Copa America: Group A Preview

As hosts Argentina will be expected to go one step further than the last Copa America, when they played great football all the way through to the final only to be punished by a clinical Brazilian side, losing 3-0. Coach Sergio Batista will aim to produce an attacking side that looks to dominate possession and maximize the team’s main weapon – Leo Messi. Batista has a clear idea of how he sets out his team, in a 4-3-3, mixing young and explosive players – Messi, Di María, Banega, Marcos Rojo – with more experienced heads such as Zanetti, Cambiasso, Gaby Milito and Javier Mascherano. The group stage should provide few complications, but the pressure may start to weigh on the team as they move through the knock-out phase.

Bolivia start their 2011 Copa America campaign against the hosts Argentina. The last meeting between the two was the historic 6-1 win for the Bolivians. But just as in 1963 when Bolivia won this tournament, the altitude was given as much of the credit for the win. Argentinean-born coach Gustavo Quinteros is hoping to revert the poor form in the past years and qualify the country for the World Cup for the first time since 1994. Quinteros admitted before the debut that they will focus on taking points from Colombia and Costa Rica in a bid to qualify for the knock-out phase, and will demand disciplined performances from his players, plus support from midfield for the striker Marcelo Moreno to give his side the best chance possible of achieving just that.

The expectation, or perhaps confidence, in Colombia is such that coach Hernán Darío Gómez said he will quit if his team do not make it through the group stage. The experienced coach – this is his fifth Copa America in the dugout – is unlikely to have to hand in his notice given the resources available to him, not to mention Radamel Falcao and Freddy Guarín, both instrumental in Porto’s treble-winning season. After a poor showing in the 2007 Copa America, plus missing out on qualification to last year’s World Cup, the cafeteros will be hoping for a vast improvement in this tournament, and should end the group stage behind Argentina.

There were many disgruntled fans in Costa Rica when Leo Messi sat out the recent friendly with Argentina on the bench. They may not relish the chance to see him in competitive action against their side now. When Japan pulled out of the competition after the earthquake in March, Costa Rica was the team invited to replace them. But with the complication of the Gold Cup it was decided they would send a youth team with, 17 players of the 22-man squad in the under-23 age group. The Argentine coach, Ricardo Lavolpe, at odds with the local media after a poor Gold Cup, has stated qualification for the World Cup is the main aim and has asked the public for patience with the side at the Copa America.