming to catch the eye once more.
Brazil’s Neymar has enjoyed his best season in a Barcelona shirt this year alongside his South American counterparts in attack. The MSN strike-force (Messi/Suarez/Neymar) have scored over 100 goals between them but the 23-year-old will once again have the weight of the country on his shoulders, as it was 12-months earlier.
He’ll be supported by the likes of Willian and Douglas Costa in attack and should be able to find space behind the Colombia defence when the two sides comes face to face in Group C.
Astonishingly, the last time Uruguay lost a Copa América match was back in 2007. The Celeste have won the competition on 15 occasions, more than any other side and will be hoping to defend their title again this year. However, manager Óscar Tábarez will be without Diego Forlan (retired) and Luis Suárez (suspended) at the Copa this time and so will be forced to rely on Edinson Cavani to lead the attack.
Despite near-constant criticism since his move to Ligue Un champions Paris Saint-Germain, the lanky forward’s form has actually been better than most would care to believe and has delivered with 31 goals this season.
Peru to reach the final
It’s a bold bet, but two-time winners Peru have a decent record in the Copa. A seventh third-placed finish in 2011 was testimony to their talent, whilst they have reached the final four on five other occasions.
Head coach Ricardo Gareca was only appointed Peru boss in March and has overseen just two matches during his short tenure, losing to fellow Group C participants Venezuela and drawing with Mexico.
However, with Brazil and Colombia expected to go toe-to-toe for top spot, there are points still up for grabs and Gareca’s first priority will be to make his side hard to bet.
El Tigre has called upon the experienced trio of Paolo Guerrero – top scorer at the 2011 tournament – Jefferson Farfán and Claudio Pizarro to held guide his team through the initial phase.
Constant upheaval during his time at Vélez, Gareca is experienced at handling transitional squads. His arrival as Peru boss may have come at the perfect time for the country’s national team.