The 2015 Copa America kicks off on Thursday in Chile. Lionel Messi and Argentina are the obvious pre-tournament favorites, and it will be exciting to see if Messi can keep up the fine level of play he’s shown with Barcelona this season and add another medal to his collection.
Here’s a preview of Group B that is made up of Argentina, Jamaica, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Lionel Messi can look back at a fabulous season with Barcelona. He scored 43 goals in 38 league games, and another 10 goals in the Champions League. Messi is the biggest star in the tournament, and the Argentinian people is hoping that he can keep up the level of play for another couple of weeks.
The Argentinian squad is full of star players that play in major clubs around Europe and includes Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Angel Di Maria (Manchester United), and Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain).
There’s just so much quality in the lineup, and as long as they can come together as a team, it’s no wonder that they are the favorites to win the whole tournament. The attacking firepower on the team is just ridiculous, and together Messi and Aguero has combined for 71 goals for the national team.
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria), Nahuel Guzman (UANL Tigres), Mariano Andujar (Napoli)
Defenders: Facundo Roncaglia (Genoa), Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis (both Manchester City), Ezequiel Garay (Zenit St Petersburg), Nicolas Otamendi (Valencia), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Milton Casco (Newell’s Old Boys)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Roberto Pereyra (Juventus), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Angel Di Maria (Manchester United), Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur), Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Carlos Tevez (Juventus), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris Saint-Germain)
Jamaica and Mexico were invited to the Copa America from CONCACAF. The Reggae Boyz will be underdogs, but have a couple of interesting names in the lineup that can provide some flair to the tournament. Jamaica will be part of the 2015 Gold Cup later this summer and this will be a great way to get the team together and get some high-level games in before that tournament.
The Jamaicans has several players from the MLS in the squad, including Jermaine Taylor (Houston), Kemar Lawrence (NY Red Bulls), Je-Vaughn Watson (Dallas), Darren Mattocks (Vancouver), and Giles Barnes (Houston). It’s not a star-studded team like Argentina, but the other teams in the group will have to be sure to not overlook Jamaica, as that could prove costly.
The team will have to rely heavily on the players from the English leagues, but if they are to have any chance at getting points in this tournament, then Duwayne Kerr will have to play lights out in the net. Kerr, 28, has made 11 appearances for 9th-placed Sarpsborg in the Norwegian first division.
Up front they will have to hope that Vancouver Whitecaps forward Darren Mattocks can find the back of the net. Mattocks has three goals in 14 appearances this season in the MLS and has scored eight times for the national team in 24 games.
Goalkeepers: Ryan Thompson (Pittsburgh Riverhounds), Duwayne Kerr (Sarpsborg 08), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska).
Defenders: Wes Morgan (Leicester City), Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo), Michael Hector (Reading), Daniel Gordon (Karlsruhe), Adrian Mariappa (Crystal Palace), Hughan Gray (Waterhouse FC), Kemar Lawrence (NY Red Bulls).
Midfielders: Je-Vaughn Watson (FC Dallas), Rodolph Austin (Leeds United), Joel Grant (Yeovil), Lance Laing (FC Edmonton), Garath McCleary (Reading), Joel McAnuff (Leyton Orient).
Forwards: Allan Ottey (Mobay United), Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo), Darren Mattocks (Vancouver), Simon Dawkins (Derby County), Deshorn Brown (Valarenga), Romeo Parkes (Isidro Metapan), Dino Williams (Mobay United)
Another underdog in the group, Paraguay will have to play a team game in order to make a push for the second spot in the group. Ranked 81st on the FIFA rankings, Paraguay has a long way to get back to the stature it had back in 2008 when they were ranked 17th.
With a squad that only has five players playing in Europe, Ivan Piris (Udinese), Nelson Haedo Valdez (Frankfurt), Raul Bobadilla (Augsburg), Lucas Barrios (Montpellier), and Derlis Gonzalez (Basel), it will take near perfect games against the other nations in Group B if they are going to have any hope at moving on to the knockout stage.
Veteran striker and captain Roque Santa Cruz, 33, will have to be on form. With 32 goals in 105 games for Paraguay, the former Manchester City player is the most veteran striker in the team.
Goalkeepers: Justo Villar (Colo Colo), Antony Silva (Independiente Medellin), Alfredo Aguilar (Guarani)
Defenders: Paulo Da Silva (Toluca), Pablo Aguilar (America), Fabian Balbuena (Libertad), Marcos Caceres (Newell’s Old Boys), Bruno Valdez (Cerro Porteno), Ivan Piris (Udinese), Miguel Samudio (America)
Midfielders: Victor Caceres (Flamengo), Nestor Ortigoza (San Lorenzo), Osvaldo Martinez (America), Richard Ortiz (Toluca), Osmar Molinas (Libertad), Eduardo Aranda (Olimpia), Oscar Romero (Racing Club)
Forwards: Roque Santa Cruz (Cruz Azul), Nelson Haedo Valdez (Eintracht Frankfurt), Raul Bobadilla (Augsburg), Lucas Barrios (Montpellier), Edgar Benitez (Toluca), Derlis Gonzalez (Basel)
Uruguay won the 2011 Copa America tournament in Argentina. They have a good mix of young and old players that plays in both South America and in Europe. They will be without star Luis Suarez who is serving a suspension. The Barcelona striker got hit with a nine-game suspension after biting Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup last year.
Fortunately for Uruguay, they have another star striker in Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani. Cavani is a goalscorer of the highest level and the only reason why he hasn’t been the number one choice for PSG is because of Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Cavani has scored 27 goals in 72 international games.
Another couple of key players for Uruguay include goaltender Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Christian Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid), and captain Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid).
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).
Group B schedule:
June 13: Uruguay vs. Jamaica
June 13: Argentina vs. Paraguay
June 16: Paraguay vs. Jamaica
June 16: Argentina vs. Uruguay
June 20: Uruguay vs. Paraguay
June 20: Argentina vs. Jamaica