Lionel Messi is trying to achieve something that Diego Maradona never managed with Argentina. Neymar will be looking to score the goals that will make Brazil fall in love with their team again. Alexis Sanchez will be Chile’s main hope of winning their own tournament and become champions of South America for the first time. Uruguay and Colombia should not be dismissed as potential champions so nearly half the participants have designs on winning the tournament.

Copa America Format

The Copa America is the equivalent of the European Championships in Europe but identifies the best team in South America. Indeed the tournament was called the South American Championship before being rebranded as the Copa America in 1975. Chile are the hosts for this year’s renewal and 12 teams are competing in three groups of four teams. However, the format is rather strange in that only one third of the sides are eliminated after the group matches.

Tournaments with 16 or 32 teams have the best structure and a natural progression to the knockout rounds from the group stages. This year’s Copa America falls between the two stools of 8 and 16 teams but there are no other nations in the continent worthy of involvement. The top two teams from each group progress to the last eight but the best third-place teams also move forward. The upshot is that Brazil could benefit from finishing second in their group rather than top the section.

The Role For Neymar

Brazil hosted the World Cup this time last year when Neymar was asked to score the goals to unite a divided nation. There was an outcry about the vast amount of money spent on the tournament and basic services suffered. Demonstrations on the streets preceded the fixtures but many Brazilians forget the politics and got behind their team in their matches. There was widespread mourning after the humiliation of losing to Germany 7-1 in the semi-finals.

Neymar was not in that side as he was injured in the previous round against Colombia. He is still the main man as his country try to win Copa America, outgun Argentina and restore some footballing pride. The Barcelona striker has scored 42 goals in 63 internationals including four during last year’s World Cup. He is in the form of his life and ready to help Brazil get over that defeat to Germany which shattered a nation. Brazilian youngsters are now being named after German World Cup heroes.

Messi and Argentina

Lionel Messi is the best player in the world and some pundits are saying he is the best footballer ever. His goal scoring record for Barcelona is phenomenal but his return for Argentina s more modest. Despite not putting in an outstanding performance Messi was voted the best player at the World Cup. Maradona won the 1986 tournament with the national team but never played in a Copa America winning side. Messi will have to be at his best to lead Argentina to the title but they were the best South American outfit in the World Cup last summer.

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Sanchez To Be Leading Scorer

Chile have never been champions of South America but been runners-up four times in the continent’s championships though not since 1987 before Alexis Sanchez was born. The Arsenal striker has scored 26 goals for Chile in 80 matches which is not an outstanding average. Chile have been given an easy route to the last eight and Sanchez could score enough times to be top marksmen in his country’s first three matches and lead the hosts to the title.

Follow this link to the Copa America schedule.

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