With history set to be made in Friday’s curtain-raiser, United States captain Michael Bradley said his team-mates are ready for a “special” Copa America Centenario.
For the first time in Copa history, the tournament will be staged outside of South America, with USA hosting the 45th edition of the showpiece event, 100 years on from its inception.
USA and 2001 champions Colombia, who make up Group A alongside Paraguay and Costa Rica, will open the Copa at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side come into the tournament on a run of four consecutive wins, with Gyasi Zardes and teenager Christian Pulisic – USA’s youngest goalscorer – catching the eye as they lead a new wave of American talent.
And 115-cap midfielder Bradley, the second-most experienced player in the squad behind Clint Dempsey, feels USA are primed to shake things up at the Copa, which features defending champions Chile, 2014 World Cup runners-up Argentina, Brazil and 15-time winners Uruguay.
“It’s a good blend of youth, of experience. I think there’s good balance in the team, and I think there’s big determination within the team to make this a special few weeks,” Bradley said.
“We’re happy with the way things went in these last two games. In terms of the spirit and the mentality of the group, it always helps, but we all understood that the second that whistle blew in Kansas City to finish the [Bolivia] game, those results meant nothing.
“Now it’s about understanding that the real thing is starting and we’ve got to have the right mentality and the right focus and know the difference between these types of games.”
Colombia, who boast a three-game winning streak, are out to spoil the party for the host nation in California.
Quarter-finalists at the Copa 12 months ago, Colombia are desperate to go deeper this time around.
Carlos Bacca will spearhead Colombia’s attack in the absence of Jackson Martinez and Radamel Falcao, while the centenary tournament provides captain James Rodriguez with the opportunity to either save his Real Madrid career or improve his chances of a potential move elsewhere.
James fell out of favour at Madrid following Zinedine Zidane’s appointment in January, his plight highlighted by the fact he was an unused substitute in the Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid.
But the 24-year-old remains an integral part of Jose Pekerman’s plans, after the Colombia coach insisted: “James is going to be very good. He is a fundamental player, a leader.”
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!