Monday, September 16, 2019

2019 Copa America – Group C Preview

Juan Pablo Aravena in Editorial 13 Jun 2019

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This Friday, CONMEBOL’s biggest international tournament will begin on Brazilian soil when the match between Brazil and Bolivia kicks off the 2019 Copa America. Chile will try to defend their back-to-back titles won in 2015 and 2016, but a plethora of teams will aim to stop La Roja’s out-of-nowhere winning run earlier this decade.

This time, we’ll take a deeper look at Group C. It features the reigning champions, Chile, as well as Uruguay, Ecuador and Japan.

Chile

The reigning Copa America champions enter this tournament on a tough situation both on and off the pitch. Missing some key players such as Claudio Bravo and Marcelo Diaz due to internal conflicts as well as having a manager (Reinaldo Rueda) who’s yet to convince the fanbase – partly due to a W5, D4, L4 mark since his appointment – hasn’t helped the team, and Chile are not likely to be title contenders ahead of this tournament.

However, La Roja wasn’t among the contenders neither in 2015 – where they hosted the tournament – nor in 2016, when they were also having a newly-appointed manager in Juan Antonio Pizzi. Chile should have enough quality to get through the group stage, but whatever happens afterwards will depend heavily on the quality of the opponents.

Probable Starting XI: Gabriel Arias; Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel, Guillermo Maripan, Jean Beausejour; Erick Pulgar, Charles Aranguiz, Arturo Vidal; Jose Pedro Fuenzalida, Eduardo Vargas (Nicolas Castillo), Alexis Sanchez

Uruguay

Along with Colombia in Group B, La Celeste are also believed to be one of the biggest darkhorses in the tournament. Oscar Washington Tabarez has done a great job of rebuilding the squad once again. And while the usual suspects such as Fernando Muslera, Diego Godin, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani still lead the charge, there are a few youngsters on this side worth watching as well. The likes of Nahitan Nandez, Rodrigo Betancur and Maxi Gomez could end up being difference makers for Los Charruas.

As things stand right now, Uruguay look like the main candidate to take home the top spot in Group C. That could set them up for a quarterfinal match against one of the third-placed teams – potentially Peru, Venezuela, Paraguay or even Qatar. In other words, winning the group could enormously boost Uruguay’s chances of gaining another Top 4 finish in the Copa America this year.

Probable Starting XI: Fernando Muslera; Martin Caceres, Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez, Diego Laxalt; Nahitan Nandez, Lucas Torreira, Rodrigo Betancur; Nicolas Lodeiro; Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani

Ecuador

Ecuador are also going through a rebuilding process. However, it seems to be more hurtful than productive based on the early returns. Hernan “Bolillo” Gomez is once again at the helm of El Tri, and he will try to lead the country to the privileged position they had earlier this century when they were one of the most consistent sides in the South American region. The problem, however, is the team’s severe lack of quality and experience all over the squad.

Luis Antonio Valencia, Gabriel Achilier, Alexander Dominguez and Enner Valencia stand out on the squad. But looking at the broader picture, we can see Ecuador are not a very talented side. And it seems the coaching staff’s minds are on the Qatar 2022 Qualifiers instead of this upcoming tournament. If we also add the fact that Chile and Uruguay both look superior on paper, then Ecuador’s chances of reaching the knockout stages seem quite slim – at best. Their best chance to get past the group stage would be to earn a best-third-placed team spot.

Expected Starting XI: Alexander Dominguez; Pedro Velasco, Gabriel Achilier, Robert Arboleda, Cristian Ramirez; Luis Valencia, Jefferson Intriago, Carlos Gruezo, Renato Ibarra; Angel Mena; Enner Valencia

Japan

The final team – and perhaps the most unknown – in Group C is Japan. The Blue Samurais are one of the most accomplished, successful and strong sides in the Asian region. However, the problem here lies on the fact that Japan has chosen to participate in the 2019 Copa America with a very unexperienced roster. That could be both a blessing and a curse at the same time.

This is best reflected on the fact that only four players in the entire 23-man roster have represented the country at least 10 times. Only three have 20 caps or more. On the other hand, 17 of the 23 players have not played for Japan not even once at the senior level. With that in mind, it’s extremely hard to even imagine how they might line up – or how far they can get in the competition. But at least on paper, they certainly look like Group C’s weakest link. Reaching the quarterfinals would already be a huge success for them.

Expected Starting XI: Eiji Kawashima; Teruki Hara; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Yuta Nakayama, Daiki Sugioka; Tatsuya Ito, Kota Watanabe, Gabu Shibasaki, Shoya Nakajima; Shinji Okazaki, Takefusa Kubo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Juan Pablo Aravena


A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.

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