Few tournament hosts have ever been under as much pressure to win a home tournament as Brazil are in 2019. The competition marks the centenary of their first Copa América triumph and offers the chance for redemption from when they last hosted a major tournament – the 2014 World Cup, during which the Seleção suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Germany. History in their favour though, as Brazil have won every Copa they’ve ever staged.
The Copa América is probably international football’s most random and, dare we say it, disorganised event. It is also the oldest international continental football competition around, having been first staged in 1916, and determines the continental champion of South America. With only 10 members, the South American football federation – CONMEBOL – has taken to inviting teams from other federations, such as CONCACAF and the Asian Football Confederation, to participate. Mexico are the most regular guests, having participated in every tournament since the policy began in 1993.
Ecuador and Venezuela are the only nations of the ten CONMEBOL members not to have won the tournament. Uruguay are the tournament’s heavyweights, having won the inaugural edition of the competition and amassed 15 tournament victories in total. Argentina are the most regular hosts, having staged the competition nine times, while the United States are the only non-CONMEBOL country to host. Throughout the years, the competition has been held at constantly changing intervals – with this year’s edition the fourth to be staged between 2015-2020!
Chile were slated as the original hosts of the 2019 Copa América, with Brazil supposed to hold the 2015 tournament. The locations were switched due to Brazil’s stacked schedule of international sporting events around this period – the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The 2019 Copa América will be the final edition to be played on odd years and with 12 teams. As from 2020, the tournament will take place every four years, in the same year as the UEFA European Championship. This year’s event will feature both Asian Cup finalists, with losers Japan making their second Copa América appearance and winners Qatar making their Copa debut. For the first time since 1993, Mexico will not be appearing.
Host’s Brazil are under excruciating pressure and placed as favourites at 11/10 (2.10) to win the tournament. Lionel Messi seeks his first international trophy with Argentina who are 7/2 (4.50), while Chile, winners of the last two tournaments, are 12/1 (13.00) to triumph again. An invited team has never won the tournament, with Mexico coming closest as losing finalists in 1993 and 2001, so it’s no surprise that Japan at 80/1 (81.00) and Qatar at 100/1 (101.00) are complete outsiders to win.
Brazil – The Seleção have not made it beyond the quarter-finals in any of the past three Copa tournaments, even falling at the group stage three years ago. Coach Tite has turned to experience in an effort to win the Copa for the first time in 12 years; Daniel Alves of PSG and Manchester City’s Fernandinho have both made returns to the squad. Brazil will look to instil more defensive solidity into their general play than was evident at last year’s World Cup, with the emphasis on goalscoring falling to the Premier League trio of Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino and Richarlison.
Argentina – La Albiceleste are a hot mess. For a while, Lionel Messi’s participation looked in doubt with the global icon sitting out all of Argentina’s post-World Cup friendlies last year. The team enters the competition with inexperienced caretaker-coach Lionel Scaloni at the helm and a number of established names jettisoned – only nine of the Russia 2018 squad remain, while just five players survive from the last Copa. Messi continues to divide opinions in his home nation as in the Messi-era Argentina have won nothing on the international stage at senior level. Since 2004, the year before Messi debuted, Argentina have contested four of the five Copa finals, losing them all.
Uruguay – While Brazil and Argentina have seemed in permanent flux over recent years, Uruguay have been the very model of consistency. Coach Oscar Tabarez has been in charge since 2006 and overseen an era of stability and resurgence. The side features a good blend of experience – Diego Godin, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani – and relative youth – Maxi Gomez and Jose Maria Gimenez. Uruguay are the most successful side in the history of the competition and have a particular fondness for upsetting the hosts. A run to the final is almost guaranteed.
The Rest – Chile waited nearly a century to conquer the Copa, then promptly went and repeated the feat next time around. The reigning champions overcame Argentina on penalties in the last two finals, but this tournament seems a bridge too far for an ageing squad. Colombia look like dark horses and have assembled a squad that combines physicality with attacking flair, and have, in James Rodriguez, a player who has performed well on the international stage in Brazil before. Japan and Qatar, meanwhile, are highly unlikely to become the first invited nation to lift the trophy.
*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing.