As we look ahead to July’s Copa America, here’s the final part of our preview by the wonderful Ed Malyon, looking at Group C.
What could have been the most open and competitive group has been weakened by the fact that this won’t be a full Mexico side competing in the Copa America. As a CONCACAF member they are required to play their strongest squad possible in the Gold Cup being held in the USA in June. Therefore, the squad is largely made up of under-22s, and further affected by the drug suspensions handed out to several Mexican internationals in early June.
Tottenham Hotspur have given Giovani Dos Santos permission to feature in both the Gold Cup and the Copa America which seems to be smack of getting him in the shop window, the majority of players in the squad are domestically-based players and they will be motivated by playing for their national team but also the prospect of catching the eye of one of Europe’s big clubs.
Faced with such a tough group, this will be a huge challenge for a young side but they’ll be dynamic and exciting unit, and they will make life difficult for their opponents. An already weak squad has been hit further by the the sending home of 8 players from the squad for unprofessional conduct. These include Barcelona midfielder Jonathan Dos Santos.
Star player: Jonny Magallon will be key, one of the ‘over-age’ players in the squad, he will marshal the defence and his experience will be vital.
One to watch: Erick Torres of Chivas is an exciting forward with lightning feet who has been linked to Manchester United. Whether this is paper talk or something more will be determined by a good competition.
Prediction: They would have challenged with their best team, but up against two excellent sides, they’ll have to settle for a best third place qualification, and a quarter final exit.
Uruguay were one of the real success stories of the World Cup in South Africa but they were underdogs there, in Argentina they’ll be going for gold. Their front three of Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlán and Luis Suarez is a world-class combo that will cause problems to any defence.
How Tabarez uses the three of them will be intriguing. There’s a couple of permutations that have been used, a 4-3-3 with Suarez on the left and Cavani on the right is a possibility that has been used but following Cavani’s success with Napoli in a more central role, we could see the aging Forlan or dynamic Suarez playing behind a central front two to include Cavani.
Whilst they have a solid defence with some good attacking fullbacks and an under-rated keeper, the midfield is arguably the weak point of this Uruguay side. Walter Gargano has had a good season with Napoli but the likes of Sebastian Eguren and Diego Perez are both in their 30s now and whilst Tabarez was looking to build his midfield around talented playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro of Ajax following the World Cup, he’s been sidelined with injury for the entire season.
Star player: Luis Suarez comes off the back of an impressive debut season in the Premier League. Forlan was a huge figure for them in 2010 but following an average season at club level, it’s the former Ajax man who will be looking to take the step up.
One to watch: Abel Hernandez of Palermo has just four caps (unsurprising given the rival talent up front) but his performances for Palermo have caught the eye and the speedy forward will be a danger off the bench for the Celeste.
Prediction: Will win the group very narrowly but set for a semi final exit.
Another of South Africa’s surprise performers were the Chileans, whose swashbuckling 3-3-1-3 formation under Marcelo Bielsa brought the World some of the most attractive attacking football in the competition, as well as Chile’s best World Cup performance since 1962.
Internal power struggles (for which Bielsa is not to blame in the slightest) saw the end of the popular and impressive coach, replaced by another Argentine, Claudio Borghi. The main changes have been that he prefers to have more possession than the flying dynamism of the previous reign. Still, they have a potency in attack that will worry any defence in this competition.
A solid midfield and defence serve as a good platform for players in front of them to prosper. Mauricio Isla is a wing-back who is important in both defense and attack, Arturo Vidal is an immensely talented midfielder who will be key in winning and distributing the ball for them. Playmaker Matias Fernandez will be vital in supplying the frontmen.
A solid unit is guaranteed under Borghi and having worked closely with many of this squad before, a happy camp could prove to be a successful camp.
Star player: Humberto Suazo may not be the best-known player in the squad but he is a brilliant all-round striker whose experience will be vital alongside some talented young players.
One to watch: There’s been a lot written about Alexis Sanchez this summer, and for anyone in doubt: he is that good. Has played wide, behind the strikers and in a front two, wherever he plays, he is devastating.