After plenty of drama, unrest, and speculation, Copa America 2021 will finally begin from June 14.
Plenty of uncertainty surrounded the flagship international tournament of South America. Copa America was initially supposed to be held in Colombia and Argentina in 2020 but was delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, due to political unrest and protests against Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, Colombia were dropped as the co-hosts of the tournament in May. Copa America 2021 was then supposed to be held in Argentina exclusively but the growing COVID-19 cases in the country forced the CONMEBOL to look for other solutions.
There were rumours of shifting the tournament to the United States but in the end, CONMEBOL decided to host the tournament in Brazil, which also hosted the 2019 Copa America. This decision was met with severe criticism as Brazil is plagued by both surge of COVID-19 cases as well as protests against President Jair Bolsonaro’s government.
However, all of that is behind us now and with the 47th edition of the Copa America expected to begin on June 14, let’s take a look at some bold predictions for the tournament:
LIONEL MESSI WILL FINALLY WIN HIS FIRST TROPHY WITH ARGENTINA AT COPA AMERICA 2021
Much has been said and debated about this over the last decade. Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all time, has no international success to show for his efforts except for a gold medal won at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
For most of Messi’s international career, Argentina has been a side littered with quality on paper but who always fail to turn up at the biggest stages and become over-reliant on their number 10.
The over-reliance on Messi has lessened dramatically over the last few years as coach Lionel Scaloni persistently tried to build a squad for Lionel Messi. The likes of Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria have also stepped up on occasions.
The Argentine midfield, which had been a concern for several years now, finally has creative talents who complement each other and have the experience of playing top-level European football. Leandro Paredes, Giovanni Lo Celso, and Rodrigo De Paul will be responsible to mitigate the creative burden on Messi and also ensure their defence is well-protected.
With Cristian Romero and Lisandro Martinez bursting onto the scene in Europe and Emiliano Martinez having a fantastic Premier League campaign with Aston Villa, the Albiceleste are also well-protected at the back which will give them confidence going forward.
The 2019 Copa America, where Argentina finished third, was an evidence of the gradual improvements made by a side perennially conflicted by its crippling expectations from Lionel Messi.
This time around, they have a healthy squad with a proper goalkeeper and talented defenders to contest for the title and might likely go all the way!
BRAZIL WON’T QUALIFY FOR THE COPA AMERICA 2021 FINAL
On paper, Brazil might appear to be the team to beat. However, the backdrop to Brazil’s build-up to the Copa America being hosted in their own country has been one of conflict and turmoil.
Several media sources reported that the Brazilian players and staff refused to play the tournament in Brazil given the delicate healthcare situation in the country. Brazil has been among the countries recording the most COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began and hosting the Copa America in the country is being seen as a way to distract the people from Jair Bolsonaro’s failures.
Head coach Tite has also been in the line of fire when Bolsonaro supporters and government officials criticised him for not backing the tournament in Brazil.
Given the cloud of uncertainty and tension, it will surely reflect in Brazil’s game on the pitch and chances are that the 2019 Copa America champions won’t progress far this time on home soil.
LUIS SUAREZ AND EDINSON CAVANI WILL LEAD URUGUAY TO COPA AMERICA 2021 FINAL
Both of Uruguay’s star strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani were handed a new lease in their footballing careers this season.
Suarez was pushed out by Barcelona and found a new fire in his belly at Atletico Madrid. He scored 21 goals in La Liga this season, his highest return in several seasons and led Diego Simeone’s side to the league title beating arch-rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Edinson Cavani has also found a new home at Old Trafford following a wonderful career at PSG where he wasn’t properly appreciated, especially in the last few years. Cavani’s career took off at United from the word go and he has been on song recently.
Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan led Uruguay to Copa America triumph in 2011 and with Suarez and Cavani at the helm, the nation can dream of making it to the final once again.
CHILE WON’T MAKE IT TO THE SEMIFINAL OF COPA AMERICA 2021
Chile were on top of the world following their Copa America successes in 2015 and 2016. The South American side edged neighbours Argentina on penalties in both the finals but since then, they have struggled to find their footing.
They disastrously failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and many of the stars from their Golden Generation have been declining with time. Alexis Sanchez isn’t the same footballer since his Arsenal heyday and players like Claudio Bravo, Arturo Vidal, Jean Beausejour, and Gary Medel are nearing the end of their careers in top-level football.
Chile are seventh in the World Cup qualifying table, having lost twice and drawn twice in their five matches. All of these signs point towards an underwhelming Copa America 2021 campaign.
LAUTARO MARTINEZ WILL BE THE TOP SCORER OF COPA AMERICA 2021
Lautaro Martinez fits the number nine role of Argentina perfectly. His predatory instincts and knack of scoring goals makes him an outstanding asset in the box and when you have Lionel Messi, Lucas Ocampos, and Angel Di Maria creating chances for you it’s hard not to put a few away.
Lautaro Martinez has been Argentina’s most reliable goalscorer in recent years as Messi continues to drop deeper in order to play the role of creator. He has been in spectacular form during the World Cup qualifiers and was also tremendous for Argentina during the 2019 Copa America.
The Inter striker scored 17 goals in his side’s title-winning Serie A run this season and it won’t be surprising if he ends up lifting the Golden Boot at the Copa America 2021.
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