Copa America 2019 - Analysing Group A
The oldest intercontinental competition kicks off its 46th edition on 14th June as Brazil take on Bolivia in the first game of the 2019 Copa America. However, this edition will miss a superstar of South American football - Neymar Jr.
The 27-year-old suffered an ankle injury during the warm-up game against Qatar and will miss out on the entire tournament. With Brazil's star man out and stripped from captaincy amidst rape accusations, this leaves the group wide open.
But who are the contenders? Let's have a look -
Key Player - Philippe Coutinho
Brazil arguably have the most depth in their squad compared to all the other nations participating in the tournament. Despite such a star studded line-up, many top players lost their spot in the Brazilian national team - Marcelo and Fabinho being just two of the many players who didn't make the 23-man squad.
If there is any problem in the Brazilian camp that would be the injury of Paris Saint Germain's Neymar. After being stripped of captaincy, the winger's problems didn't get any better as he suffered an ankle injury a week before the tournament which ruled him out of the entire event.
However, in his absence, the young and hungry wingers David Neres and Richarlison will hope to make the best of their opportunities. Philippe Coutinho meanwhile will be given the responsibility to lead the squad not only in creating chances, but on to the pitch as well.
But experienced players in Thiago Silva and Dani Alves will surely lift some of the burden from his shoulders.
Key Player - Marcelo Martins
Entering the Copa America as the lowest ranked team, Bolivia will face a massive challenge when they take on Brazil in the opening game. Any sort of positive result in the opening game will give them the confidence to put up a fight against Peru and Venezuela.
However, form is not on their side as they failed to win in their last 7 matches and have only beaten Myanmar in their last 16 games across all competitions. What makes this drought of victories even worse is the fact that they have only scored once in their last six games.
Striker Marcelo Martins is the only player who plies his trade outside South or Central America. The 31-year-old is likely to be Bolivia's main hope as he is comfortably the leading appearance-maker (73) and scorer (17) in the squad.
Prediction - 4th
Key Player - Christian Cueva
Peru have a squad loaded with experience, especially up front, as the duo of Paolo Guerrero and Jefferson Farfan will lead the line.
Peru know a thing or two about lifting the trophy, having won the tournament twice - first in 1939 on home soil and then in 1975, which was the first time the tournament took place under the name 'Copa America'.
Peru have had mixed results in their two warm up games. They started off with a 1-0 victory against Costa Rica, with 27-year-old midfielder Christian Cueva scoring the winner. However, they were down to 10 men when they took on Colombia and went on to suffer a 3-0 loss against one of the stronger teams in the tournament.
However, the Peru team should be able to proceed to the knockout stages of the tournament.
Prediction - 2nd
Key Player - Salomon Rondon
Venezuela is the only South America side to have never played in the World Cup. Given their FIFA ranking of 27 you would have expected them to have at least played in one edition of the world's biggest international football competition, but that is not the case.
While Venezuela do have experienced stalwarts in Salomon Rondon and Tomas Rincon, they also have some exciting young players such as goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez, who as a part of the Venezuela U-20 team that made the finals in the 2017 U-20 World Cup.
With the capability to play both a 4-3-3 and a 4-5-1, Venezuela have the talent and the experience to take them over the line. However, considering the highly competitive group they are in, it will not be an easy task.
Prediction - 3rd