An overwhelming Brazil and a Colombia without James: the keys to the 2021 Copa América

Neymar hugs Sebastián Méndez during a qualifying match between Brazil and Ecuador, on June 4.DIEGO VARA / Reuters

Uncertainty has accompanied the 47th edition of the Copa América. After the postponement due to the pandemic, the change of venues and the health instability in Brazil, the great soccer tournament in America will start this Sunday, June 13 with the matches between Colombia vs. Ecuador and Brazil vs. Venezuela. This time, unlike other editions, there are no invited teams and there will be no fans in the stands.

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What happened to James Rodríguez?

The Colombian national team has dispensed with its most mediatic and talented player. James Rodríguez was not called by coach Reinaldo Rueda. The coach argued that he did not want to risk the recovery of a calf injury of the former Real Madrid player. James published a statement in which he showed his “disappointment” with Rueda for not trusting him since, according to the footballer, he felt capable of reaching the Copa América at a good level. The Colombian coach settled the controversy: “It is normal, he is not strong, it is pain at a time when he is going to have his duel. I said ‘think about it, reconsider and we’ll talk in a few months.’ Edwin Cardona will be the heir to number 10. Colombia’s historic striker, Radamel Falcao, will also be absent due to injury.

Is Neymar’s Brazil a favorite?

Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, Tite, has built a stellar team in Brazil. The Brazilians are the current champions of the Copa América by beating Peru (3-1). In the last two years the Canarinha they have perfected the machinery and they have become the leaders of the qualifying rounds towards the Qatar 2022 World Cup. They have won all six of their games, with 16 goals for and only two against.

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Tite has two of the best goalkeepers in the world in the deck: Ederson (Manchester City) and Alisson (Liverpool). In the center he has veteran Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Eder Militao (Real Madrid) and Marquinhos (PSG). In the center of the field he has two pillars such as Casemiro (Real Madrid) and Fred (Manchester United), added to Paquetá (Olympique) and Fabinho (Liverpool). On the offensive, Brazil has variants to deal with Neymar (PSG), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Richarlison (Everton), Éverton (Benfica) and Gabigol (Flamengo).

The last chance for Messi?

Lionel Messi is one of the oldest footballers in the Argentina team. At 33 years old, he already assumes the role of a mature captain. The Barcelona player’s experience is joined by Franco Armani (River Plate), Sergio Agüero (Barça), Ángel Di María (PSG), Alejandro Papuan Gómez (Seville) and Agustín Marchesín (Porto). Messi in his award-winning career has not been able to win the Copa América. He has played three finals of the tournament with the albiceleste and has lost three times: in 2007 against Brazil, 3-0; in 2015 against Chile, 0-0 (4-1 on penalties) and in 2016 against Chile, 0-0 (4-2 on penalties).

Rosario has another opportunity to be crowned champion with the albiceleste. This time he has a renewed team full of youth. One of the best incentives is that he will have Lautaro Martínez, Inter’s goalscorer, as his great partner in the attack and a Leandro Paredes who will protect the midfield.

Can Uruguay surprise you?

The Uruguayan team, the top winner of the Copa América with 15 trophies, has several inspired footballers on its squad. Luis Suárez, José María Giménez and Lucas Torreira conquered LaLiga with Atlético de Madrid, in a season of agony and triumph. There is also Federico Valderde, a Real Madrid all-rounder, who closed a great season as he was key to the team. Defender Ronald Aráujo made a place in Barça’s first squad and Jonathan Rodríguez was crowned champion with Cruz Azul, a Mexican club that had not won the league in more than 23 years.

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What are the sanitary measures?

Conmebol has ensured that the Copa América will be the safest tournament with respect to the covid-19 pandemic. Through a donation, the organization received more than 50,000 vaccines from the Sinovac pharmaceutical company that they have used to vaccinate staff, coaching staff and footballers. Vaccination of soccer players, however, is not mandatory. Some players like Neymar, Ángel Di María, Josef Martínez had already been immunized in their respective countries of work.

The games to be played in four Brazilian cities (Cuiabá, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Goiânia) will be behind closed doors. Each team will have a sports bubble in which there will be no third party access to the hotels. There are fines of up to $ 30,000 for players who violate sanitary protocols. Before each match, all those involved must present the vaccination certificate or, failing that, a PCR test carried out 48 hours before.

Why was it not played in Colombia and Argentina?

The edition of this Copa América was going to be the first to be organized in two different countries. In Colombia, President Iván Duque presented a tax reform proposal at the end of April to face the economic crisis of covid-19. Colombian society took to the streets to protest since April 28. The Duque Administration raised the tone of the protests by sending in the police and the Army. Police brutality led to more demonstrations across the country and more than 50 deaths. Social instability precipitated Colombia to give in to the Copa América. They asked for a postponement and Conmebol rejected it.

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Argentina remained as the only venue for the tournament. During the first months of 2021 there were doubts on the part of the Government of Alberto Fernández because the country was facing the beginning of a second wave of COVID-19 infections. Pressure hovered over the organization until Conmebol suspended the organization on June 30.

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