The small nation of 3.5 million inhabitants continues to punch above its weight. Amazingly, the two-time World Cup Champions (1930, 1950) have won the Copa America a record-tying 14 times (most recently when the Enzo Francescoli-inspired team won on home soil in 1995). Their past two major tournaments have continued to impress (a 4th place finish in both Copa America 2007 and World Cup 2010) and the squad that achieved those successes will lead them into this latest tournament.
Their manager, Oscar Tabarez, has been their established manager since 2006, giving the nation stability at the helm. Uruguay will feature two of the world’s deadliest strikers in Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan who have been experiencing the ups and downs of European football over the last calendar year. Forlan struggled this year with Athletico Madrid, but is a player that usually puts on very strong appearances for his national side. Suarez hit the English Premier League like a comet and will be looked upon as a possible top scorer for the tournament.
The defense will once again be captained by arguably the finest defender Uruguay has produced since the days of Montero in Diego Lugano. Fernando Muslera of Lazio has taken over the position of goalkeeper from Fabian Carini and with several experienced defenders in front of him, Uruguay will be hard to beat and will look to at least make the semi-finals this year in neighboring Argentina; expect a strong contingent of Uruguayans to make the trip across the River Plate.
Much has happened to the Chilean national team since World Cup 2010. That team, led by the eccentric yet brilliant Marcelo Bielsa, finished second in their group behind Spain before being eventually knocked out by Brazil, 3-0 in the round of 16. Since then, Bielsa has resigned amid controversy and the national team are struggling to fit their new system on the eve of the Copa America.
National team manager Claudio Borghi will find himself in familiar environs as he is Argentinian born and the former manager of club sides Independiente and Boca Juniors. Despite Bielsa’s departure, Chile remain a fascinating team full of players who love to get forward at breakneck pace. Chief tormentor is Udinese’s Alexi Sanchez who has been at the heart of many transfer rumors this summer. The quicksilver winger has the capability of playing on either wing and can often prove a handful for any defender. His counterpart, Matias Fernandez (“Mati-gol”) is equally adept. They will surely be called upon to set up chances for the likes of Humberto Suazo and Jean Beausejour. Recent controversy notwithstanding, look for Chile to be amongst the top goal-scoring nations in Argentina.
Another Copa America invitee (besides Costa Rica), Mexico has historically been one of the more successful nations in recent years. Unfortunately for them this year will feature a squad that is weakened by the fact the nation is also competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.
El Tri will enter this installment of the Copa America will their most-capped player being Giovanni dos Santos (42 caps) followed by many players with less than 10 appearances for their national side; the side amounts to what would be considered an Olympic team with the majority of the players being under 23 years of age. Mexico’s preliminary squad, featuring 6 players from Chivas de Guadalajara, also will feature the familiar faces of EPL striker Carlos Vela and veteran defender Johnny Magallon. Despite this being essentially Mexico’s “B” squad, the nation still has plenty of talent and could spring a surprise at this year’s Copa.
The Andean nation of Peru has had solid success at the Copa America. Winners of the tournament twice (in 1939 and 1975), La Rojiblanco, have reached the quarterfinals five consecutive times. Although they were dismantled 4-1 by Argentina in 2007, they remain a nation with star quality, especially in attack.
Their much-traveled yet experienced manager Sergio Markarian will be given the assignment of making Peru not only a strong candidate for another Copa America quarterfinal appearance but also the upcoming World Cup qualifying cycle. Led by captain and lead striker Claudio Pizarro, Peru also have several players who have cut their teeth in Europe’s strongest leagues like Jefferson Farfan (Schalke 04) and Pablo Guerrero (Hamburg SV). With some experienced players in the back (defender Walter Vilchez and goalkeeper Leao Butron), Peru will surely hope to compete for a second-place finish, even top spot should favorites Uruguay stumble out of the gate.