Copa America 2016: Experts' Picks
The Copa America Centenario kicks off when USA take on Colombia in a few hours, and the 2016 edition of the South American football extravaganza promises to be a blockbuster tournament, with sides like Argentina heavily favoured to win.
Here are our expert’s picks, noting the finalists, the winners and the Golden Boot winner:
Argentina have what it takes to go all the way this time. Finalists at the World Cup and last year's Copa America, they have taken this tournament very seriously and are hungry for a trophy, naming a strong squad, especially in attack. They will reach the quarter-finals easily where they could face Mexico or Uruguay. Beat either of them and the trophy is virtually theirs.
With Neymar absent for Brazil and Luis Suarez's injury possibly ruling him out for the group stages, one can't bet against Lionel Messi scooping the Golden Boot. The three forwards have set and broken goalscoring records in the past two seasons and Messi will be key to Argentina's success.
Argentina seem to have the most going on up front and what seems to be forgotten is that Sergio Aguero, due to his stop-start season for Manchester City is probably the most well rested big name on this team. He will probably come off the bench in the group stages but make the forward role his own by the time the knockouts roll around. He will single-handedly destroy Brazil in the final. This Copa will have its Aguerooooo moment.
Brazil will decimate their way through an easy group and are too talented to lose in the knockouts till they meet the Argentinian juggernaut. Coutinho to star for them, as he tries to show Klopp that he is the star the Liverpool team should be built around.
Two words. Sergio Aguero. He will be chomping at the bit to score a few after a down season with Manchester City. The man is one of the best forwards in the world and will use this tournament to remind the world just that. Need I say more. Kun for the win.
With a squad as talented as theirs, Argentina are definitely the favourites and should, ideally, walk this tournament. However, as a team, they are very dependent on Lionel Messi, and with the Barcelona man currently standing trial for tax evasion, it has to be seen how focused he is. I would go with Brazil to be the team that wins the tournament.
A solid defence and workmanlike midfield will help players like Coutinho and Willian showcase their attacking talent. Their second era under Dunga hasn't gone well so far, but an experimental team under a defensive manager will do well in this tournament, and will play with a chip on their shoulders, eager to prove that they can achieve success without their talisman, Neymar.
The Golden Boot winner generally comes from the team that makes the finals, but with Brazil missing Neymar, Sergio Aguero will be the pick for plundering in the most goals, especially given that Argentina face the likes of Bolivia and Panama in the group stages.
It’s only been one year since the last Copa America, and teams like Brazil and Uruguay have weakened further. Thus, it’s quite likely that Chile and Argentina will make the finals yet again, although the Albiceleste will probably win out over La Roja since Chile don’t have the cushion of home advantage this time around.
Leo Messi is incredibly hungry to break his international duck and should inspire what is the best squad in the tournament in terms of individual quality.
Given all the stars in the tournament, the Golden Boot could be one by anyone of the numerous superstars. Alexis Sanchez is my pick, since the Arsenal star ended the club season on a high note and will be hungry to finish a disappointing season on a high. Chile have built their side around Sanchez, unlike most of his competitors who feature other stars as well, which ought to enable Sanchez to thrive, in comparison.
One look at the Copa America bracket, and it’s clear that Argentina face an easy path to the finals, with only Colombia bringing any possible challenge to the Albiceleste. However, I’m going for Argentina’s hoodoo with Messi to continue yet again. Brazil, Chile and Uruguay are the other contenders and I’m plumping for Luis Suarez’s side to be the other finalists and eventual winners.
The Charruas have fantastic options like Godin & Jimenez in defence with Suarez and Cavani in attack – cup competitions favour the extreme ends of the pitch, and I’m opting for a hungry Suarez, who Uruguay might miss in the group stages, to win his first major international trophy and deny his Barcelona teammate.
This is a bit of a surprise pick, but I’m opting for Brazilian striker, Jonas, to pick up the golden boot. While there are doubts about the Selecao going far, the Benfica man should plunder in the goals against the likes of Haiti, Peru and Ecuador in the group stages.