Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Copa América previews - Group A

We're a couple of days away from the start of the 2011 Copa América in Argentina, so let's have a look at the teams involved. Group A sounds like the best place to start.


Tournament best: Winners 1921, 1925, 1927, 1929, 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1991, 1993

Head coach: Sergio Batista

Squad (domestic unless stated):
Goalkeepers: Juan Pablo Carrizo (River Plate), Mariano Andújar (Catania, Italy), Sergio Romero (AZ, Netherlands)
Defenders: Ezequiel Garay (Real Madrid, Spain), Pablo Zabaleta (Man City, England), Nicolás Burdisso (Roma, Italy), Gabriel Milito (Barcelona, Spain), Javier Zanetti (Internazionale, Italy), Nicolás Pareja (Spartak Moscow, Russia), Marcos Rojo (Spartak Moscow, Russia)
Midfielders: Esteban Cambiasso (Internazionale, Italy), Ángel di María (Real Madrid, Spain), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona, Spain), Lucas Biglia (Anderlecht, Belgium), Javier Pastore (Palermo, Italy), Éver Banega (Valencia, Spain), Fernando Gago (Real Madrid, Spain)
Forwards: Gonzalo Higuaín (Real Madrid, Spain), Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Spain), Carlos Tévez (Man City, England), Sergio Agüero (Atlético Madrid, Spain), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli, Italy), Diego Milito (Internazionale, Italy)

Little introduction needed for a side picked almost exclusively of Europe-based players. The forward line is embarrassingly strong, but the eternal question remains over their ability to get the best of that impish genius Lionel Messi. He's had pelters from domestic press for not playing for the Albiceleste as he does for Barcelona, but then he doesn't have Iniesta and Xavi in the national side. In trying to cram the best eleven players, Batista doesn't necessarily always field his best team. He'll have to put a nose or two out of joint to achieve that, but talent alone is enough to justify their short odds favouritism.
Key man: We'd say Messi, but that'd be obvious. It's Sergio Batista.
Most likely to be linked with Man City: Even the Abu Dhabi oil millions wouldn't be enough to get Barcelona to part with Messi, but Esteban Cambiasso fits their style of combative midfielder.


Tournament best: Winners 1963

Head coach: Gustavo Quinteros

Goalkeepers: Carlos Erwin Arias (Maccabi Netanya, Israel), Sergio Galarza (Blooming), Daniel Vaca (The Strongest)
Defenders: Lorgio Álvarez (Bolívar), Santos Amador (Nacional Potosí), Luis Gutiérrez (Oriente Petrolero), Miguel Hoyos (Oriente Petrolero), Ronald Raldes (Colón, Argentina), Ronald Rivero (Bolívar), Christian Vargas (San José)
Midfielders: Jhasmani Campos (Oriente Petrolero), Rudy Cardozo (Bolívar), José Luis Chávez (Blooming), Wálter Flores (Bolívar), Ronald García (Bolívar), Edvaldo Hermoza (Naval, Portugal), Jaime Robles (Aurora), Joselito Vaca (Oriente Petrolero)
Forwards: Juan Carlos Arce (Oriente Petrolero), Marcelo Martins (Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine), Ricardo Pedriel (Sivasspor, Turkey), Alcides Peña (Oriente Petrolero), Mauricio Saucedo (Oriente Petrolero)

The days of Bolivian talent filtering through to the bigger leagues around the world is a long time ago now. Experience is thin on the ground with only one player with more than 50 caps to his name, Ronald Raldes with 55, and international goals are even fewer and further between. While La Paz is something of a fortress, they have a poor away record and little suggests that will change in Argentina over the next few weeks. These boys will do well to finish third in the group.
Key man: With eight goals in 22 internationals, Shakhtar Donetsk striker Marcelo Martins is the man most likely.
Most likely to be linked with Man City: Joleon Lescott isn't much cop, so veteran defensive rock Raldes should be expecting the Garry Cook call.


Tournament best: Winners 2001

Head coach: Hernán Dário Goméz

Goalkeepers: Nelson Ramos (Millonarios), Neco Martínez (Once Caldas), Bréiner Castillo (Independiente Medellín)
Defenders: Cristián Zapata (Udinese, Italy), Mario Yepes (AC Milan, Italy), Yulian Anchico (Pachuca, Mexico), Pablo Armero (Udinese, Italy), Luis Amaranto Perea (Atlético Madrid, Spain), Juan David Valencia (Junior), Juan Zúñiga (Napoli, Italy), Aquivaldo Mosquera (América, Mexico)
Midfielders: Gustavo Bolívar (Deportes Tolima), Carlos Sánchez (Valenciennes, France), Abel Aguilar (Hércules, Spain), Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Udinese, Italy), Fredy Guarín (Porto, Portugal), Elkin Soto (Mainz 05, Germany)
Forwards: Radamel Falcao (Porto, Portugal), Hugo Rodallega (Wigan Athletic, England), Dayro Moreno (Once Caldas), Teófilo Gutiérrez (Racing Club, Argentina), Gustavo Adrian Ramos (Hertha BSC, Germany), Jackson Martínez (Chiapas, Mexico)

An attack-minded squad for a resurgent Colombia who have a blend of youth and experience, of overseas-based and domestic talent reminiscent of the mid- to late-nineties. These boys might not make it all the way - maybe next time if current rates of progress can be maintained - but they've got the look of kingmakers about them. A semi-final is definitely not out of the question.
Key man: Radamel Falcao gets all the headlines, but just as - if not more - important is the midfield dynamo Carlos Sánchez.
Most likely to be linked with Man City: Falcao who is coming off the back of a great season in Portugal and looks every inch the subject of tedious, drawn-out tabloid rumour-mongering.

Costa Rica

Tournament best: First appearance as invited guests

Head coach: Ricardo La Volpe

Goalkeepers: Minor Álvarez (Belén Siglo XXI), Leonel Moreira (Herediano), Danny Carvajal (San Carlos)
Defenders: Francisco Calvo (San Jacinto College, USA), Jhonny Acosta (Alajuelense), José Salvatierra (Alajuelense), Heiner Mora (Saprissa), Pedro Leal (Puntarenas), Óscar Duarte (Saprissa), Kevin Fajardo (Santos de Guápiles)
Midfielders: Jorge Gatgens (Alajuelense), David Guzmán (Saprissa), Hanzel Arauz (Santos de Guápiles), Luis Miguel Valle (Alajuelense), José Miguel Cubero (Herediano), Allen Guevara (Alajuelense)
Forwards: Randall Brenes (Cartaginés), César Elizondo (Saprissa), Jorge Castro (Saprissa), Diego Madrigal (Cerro Porteño, Paraguay), Joel Campbell (Saprissa), Josué Martínez (Saprissa)

A first showing for Costa Rica, replacing initial invitees Japan who withdrew after the earthquake and tsunami which, as well as causing huge death and devastation, saw the J-League rescheduled. And tragedy struck the Costa Ricans in the lead-up to the tournament with the death of highly promising defender Dennis Marshall in a road accident in San José. The 25-year old had scored his first international goal the day before in a win over Honduras in the Gold Cup. Argentinian boss La Volpe is also denied the services of talisman Bryan Ruiz. The FC Twente striker struggled all year with injury and his absence denies them their one truly class player.
Key man: La Volpe. Man manager extraordinaire, he'll relish the chance to cause an upset in his home country.
Most likely to be linked with Man City: Diego Madrigal. Crazy name, crazy guy.

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