The Copa America Centenario kicks off this weekend and we bring you a full preview of South America’s most prestigious football tournament.
With so much focus on Euro 2016, it’s easy to forget that there is another festival of international football on offer this summer.
South (and North) America’s biggest nations will do battle, with the tournament starting on Friday, 3rd June and ending on 26th June.
It is the 45th Copa America since its first instalment a centenary ago in 1916, and it promises to be a thrilling three weeks of action.
Here is a comprehensive look at what is on offer.
Rather bizarrely, the hosts of Copa America Centenario are the United States, despite being on a different continent. This will be the first time the competition has been held outside South America.
Non-South American countries such as USA, Costa Rica and Mexico have featured previously though, although only South American countries can go on to represent at the Confederations Cup.
Having hosted the World Cup back in 1994 and soccer on the rise across the States, America will no doubt be desperate to put on another good show this time around.
Format & Stadiums
Changes have been implemented due to it being the centenary year and there will be 16 countries involved this year rather than the usual 12, with four groups of four teams.
The top two sides in each group will automatically qualify for the quarter-finals, with the remaining eight nations sent packing.
There will be 10 stadiums hosting matches throughout the tournament, with the venues covering a large chunk of America.
The Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, where Liverpool play AC Milan this summer, hosts three group games, including the tournament opener, and a quarter-final. The 68,500 seater home of the San Francisco 49ers football team hosted the Superbowl back in February.
The Rose Bowl Stadium just outside Los Angeles, where the Reds play Chelsea this summer, hosts three group games, including Brazil vs. Ecuador this Saturday. The 95,000 seater venue hosted the 1994 World Cup final.
The final will be held at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, with Florida’s Camping World Stadium the smallest venue, despite still holding 60,219 people.
Full List Of Venues
> CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington
> Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
> Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
> MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
> Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
> Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
> Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
> University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
> NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
> Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
Players To Watch
There is only one Liverpool player taking part in the competition, with Philippe Coutinho flying the Reds flag for Brazil.
The 23-year-old enjoyed another impressive season at Anfield, and he will be confident of being the Selecao‘s attacking spark, in the absence of Barcelona superstar Neymar.
It seems a surprise that Roberto Firmino failed to receive a call-up, having arguably performed better than Coutinho in 2015/16, but you can never second-guess Brazil’s squad selections.
Former Liverpool man Luis Suarez is undeniably one of the standout players on show, if not the star man, and he should be fit for Uruguay, despite picking up a hamstring injury last month.
Another ex-Liverpool man, Javier Mascherano, will be a pivotal figure for favourites Argentina, who also have the finest footballer on the planet in their ranks in Lionel Messi.
There is world-class attacking talent everywhere you look, whether it be Premier League street fighters Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez, or relentless goalscorers such as Gonzalo Higuain and Edinson Cavani.
Dani Alves, Lucas Moura, James Rodriguez and Arturo Vidal are just a few more of the stellar, world-class names taking part.
Where Can I Watch It?
Admittedly, Copa America Centenario is not as accessible for fans as Euro 2016 is, but the action can still be found.
Premier Sports will host coverage of every game in the UK, and the channel can be found on Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk. You will have to pay to subscribe, though.
It is £11.99 for a month’s subscription for Sky customers, and £9.99 a month on a rolling contract for those who have Virgin Media.
The timing isn’t ideal for UK viewers, in truth, with the opening match between USA and Colombia kicking off at 2:30am (BST).
Matches will always start late in the night/early in the morning for European viewers, but if you are a supporter watching from the States or South America, it couldn’t work much better for you and there’ll be days you’ll be able to watch the Euros in the daytime and Copa America in the evening.
(A great guide for American visitors is here).
Who Will Triumph?
As mentioned, Argentina are the strong favourites to lift their 15th Copa America trophy, and that would take them level with rivals Uruguay.
With Messi, Aguero, Higuain and Angel Di Maria making up a potentially unplayable attacking unit, it is understandable to see why they are strongly-fancied.
Brazil are second favourites, despite the absence of the inspirational Neymar, but this is still far from a vintage Selecao side.
Coutinho will need to find his very best form, and the same applies to fellow attacking sparks Lucas, Hulk and Willian.
Colombia, holders Chile and hosts USA can all be very dangerous on their day, and Suarez can win matches single-handedly for Uruguay.
Mexico will also challenge, especially with huge support across the States.
It will, however, be a surprise if Argentina aren’t celebrating at the MetLife Stadium on 26th June.