Ivan Zamorano believes Uruguay are the strongest side heading into the Copa America Centenario.
The countrymen of former Chile striker Zamarano won the Copa for the first time last year as hosts, overcoming Uruguay 1-0 in the quarter-finals thanks to a late goal from Mauricio Isla before beating Argentina on penalties in the final.
But Uruguay will be bolstered by the return of Luis Suarez, who was suspended for the previous tournament, and ex-Real Madrid and Inter forward Zamarano thinks Argentina will be a major threat if Lionel Messi is on form.
Asked which team is the strongest for the competition, Zamorano told Omnisport: “Nowadays it is Uruguay. The team that can take the Copa America from Chile if things are equal is Uruguay or Argentina.
“If Messi is 100 per cent they can also make it to the final.”
The Copa America is normally a quadrennial event but a special centenary edition is being held in the United States – one Zamarano is relishing even if he regrets Chile being denied the opportunity for a prolonged bask in their 2015 glory.
“For us is going to be special to defend the title,” he said. “The pity is that it will be in such a short time. Last year we were champions and this one we have to fight in order to defend the title.
“It’s going to be a special Copa America, with new national teams involved. It has a special significance.”
Zamarano praised Chile’s preparations under Juan Antonio Pizzi, who succeeded Jorge Sampaoli as boss in January, but fears Brazil may be hindered by the absence of Neymar as the Barcelona star prepares to play in the Rio 2016 Olympic tournament.
“Chile is doing a good preparation and I trust that Juan Antonio Pizzi has called the best players that Chile have, so the other teams too, except for Neymar in Brazil,” he added.
“It will be a difficult Copa America, all the teams will arrive after a good preparation and they will be trying to win the cup: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico and United States, who are playing at home.
“It will be complicated for Chile, but we have a good team, a great generation of players that I am convinced will be making an effort to deliver success, so we trust that we will be doing a good tournament.”