June and July traditionally represent comparatively quiet months in world football, with the European leagues enjoying a few weeks break between seasons. This year, however, things will be very different, with not one but two major international tournaments taking place. The belated contesting of Euro 2020 has been dominating the European headlines, but in football’s other heartland of Latin America, all the talk is about Copa America, which has also been pushed back to this year from 2020.
Format and schedule
Copa America is traditionally contested between the 10 teams that make up the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol), plus two guest participants to make the number up to 11. The guests were to be Australia and Qatar, but they have been forced to withdraw due to calendar issues, so this year, there will be just 10 participants in two groups of five. Group A contains Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, while in Group B, holders Brazil are joined by Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
Hosting duties are being shared between Argentina and Colombia, and the tournament gets underway on 13 June, when Argentina take on Chile in Buenos Aires. The final will be played on 10 July in Barranquilla, Colombia. Each team plays every other team in the group once in a traditional round-robin format, with the top four from each group proceeding to the quarter finals.
Will Brazil win again?
Last time out, Brazil emerged victorious with a memorable win over Peru in front of their home fans. With the likes of Neymar and Firmino in their arsenal, they are clearly in a strong position to retain the trophy. However, if you look at the latest football odds online, you might be surprised to see that with their 2/1 odds, they are not the bookmakers’ favourites for Copa America glory this year.
That distinction falls to Argentina, who are being quoted at 7/4 and have plenty of star quality of their own, led by the living legend that is Lionel Messi. As well as their box office front man, Argentina’s knack of pulling out something special for the biggest events gives them the edge. It’s worth noting that they have made it to five of the last six Copa America finals, and have won the event 14 times compared to Brazil’s nine.
While Argentina and Brazil are the front runners this year, Copa America is by no means a two horse race. Co-hosts Colombia undoubtedly have the ability, although their odds have lengthened recently after the hard work they made of the qualifiers and the change in coaching personnel. Anyone looking for a dark horse, however, needs look no further than Uruguay. Here’s a team that thrives on the big stage and has won Copa America 15 times – more than any other team. With the dream team of Suarez and Cavani up front, those 9/1 odds look incredibly tempting – you might just want to grab them while you can.